Local politics

October 12, 2012 

Howard Simms is a good judge. He was an excellent district attorney. No one can objectively deny either. He has been good at his job. But he has a problem with alcohol it seems. Count me out of those who think this disqualifies him from the bench. I think many would be shocked at the high rate of alcohol problems among the local bar -- no pun intended.

It is a problem Howard must deal with. A judge is not above the law and he has given the impression, fairly or not, that he is. But I believe in forgiveness and redemption. The public likes redemption -- they like someone who turns it around. I hope Howard does. His years of experience are a valuable resource. I hope he is able to recover and the public is able to show a small measure of grace toward an otherwise very good public servant.

Simms will have two years to show the public he is a changed man and I wonder if, in an age of so much addiction and taint, it might also affect, for the better, his world view as a judge.

The man who replaced Howard Simms as district attorney is my former law school classmate Greg Winters. For the life of me, I have no idea why coroners, sheriffs, probate judges and district attorneys are partisan races. I am pretty sure I would not give a hoot in hell that the coroner is a Democrat when I am dead. One thing I learned on City Council is that there may be a conservative and a liberal world view about the best method of trash collection, but I have never really seen a Republican or a Democrat world view on the matter.

At the local level, party rarely matters. It is therefore encouraging to see so many Republicans and Democrats supporting Greg Winters for district attorney. I cannot understand why the local community would support his opponent. He is not a bad guy at all. It is just that Winters grew up in Middle Georgia, knows Middle Georgia, and has not had to work to know the people in Middle Georgia because he already knew them. His opponent cannot say that. Nor can he say he has actually worked in the district. This is where the silliness of partisan politics breaks down on the local level.

Supporting a local candidate because of party sometimes leads to absurd results, see e.g. all the Republicans who refused to support Miriam Paris because she was a Democrat.

One last local political race -- county commission chairman. I really like and have always liked Sam Hart. He is a good man. But I also like Tom Wagoner. Why either would want a now very temporary job as county commission chairman is beyond me. The gig is up in a year.

But between the two, I will support Wagoner. Every day another story comes out in the Telegraph about the Consolidation Commission needing more consultants to help with their work. Wagoner is a businessman. He understands the personnel and human resources issues. He has spent his life building a business, meeting deadlines, and balancing out bottom lines.

We must get our consolidation strategy right. With Elmo Richardson retiring from the Bibb County Commission and losing his institutional knowledge, I think we would be wise to choose a long time businessman to lead the county through this next year. Wagoner has the background and knowledge base to lead us steadily into consolidation.

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

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