July 1, 2020 10:45:07 AM
Tuesday was the day many in our community held their breath.
It was the day many of us hoped Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders would perform one more act of service for the community.
That day has not arrived.
On Tuesday, Sanders relinquished his title as board president, but did not resign from the board, the one action that is necessary if our county government is going to function in the best interests of the community.
It's been a little more than two weeks since Sanders' racist comments after a board meeting ignited protests and calls for his resignation. Those calls reached a crescendo Sunday when more than 150 of the area's most recognized business leaders signed their names on a two full page ad in The Dispatch.
His continuing presence on the board leaves open a wound that is growing ever harder to heal. It remains a moral stain on Sanders' career, an insult to the community and an obstacle to the growth and prosperity of the county.
He has become a liability rather than an asset to the community he has served as a supervisor for the past two decades.
The emotions that have emerged are many: anger, frustration, disappointment. But another emotion also emerges: sadness.
It is a sadness borne by the understanding that Sanders' racist beliefs have denied the county its best, most effective supervisor in memory. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find any supervisor who has done more for the county than Sanders.
If he had done nothing else in his five-plus terms on the board, Sanders' role in transforming the county's hospital trust fund into a source of millions in dollars of revenue for the county stands as perhaps the most significant achievement in board history.
In 2013, Sanders convinced the Legislature to allow the county to invest its trust fund in the stock market. Prior to that, the interest earned on the $30 million trust fund amounted to around $50,000 per year. Since then, the county has reaped more than $5 million in revenue from its investments (while growing the trust fund by more than $2 million), money used for capital improvement projects throughout the county that would have been impossible to pursue otherwise.
Sanders' role as a partner to economic development cannot be overlooked, either. He was a key player in bringing industry to the county. He was one of the first people in the community potential industry leaders met when considering the county for a facility.
At any board meeting, it was Sanders, above all others, who appeared to have done the most homework. It was Sanders who most often asked the right questions and made the right suggestions.
His comments, as vile as they are, do not negate the service he has performed for the county in his role as supervisor.
His business acumen and competence will pay dividends to Lowndes County for generations to come.
For those who understand all this, Sanders' self-destruction is a sad thing to see.
His legacy will forever be marked by his racist beliefs, but it will also include the many acts of service he performed for the community.
To what degree any of those good things will be remembered may rest on one final act of unselfish service performed for the good of the community.
He must resign.
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