Tom Wagoner’s quest

June 22, 2012 

Eight years ago, I helped Bob Fountain in the Democratic Primary for Bibb County Commission Chairman. It was a hard fought primary and I remain disappointed a good man did not get the nod.

During the general election, I helped Charlie Bishop, a natural politician if ever there was one. Before I landed in the campaign, he’d already insisted his campaign signs would be John Deere green and yellow because everybody recognized those colors.

Four years ago I sat it out. Charlie Bishop is a friend, but Sam Hart was one of the very first people I had ever met in Macon. I was the chief justice of Mercer University’s judicial system for several years and Sam Hart was my adviser. He is a good man. I have always liked him and his family.

In the past four years, as much as I like our county commission chairman, I have found county governance listless. Part of that has to do, I think, with a mistake made eight years ago -- making the chairman’s position part time. But it is also listless because sometimes in our community we need leadership, instead of consensus building and compromise.

Tom Wagoner has decided to throw his hat in the ring. He won’t face Hart until the general election in November. He will run as a Republican -- an irony for a man who supported Mark Taylor in 2006 for governor. Wagoner is a businessman. He picks and chooses from the candidates and issues to decide what is best for him, his family -- and his business. Sometimes that’s a Republican and sometimes it’s a Democrat.

I have not known Wagoner as long as I have known Hart, but I have never seen Wagoner back down from making a decision when one needs to be made, whether or not all the proper players are lined up around the table. Tom’s business is an insurance company and he has more than once intervened and navigated government bureaucracy to help faceless individuals get the treatment they need.

Sometimes decisions have to be made. Sometimes our county hasn’t made timely decisions because various hands have not stopped wringing sufficiently to make them. Wagoner is not a hand-wringer. He’s a hand shaker and, when need be, a fist on the table decision maker. It is what the county needs. Often when our county hears “no,” our leaders stick their tails between their legs. When Wagoner hears “no,” well, sometimes Tom won’t take no for an answer.

The road to victory will not be easy for Wagoner. Many of the business leaders in town have decided to timidly sit on the sidelines or back Hart. They told Tom “no.” They should have known better.

The dollars to control the consensus building various chairmen over the years have been well spent. Our business community, which has subsidized a lot of hereditary, generational political predilections in this county because of “control,” “consensus” and “compromise,” have helped steer the community into middle class flight, low income jobs and failing schools. But hey! We have awesome low wage distribution centers. And have I mentioned Mandarin?

Wagoner is not a typical politico. He is perhaps a bit more brusque than some would prefer. But in the real world, Wagoner is a private businessman who knows how to make a profit, read a budget, and get a job done.

In a county where the job never seems to get done, it’s time we hire someone who will get the job done.

Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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