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Garthia Elena Burnett: Five men, one mission

 

Garthia Elena Burnett

 

I don''t know four people who I get along with a hundred percent of the time. 

 

If you picked five of us, put us in a room together twice a month and charged us with handling the problems of the county -- or even just one neighborhood ... or one household, at that -- it probably wouldn''t be pretty. 

 

We''d debate and argue and maybe hurl a chair or two for effect. 

 

Maybe we''d let some deep, dark secret "slip" in hopes we''d get the upper hand on our counterparts. 

 

But we''d at least have the privilege of closing the door. 

 

And when the door swung open, the cat fights and bickering would be over; we''d smile and present our solutions to the problems of the world. 

 

Lowndes County supervisors don''t have that luxury. 

 

When they go to bat for the county, we get to see them duke it out publicly -- blow for blow and vote for vote. 

 

On a good day, we might see them take personal jabs at each other. 

 

Someone pointed out to me last week that sometimes, what looks like grown men sniping might just be clashing personalities hashing out their differences while simultaneously trying to do what they believe is best for Lowndes County. 

 

After cruising the county districts with each supervisor over the past several weeks, I can see how this could be the case. 

 

One of the most dominant personalities on the board is Harry Sanders. 

 

Not many can argue with him (and win). 

 

He doesn''t bite his tongue, and he doesn''t take no for an answer. 

 

The recently reappointed board president and District 1 supervisor has had more than his share of criticism. His most vocal critic is fellow supervisor Leroy Brooks. 

 

"He has the potential to be the best supervisor on the board," Sanders said of Brooks, while riding the roads of District 1. 

 

But paranoia and an authority complex seem to deter Brooks from accomplishing this, Sanders summed up. 

 

Sanders, former co-owner of Sanders Oil, said he''s invited Brooks, District 5 supervisor, to ride in the Caledonia Christmas parade. Brooks declined, he said. 

 

Which is no surprise. Brooks'' opinion of Sanders is less than favorable, to say the least. 

 

To his own critics, Brooks says he''s "Afrocentric," not racist, and serves as the "boogey man for narrow-minded people." 

 

"It''s my critics that motivate me the most. If a guy sits in office and never gets a negative story in the newspaper, he''s not doing anything," Brooks said, driving along Old West Point Road, showing off parts of his district. 

 

Brooks, who taught political classes at State and The W, considers himself a "gentleman and a scholar." 

 

Of the supervisors, he speaks most highly of John Holliman and Jeff Smith. Brooks hired Smith to the Lowndes County Road Department, where he worked for 20 years, before putting in 15 years with Parks and Rec. 

 

"Jeff is real easy going," Brooks said. And "John Holliman is one of the best people you will ever meet, socially." 

 

"I get along with everyone on the board," said Holliman, pointing out several subdivisions in New Hope he has developed over the years. 

 

He takes pride in having helped "a lot of people get into homes who otherwise wouldn''t have been able to." He''s built homes ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to multi-million dollar homes. He also built the home of Lowndes County Sheriff Butch Howard. 

 

In our more than hour-long ride-about, he talked more than he ever had in board meetings. 

 

Holliman, District 3 supervisor, and Smith are known for being the quiet ones on the board. 

 

Smith''s motivation is simple: to do as much as he can for as many people as possible while he has the opportunity. 

 

An elderly woman stopped him at the Crawford Community Center on MLK, concerned about a culvert county crews had installed at a rental home she owns. 

 

He drove to her home on Flowers Street and immediately called Ronnie Burns, road manager, to fix the problem. 

 

"I think people appreciate the work we''ve done," Smith said. "And I think we are going to be a better community because of it." 

 

Frank Ferguson, whose district includes the Air Force base, describes himself as a people pleaser, a trait he attributes to years in the sales business. 

 

"It is really not as much dissension as what is portrayed," Ferguson said, before turning onto Highway 373. The new middle school being built at the intersection of Highway 373 and 45 North will be in his district. A major paving project for Officers Lake Road also falls under District 2. 

 

"When it comes to business decisions, in the past two years, we haven''t missed a beat," Ferguson said of the supervisors. 

 

"I don''t think it has anything to do with race," he added of opposing votes, which often are split 3-2, along racial lines. "I just think we all have different personalities and different ideas. We''re all trying to do what we believe in." 

 

Five men tasked with the same mission. Different ideals. Different personalities. Different approaches. 

 

And state law that mandates they, as Ferguson put it, "air their dirty laundry on the front lawn." 

 

It''s made for interesting times. 

 

But at least there''s peace. ... For now. 

 

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment Elisha M. commented at 3/27/2010 4:10:00 PM:

This article is a great indication of how we are all individuals and have our own perception of how we view certain situations. Some people get satisfaction from helping others and some get satisfaction from the achievement itself. Its O.K to be ambitious. The question is, does these ambitions help or hurt others in the process?

 

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