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For Williams, politics doesn’t make the man

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

So, fare thee well ... We’ll meet another time, another day.

— Judy Collins

Driving west on Philema Road Friday, the 15 — yes, I counted — stark blue signs with white letters demand my attention.

Once part of an endless sea of political signs that trumpeted the pending July 31 primaries, the blue signs stand pretty much alone now, solitary reminders of a political dream not realized.

These signs bear the name of Bill Williams, whose hopes of a second term on the Lee County Commission were dashed by retired Marine and political newcomer Greg Frich. Through Tuesday, red, white and blue signs bearing Frich’s name far outnumbered Williams’s, a testament to the well-organized — and well-financed — campaign run by Frich.

Williams based his re-election hopes on a record in office that included work on the county’s yearly $20 million-plus budgets. By no stretch of the imagination a politician, Williams — a certified public accountant — won what would be his lone term in office in 2008 by famously finding a $1.6 million error in the county’s proposed budget before he was even on the board.

In office, Williams held firm during sometimes terse budget negotiations, giving little ground to department heads who argued for more funding. As a result, his three years of balanced budgets resulted in no employee furloughs, no layoffs and no job losses, a claim no other government entity in Southwest Georgia can make.

As much as anything else, Williams’ reserved persona did him in on Tuesday. A quiet, introspective man whose personality fits the CPA stereotype, Williams was no match for the charismatic Frich when it came to one-on-ones with the electorate. And while some remarked that “Frich is the commissioner I’d want only if we were going to war,” no one can deny the combat veteran’s compassion and dedication to his country and his genuine love for the people of the Redbone District.

Williams was also a victim of bad timing Tuesday. Lee County is currently a hotbed for anti-tax, anti-government sentiment, and many in the community were angered by a (mostly false) campaign decrying the commission’s decision to add garbage collection fees to ad valorem tax bills. Detractors tried to sell the garbage fee ordinance as a “new tax,” a fabrication that stirred up the community.

And even when the commission rescinded the ordinance, the damage had been done. In many citizens’ eyes, commissioners had betrayed their trust.

If there were undecided voters as election day neared, many had their minds made up for them when tax assessment notices started arriving a few days before the primaries. State law requires the notices be mailed no later than July 1, but somehow many Lee Countians received them more than three weeks after that date. Some reportedly were mailed from outside the state.

A number of Lee citizens who received the late assessment notices admitted to being told by certain officials in the county that they were notice of a new tax being waged by the commission, a patently false statement. If the county’s tax digest increases, as it most likely will with a freeze on assessment values being lifted this year, the county government has a duty to lower the millage rate to account for the digest increase.

All of these factors helped to doom Williams, who by most accounts is one of the most effective government officials in the region. For his part, he took the loss to Frich in stride, saying he’ll simply concentrate on his accounting business when his commission term ends Dec. 31.

One of the best things about the recent election for me personally was having the opportunity to meet and get to know men like Frich, Ray Timms, David Cheshire, Luke Singletary and Frank Taylor. In addition to being men Lee County can be proud of, they proved their primary purpose for seeking office was to make the county better.

I can’t help but feel a little sad, though, for the stunning dismissal of Bill Williams. Sure, he was out-spent and out-campaigned and beaten by a worthy opponent. But he didn’t deserve to have his dedication as a public servant questioned by an element of the population whose own agenda was being served.

Williams may not have been the best politician in the world. But no one can question his motives while in office. And there’s one certainty no one can ever deny: You won’t find a finer man holding public office.

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

Comments

willie 2 years ago

Mr. Williams got caught on the ink pad of DUFFY and it cost him a second term. Duffy reminds me of Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit, in that one must pay to play, not necessarly with cash, but to rubber stamp his will onto the County.

What those of us who voted for Mr. Williams are fearing most is a loss of a continued balanced buget and everything he has accomplished fiscally for the county.

One point six million, could the county afford another mistake like that? All the prayers in the county may not help without the likes of Mr. Williams.

Ask yourself DUFFY, how are you going to fix this ...................

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whattheheck 2 years ago

The garbage fiasco, which is likely still not fully resolved, would have caused all of the Commissioners to lose their job if all had been running or if those who did run had faced a viable candidate. The "ram it down the throat" approach to managing out of the mess was not appreciated by the electorate, me included. In the annuals of mistakes by Lee politicians, this one took the cake with the cupcake award going to the new Oakland library/conference center, also on their watch.

Having said that, Williams was all that stood between the taxpayer and the tax collector. Of all the Commissioners, he is the only one who understood money and budgets. So, the "revenge of the little people" against the "giant of government" that Williams represented in their eyes was a very shortsighted, knee jerk reaction that all of Lee will pay for. not just those in Redbone.

To keep from being returned to its former state of financial embarrassment in the not too distant future, perhaps the Commission would like to hire a Bill Williams to do the financial work it cannot do. Taxpayers in Lee seems to be in a position of now having to pay real money for services that have been virtually free. Bill Williams will be sorely missed and it will soon be seen--he did a great job for Lee when it came to managing money but in the end it was the garbage bill that overwhelmed him.

Frich had better lace up his combat boots real tight and get ready for a bumpy ride. A lot will be expected from him to replace what was lost when he got the job.

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Citizen1 2 years ago

Good to know there is trouble in paradise! Wouldn't know if I didn't read comments like these! The local news media (Albany Herald, WALB and 31) never report this information. Good to know they are not perfect in Lee County! WOW!

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Cartman 2 years ago

A good man was politically defeated by another good man. I've met Bill and Greg and like both men.

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DoctorDorite 2 years ago

Fletcher, for someone to be a political reporter you sure are missing a lot, don't you realize some on the commission don't want a bean counter double checking the figures behind them ? There's a silent celebration going on now with "some" members of the board which participated in his defeat, and yes I agree he deserved better, he is a good guy being replaced by another good guy. If your going to comment or report on politics the I suggest you study politics, its an amazing and bewildering "game".

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willie 2 years ago

ONE POINT SIX MILLION ???

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WeAreThey 2 years ago

Good opinion piece, Carlton. Unfortunately, the good folks of Redbone have been manipulated, again, by the same folks who have been manipulating them for years. Those same people were very vocal and visible in the garbage fee debacle and took it very personally that Mr. Williams could not bow to their wills. Hope the new guy remembers from whom he gets his marching orders - and takes a few accounting classes.

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