The wheel in the sky keeps on turning', I don't know where I'll be tomorrow.
To paraphrase the great writer Stephen King, life is a wheel that is constantly turning. It's that perpetual motion that brings about change.
When I started covering the goings-on of the Lee County government for this newspaper a few years ago, I did not know a single soul on the Lee County Commission. I'd just left the Albany/Dougherty County beat, and I came to Leesburg forewarned that "things will be different." Those words proved to be true, but perhaps not in the way they were intended.
Governmental bodies, you see, have a sameness to them. Their members may approach things from different perspectives, but the purported goals are strikingly similar. Often, the primary difference is the amount of taxpayer money the body is tasked with spending. Still, the $22 million in the Lee County budget are just as vital to the citizens of that county as the $100 million budgets in Albany and Dougherty County are to their citizens.
The thing becomes how well the money is spent.
Life's wheel has turned for me and others at The Herald again, and I find myself back covering the business of the Dougherty and Albany governments. That's no big deal for anyone involved. Just as the powers that be in the newspaper's offices adjust our assignments to best fit personnel issues that arise, the members of the various governmental bodies that we cover adjust to our presence with rarely more than a notice.
Before I leave behind the Lee County beat, though, I'd like to acknowledge something I don't know that citizens in that community are quite aware of. Many, in fact, will disagree with what I have to say, but that's never deterred me before.
I think Lee County was fortunate that the current Board of Commissioners -- Dennis Roland, Betty Johnson, Ed Duffy, Rick Muggridge and Bill Williams -- came together when it did. This group, I believe, was the right collective to take the county from its unbelievable growth spurt of the '90s and 2000s into the current period of economic uncertainty that has actually allowed the county to "catch up" with its growth.
Virtually every politician who enters the arena these days declares him- or herself a fiscal conservative. It would be political suicide to do otherwise. But the Lee County board actually practiced what it preached, keeping tabs on every dollar spent so that budgets wouldn't get out of line.
And even through the ongoing recession has chewed up and spit out the budgets of neighboring governmental bodies, Lee County has managed to keep spending in check and present balanced budgets that did not come at the expense of county workers and did not require decreased services.
Don't get me wrong: Not every move the board made was a home run, and not every bit of legislation worked out as well as it had been sold. But I'd bet there are plenty of governmental bodies in these parts that would love to have balanced budgets with no employee furloughs, layoffs or cuts.
To some, it was surprising that, given the excellent fiscal management of the Lee budget, its primary architect, District 5 Commissioner Bill Williams, was beaten soundly in his bid for re-election. But, in retrospect, maybe it wasn't. Maybe Williams -- who will no doubt be remembered as a valuable player in the county's government -- served his purpose for the period he was in office, and now life's wheel has moved on for him. Maybe now it's time for men like Greg Frich and Luke Singletary to make their marks.
Covering this group, though, was something I'll always look back on fondly. Even when these commissioners disagreed, they managed to iron out their differences amicably. And, no matter what anyone might think of Roland, Johnson, Duffy, Muggridge or Williams personally, no one can argue that the group made its decisions with the best interest of the county at heart.
That's not a bad legacy to leave behind.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.