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December 11, 2008 Issue

Scenes from the parades
Neal takes Gibson district seat
Commissioner Sidney Norton mourned after passing Dec. 3
Organization helping young men break free

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Scenes from the parades

Huge crowds came out in both Wadley and Wrens for the cities' annual Christmas parades Saturday, Dec. 6. The Louisville Lions Club Christmas Parade will be this Saturday, Dec. 13, at 1 p.m.


Neal takes Gibson district seat

By Faye Ellison and Carol McLeod
Staff writers

Voters across Jefferson and Glascock counties cast ballots in several runoff elections Tuesday, Dec. 2. While Jefferson County ballots included only state seats, Glascock County did have one local runoff election.


Glascock County runoff

Of the 1,767 registered voters in Glascock County, 847 or 47.93 percent cast ballots.

In the County Commission Gibson District race, newcomer Mike Neal won with 458 votes or 55.31 percent, while incumbent Jay Dixon received 370 votes or 44.69 percent. Dixon had worked as a county commissioner for the past 12 years and had been elected for three terms.

Currently the only commissioner who will return in the new year will be Commission Chairman Anthony Griswell. Incumbent Johnny Crutchfield lost to Wayne Williford in the July elections.

For absentee ballots, 344 ballots were cast. Neal received 172 votes or 50.44 percent, while Dixon received 169 votes or 49.56 percent.

In the Edgehill district, 61 or 51.69 percent of the 118 registered voters cast ballots. Neal garnered 45 votes or 75 percent, Dixon had 15 votes or 25 percent.

For the Mill district, 174 ballots or 27.23 percent were cast by some of the 639 registered voters.

Neal earned 111 votes or 65.29 percent, while Dixon received 59 votes or 34.71 percent.

In the Mitchell district, 136 or 32.46 percent of the 419 registered voters cast ballots. Neal received 65 votes or 50.78 percent, and Dixon was close behind with 63 votes or 49.22 percent.

For the Gibson district, 132 or 22.34 percent of the registered voters cast ballots Tuesday.

Neal and Dixon were neck and neck with Neal receiving 65 or 50.39 percent, and Dixon 64 votes or 49.61 percent.

State results

With 97 percent of the precincts reporting, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) retains his seat after a runoff held last week with Democrat Jim Martin.

Republican Lauren W. McDonald Jr. won his bid in the runoff against Democrat Jim Powell for the Public Service Commission District 4 seat. The seat was vacated when Commissioner Angela Speir declined to run for reelection.

In the runoff for the seat on the Appeals Court left vacant with Judge John Ruffin Jr.’s retirement, Sara Doyle won over Mike Sheffield.

Chambliss came out on top statewide with 1,226,529 votes or 57.5 percent compared to Martin’s 907,916 or 42.5 percent.

Glascock County chose Chambliss over Martin with 682 votes or 81.87 percent to Martin’s 151 or 18.13 percent. Jefferson County, however, showed a slight preference for Martin giving Chambliss 1,303 votes or 45.42 percent with Martin earning 1,566 votes or 54.58 percent.

In the runoff for the PSC seat, McDonald won with 1,129,719 votes or 56.5 percent to Powell’s 870,208 or 43.5 percent.

Glascock County matched the state’s preference, giving McDonald 547 votes or 74.52 percent and Powell 187 votes or 25.48 percent.

Jefferson County gave McDonald 1,087 votes or 43.58 percent and Powell 1,407 votes or 56.42 percent.

In the runoff for the seat on the Appeals Court, Doyle received 886,884 votes or 51.8 percent to Sheffield’s 826,633 votes or 48.2 percent.

Glascock County gave Doyle 301 votes or 49.10 percent and Sheffield 312 votes or 50.90 percent. Jefferson County gave Doyle 1,150 votes or 57.16 and Sheffield 862 votes or 42.84 percent.

These results are still unofficial and are expected to be certified some time this week, according to information from the Secretary of State’s election website.

Commissioner Sidney Norton mourned after passing Dec. 3

By Carol McLeod
Staff writer

A man referred to as, “Jefferson County’s right arm,” died Wednesday, Dec. 3, at University Hospital in Augusta. Sydney Norton, 66, Jefferson County Commissioner from District 3, had been a county commissioner for 14 years and was Chairman of the Human Resources, Health and Welfare Committee and the Water Committee.


He died around 10:22 p.m. from complications after a fall, his brother Spence Norton said.

Norton’s district included Wrens, the city where he grew up. He was known among his associates and friends to be financially conservative, a Civil War enthusiast and a man who appreciated a good joke.

“He had a great sense of humor,” said William Rabun, the county commission chairman.

“I’ve known Sydney a long time and he’d just pull jokes all the time. He was easy to work with. Everybody got along with him on the board,” he said.

“I appreciate his service to Jefferson County, to the citizens in the county. He was very conservative on spending money. He wanted to operate the county as efficiently as it could be operated. Sydney didn’t want to vote for anything that cost money unless he felt it was something he thought the county really needed,” the chairman said.

Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan said Norton’s loss will be felt by the community.

“I had the pleasure of working with Commissioner Norton and considered him a friend. He will be greatly missed. I will miss him,” Bryan said.

Commissioner Johnny Davis said Norton was always concerned about how the county spent taxpayers’ money.

“He really had the taxpayer at his heart and making sure that whatever we did, we got the best we could for the money,” he said. “He didn’t want to spend money; but, if he did, it was well worth it.

“Sydney had a very unique sense of humor,” Davis said.

