ALBANY — Businessman Harry James cannot be officially sworn in until after the May 20 primaries, but he unofficially became the District 5 Dougherty County commissioner Friday when no one qualified to challenge him for the seat.
James qualified for the District 5 seat, vacated by Gloria Gaines so that she could run for the commission chairmanship, on the first day of qualifying Wednesday. A special election to fill the seat over the final two years of Gaines’ current term was called by the Albany-Dougherty Elections Board last week. Qualifying was held Wednesday-Friday.
“This feels great, and even though I won’t have to go through the foot-pounding that I had anticipated doing, I’m still looking forward to talking to the people of District 5 about the things that concern them,” said James, who was working out of town Friday when informed that he had no challenger. “I do plan to establish regular town hall meetings in the district so I can hear the people’s concerns and have some of the county officials who deal with certain issues meet with (residents) first-hand.”
Dougherty Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said that state law requires non-appointed county commission candidates to be on the ballot before they are allowed to take office. James’ name will be on the May 20 Democratic primary ballot, and he will be eligible to be sworn in as District 5 commissioner after the Elections Board has certified the results of the primaries.
James first ran for the District 5 seat in 2008 but was defeated by Gaines, who won re-election in 2012. She announced her candidacy for the chairman’s seat when current Chairman Jeff Sinyard announced in late January that he would not seek re-election. Gaines is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Albany attorney Chris Cohilas.
“It’s tough when you lose an election, but I didn’t have any regrets about not winning (in 2008),” James said. “In my mind, I planned to use that as a stepping stone, to learn from the things that didn’t work. I continued to attend meetings after losing, and now I have an opportunity to be a better commissioner.
“When I sit in on my first meeting, I’ll know what the commission is talking about, I’ll know what’s going on.”
James said working with the commission to bring industry to the community and to keep citizens “safe and secure” are among the priority issues he hopes to tackle as part of the board.
County Administrator Richard Crowdis said Friday afternoon there is no set protocol in place for the swearing in of elected officials who win such elections, but he expects James to be sworn in formally at the first commission meeting after the primaries are certified.