Opinion Columns & Blogs

Starting over

Finally, after almost a century, the city and county agreed to consolidate. I feel a bit sorry for Payne City, whose independence was largely ignored, but life goes on. We can consolidate.

In doing so, there are still hurdles to overcome. One of them will be the Senate runoff between Miriam Paris and David Lucas. As the city and county move forward, it is ironic that the Senate seat risks going backwards. Voters previously rejected David Lucas, but he smartly took the pink slip and spent his time knocking on doors. It was good politics. It could lead to unforeseen problems as we work through consolidation.

Consolidation for Bibb County happened largely because voters decided to let go of the past and fire Lucas. Nikki Randall, Miriam Paris, and the other voices and faces, new and old, finally came together with neither Robert Brown nor Lucas there as obstacles to progress.

If voters are not careful, that could all unravel and make the process of consolidation more difficult than it should be. It is important to support Paris in her re-election bid. Voters who cast ballots in the Democratic Primary and, just as importantly, voters who have not voted at all, can go vote in the Democratic Runoff for Paris.

We should not hesitate to move forward, but doing so requires we leave behind old hinderances. As we choose to leave some behind, others have chosen to stay behind. Sheriff Jerry Modena is retiring. He has been a terrific sheriff and remains a fine gentleman.

One of my concerns about consolidation has been leaving the sheriff in charge as chief law enforcement officer. There is a quirk in the Georgia constitution that affects consolidation. It is a legal relic of a bygone era that remains. Under our constitution, sheriffs can pretty much get what they want out of county government with few restraints beyond the voters.

In some consolidated areas, the unrestrained covetousness of sheriffs toward taxpayer pockets has led to near financial ruin. Having Sheriff Modena at the helm of law enforcement was reassuring because of his strong fiscal stewardship and calm, steady hand. I worried, however, about the future.

As luck and the voters would have it, we will have David Davis as our new sheriff. His Republican challenger bowed out. Davis will be an able and fine replacement for Modena.

Other races were more interesting. Sen. Cecil Staton remains senator. He is a friend and I was a bit shocked by how close his race was. Talking to a long-time friend in one of the other counties within his Senate district, a prominent member of his community, told me he did not know Sen. Staton.

It is a complaint I have heard subsequently from multiple prominent people in the district -- Staton has not been seen. Constituents would prefer he come to them, not them going to him. It is an understandable concern. Perhaps such a narrow victory will be a wake up call to Staton that he needs more outreach into the communities he represents.

Gary Bechtel won his County Commission seat. He will do this all over again in a year, but what a year it will be. These leaders will guide us toward our consolidated future and will shape that future. In the outstanding runoff and Bibb County Board of Education races, we all (at least if you voted in the Democratic Primary or did not voote) have one more chance to make it count and get it right as we begin again anew.

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