Commissioner Gonice Davis said he came on the commission the same time Norton did.

“He was a very good commissioner. The county is going to have a great loss with Sydney gone,” he said. “I’m going to miss him myself. I’m sorry to hear about it.”

Arty Thrift, city administrator of Wrens, said Norton worked well with the city.

“From the city’s standpoint, Commissioner Norton’s always been cooperative and willing to help any time we called on him,” he said.

“When the county commission was five people, Sydney was the first person to run from the Wrens area,” Commissioner Tommy New said.

“Sydney was the first one to serve from Wrens when they went to districts. Before then, there were three commissioners and everybody ran at large. Sydney Norton represented Wrens, when you think of the Nortons, you can’t help but think of Wrens. He was a good, conservative commissioner. He always looked out for his people but he also always voted what he thought was best for the whole county. He was an outstanding commissioner,” New said.

“Sydney always was interested in and stood behind the sheriff’s department. He looked after and was friends with all the deputies and the sheriff in particular. Very supportive of law enforcement.

“Sydney had a hell of a sense of humor. He was just a lovable character. You really had to get to know Sydney to understand his ways and his manner,” he said.

New said Norton was very interested in the Civil War.

“Sydney was a Civil War buff. He loved to go to battlefields. We went to every museum and every battlefield that we’d come across. He really enjoyed looking at the old battlefields of the civil war. He was real knowledgeable about things,” New said. “When Stonewall Jackson got killed, Robert E. Lee said, ‘I’ve lost my right arm.’ Well, Jefferson County has lost its right arm.”

Norton’s brother, Spence Norton, said the late commissioner tried to keep taxes as low as possible.

“That was one thing he always tried to work hard against, raising taxes,” he said.

Norton had owned Norton Lumber Supply Company in Wrens. Spence Norton said he will continue to run the business.

“He was really into the Civil War,” Spence Norton said. “He collected a few things. He liked to restore old houses, paint them on the inside.”

Norton was in the middle of his current term and would have started the third of four years in January. A special election will be held in March for someone to fill Norton’s commission seat.

Organization helping young men break free

By Leila Borders
Staff writer

Imagine leaving home at 18, going to college on a scholarship, playing sports and having fun with new friends. Now imagine that while having fun with those new friends one night, you try cocaine. Six months later, you are 19, back at home with no school, no scholarship and no idea of a future beyond the next high. For many young people, that scenario is all but imaginary.

Scott Mormon and the men at Breaking Free, Inc., in Davisboro are striving to make the reality of addiction history for young men. The 13-month, or more, residential program at Breaking Free Ranch focuses on replacing addiction with responsibility, leadership and faith. Centered around a baseball analogy, the program is a work-intensive, five-step process for men aged 17 to 24. Participants engage in journaling and prayer in addition to hard labor, education about addiction and counseling. Recently, the program also added a GED certification aspect enabling and requiring all participants who do not have a high school diploma or GED to earn one.


Mormon, who started the organization and program in 2005 with his family, struggled with addiction himself beginning at the age of 14. After a string of bad decisions that landed him in a Texas prison, Mormon decided to devote his life to serving God.

Today, with a Th.D. and Ph.D. in Christian psychology, he encourages the men at Breaking Free to use their faith to become productive citizens.

“Sobriety is not our goal. We want them to see that God has a purpose for them,” said Mormon of the participants in the program. To date, more than 120 men have attempted the program. Only about 10 percent have graduated with most of those graduates deciding to stay on at Breaking Free as staff members. After graduation, participants are offered the opportunity to spend a year or two in servant leadership training.

As such a long-term residential program, Breaking Free focuses not on mere rehabilitation, but on the regeneration of the individual.

“We make these guys look at the reality of what they’ve done,” said Jared Combs, community relations representative and administrator for the Breaking Free program within the nearby Washington State Prison. Combs, like the rest of the staff, is a graduate of Breaking Free. “It’s really a safe environment to really change their lives,” he said.

The program has been literally built from the ground up by those involved. Beginning four years ago with 30 acres donated by nearby Broken Shackle Ranch and with one old trailer, Breaking Free now has a dormitory large enough to house approximately 10 participants at a time, a church building that also houses staff members and serves as a dining hall and meeting room, horse corrals and a thriving nursery—all of which was built by participants in the program. Current participants are building walls inside the church building with wood donated by Battle Lumber.

Proceeds from the nursery provide almost 60 percent of the organization’s operating costs. The remainder is provided by donations. The program is operated free of charge to all participants.

“We’ve seen that when you deal with addiction, a guy has used up what money they had,” said Combs. As the program has a small capacity, there is a strenuous application process. The applicant must engage in numerous telephone conversations and a personal interview before being allowed to join the program.

“The boy has to want to be here,” said Mormon.

Recently, program members have noticed a need for the inclusion of family in the recovery process. While family is welcomed to visit at the various stages of the process, the staff decided that the nature of the program calls for a more inclusive approach. Since many of the men participating have families for which they provide and because of the length and intensity of the program, plans have been made to build four houses on the property. These will house the families of participants and the family members will be encouraged to participate in various aspects of the regeneration process.

In addition to the Regeneration program, Breaking Free offers a 12-Step Christian recovery program, recovery church and youth group that all meet weekly and are open to all members of the community. Also, the organization offers Christian counseling for not only recovery from addiction, but all counseling needs.

Those interested in any program offered by Breaking Free are encouraged to visit their website, www.bfine.org or call 478-348-3572.

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Last modified: December 10, 2008