Polls open Tuesday in county special election
By Carol McLeod
The special election to fill the District 3 Jefferson County Commission seat left vacant after the death of Sydney Norton in December will be held Tuesday, March 17.
Jefferson County registered voters that are in District 3 may vote in Wrens, Avera, Stapleton and Matthews that day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Whoever is elected to that post will serve out the balance of the term, which is about a year and a half.
Only voters who are registered to vote in District 3 are eligible to vote in the special election. Voters who have recently moved into the district will not be allowed to vote unless they have made a valid address change with the Registrar’s Office, according to Jefferson County Registrar Chandrel Evans said.
Advance voting, which is being held this week, will finish on Friday, March 13, at the Jefferson County Registrar’s Office from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The office will not close for lunch these days.
In order to win the seat, one of the six people who have qualified will have to receive a majority, which is at least 50 percent plus one vote of the total votes cast, a spokesman with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. If no one wins a majority, there will be a run-off election, which will be Tuesday, April 14.
Michael E. Brown, Charles Wayne Davis Sr., Dalton D. Dowdy, Horace Watson “Race” Lariscy III, Alec McNeely and Spence C. Norton have qualified for the vacancy. The person elected will fill the remainder of Norton’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2010.
Norton died at the age of 66 on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008, at University Hospital in Augusta. Norton 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.
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 with a great sense of humor.
“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 this 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 loveable 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.”
Community comes together to deliver on Panther promise
By Faye Ellison
In a Glascock County, orange signs line the road displaying the love for a hometown football team. Panther Pride has been on full display for some years now, but the excitement the Glascock County Consolidated School football team brought to the community this season reached a new high when they beat their final opponent last fall on the field to make their seventh win in a row.
At the beginning of the season, the Panthers faced dismal odds with two losses in the first three games. At the time, it seemed the ghost of pigskins past was on the way to haunt them, but what proved to be one of the best teams the school has developed in years went on to take county record for the most wins in a single season. Before, the Panthers had never made more than three wins in any season.
“After we won probably three or four games in a row, they did not believe they could get beat,” Head Coach Chris Kelley said. “They did not believe in their minds anybody could beat them. They were very confident. They were never overlooking their opponent, they just knew they could beat them.”
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Coach Chris Kelley came in as the head coach of the football team seven seasons ago. At the time most seasons were 0-10. Quickly the coach began to develop a bond with the student athletes as well as the community as a coach who cares about his boys whether they win or lose.
“I think what Coach Kelley has done in the weight room did it,” GCCS Principal Sally Garrett said about the development of a winning team and their winning attitude. “You have to see the drive he puts in coaching and working with them and also the dedication of the lay coaches.”
This season, though the Panthers did not play for any championship, this underdog story has made many in the area proud of what determination and hard work can do, so in honor of this achievement, parents, faculty, students and the community are working together to give the team a memento of their achievement, commemorative rings.
Coach Kelley said the idea came about a few years ago when a girl from GCCS was a dating a football player from Lincoln County, where they have won a state championship. The player allowed her to wear his championship ring to school and ever since then, it has been on the minds of his players.
“Some of the boys saw the rings and asked if we won x number of games, could we get rings,” Kelley explained. “This year once we had won four or five games in a row, they asked about the rings. We said we would see how it went for the rest of the year. We finished out the season 8-2, and some of the parents began pushing for it and wanted to raise the money to get the rings.”
The 47 rings will cost thousands of dollars and will adorn the fingers of players and even the water boys, who all contributed to the winning season. The parents and staff have worked together to raise money from a fried chicken dinner at the school and have sold commemorative T-shirts of the Panthers winning season.
This is a small token of appreciation for the challenges the team overcame and for the unity it brought to the community.
“I am very, very proud of them,” Principal Garrett said. “It was just major heart. I’ve been telling them I believed in them. They know I do. They are a team and you can tell it. There is a difference in them now; they seem to take more pride in the school.
“Watching from the sidelines just made your heart want to swell. Looking at the scoreboard made your heart want to swell. They just made me so proud of them. There was a feeling in the crowd, they were excited too. We are a football town now.”
But all along, Coach Kelley knew it was possible.
“We kind of saw this coming,” he said. “I didn’t know we would win eight games, the most we had won was only three games in a season. I am definitely very proud of the boys.
“They did a lot of work in the weight room. Our kids have to work harder than most of the people we play. My kids always come to practice and never miss weightlifting. It is a big deal and I want to thank them for their hard work and the commitment of all the boys wanting to play and get out there and get better.”
The sweet victory the team felt this year will make the memories of the seniors leaving more bittersweet. Coach Kelley credits them with being team leaders for everyone on board with the Panthers.
“The senior class, we owe a lot to them,” Coach Kelley explained. “They put in a lot of vocal leadership and they played hard and encouraged everybody. They did what it took to get better and everybody else followed them.”
Of the 12 seniors leaving this year, two were four-year starters and the other 10, three-year starters. But the up and coming crop of players gives Coach Kelley hope for another bright year in the future.
“They will definitely be hard to replace,” Coach Kelley sighed. “Right now we are working hard in the weight room for the next season. We still have some good players coming back. I believe in two years we will reach our peak with this group we have right now. We will be young next year, but the kids’ work ethic and dedication has become stronger and that is what we look for.”
Those wishing to donate money to the purchase of the players’ rings may do so by contacting Coach Kelley or Coach Curt McGahee at GCCS at (478) 598-2881 or Wanda Davis at GAP, Inc. at (706) 598-0722.