Sanders and Sheriff Ronnie Strength have been close friends for 25 years and tease each other unmercifully, which people who know them know very well. So they both were shocked to receive calls from folks who didn’t realize Sanders was joking even though I intentionally planted a clue when I wrote “he laughed.”
This reminds me of what Don Grantham’s wife, Carol, said years ago when he was on the Augusta Commission. She didn’t like what I’d written about the commissioners and was scolding me. I told her it was just satire, and she said, “People in Augusta don’t understand satire.”
Some don’t, but maybe I didn’t make it clear that Sanders is a comedian and Strength is not half-bad himself when he’s not playing the straight man. If I had, though, it would have been like having to explain the punch line of a joke to somebody who doesn’t get it.
TURKEY OF THE YEAR AND SOME OTHER HIGH-FLYING BIRDS: That being said, as bloviating politicians and TV commentators say, we will commence with the Turkey of the Year awards.
We had a flock of nominees this year, some of whom rank high in the pecking order, such as the Georgia Board of Regents, which named Augusta’s new university GRU at the behest of Georgia Health Sciences University President Ricardo Azziz. And there’s Gov. Nathan Deal, who didn’t want to ruffle the board’s feathers by asking them to scratch GRU and choose the name preferred by people far and wide – University of Augusta. Instead, he urged the board and the “Save the A” committee to “compromise,” which turned out to be a face-saving ploy that won’t mean doodley squat.
Therefore, the whole lot of them deserves the Turkey Jerky award.
Barry Paschal, the publisher of the Columbia County News-Times, also nominated Azziz for Turkey of the Year but acknowledged he has one good quality: “He succeeded in doing what virtually no one else has ever been able to do – unite Augustans of all stripes in agreement. We all agree that we detest the GRU name and its Frankenstein creation, GRU-Augusta.”
So Azziz gets the Turkey of the Year award and the Turkey a la King award.
GOBBLERS, HENS AND JAKES: Paschal also nominated 12th Congressional District Republican candidate Lee Anderson for Turkey of the Year.
“I love the man dearly as a person, but he lost a race where all the cards were stacked in his favor, Paschal said. “He helped draw the 12th District to his liking, cutting (John) Barrow and many Democrats out of it (again), and announced his intention to run long before anyone else. He should have been a shoo-in, but he allowed some truly unlikable people to do most of the talking for him, and more and more it began to appear that they were in control instead of the candidate.
“His campaign spent most of its time and money beating up Obama and Barrow, and did a terrible job telling us who Lee Anderson was – except to make it clear he’d be a rubber-stamp for the Republican leadership, who rewarded him by coming to town and shaking hands with big donors. Meanwhile, Barrow flew above it all and defined himself in such a way that even many long-time Republicans held their noses and voted for him.”
Anderson’s campaign manager, Reagan Williams, and communications director, Ryan Mahoney, get the Turkey Wishbone award because they trussed Anderson up behind closed doors, wishing they could get him elected before somebody asked him about the Federal Reserve again.
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun was nominated for Turkey of the Year for saying evolution and embryology were “lies straight from the pit of hell.” He lost out because even turkeys know they haven’t always been so ugly. So Broun has to settle for the Which Came First, The Turkey or the Egg? award.
Local elections usually result in a few birdbrained incidents, including lots of sign stealing that nobody cares about but the candidate whose signs get damaged or stolen. This year was no different, though a hen and two jakes did get charged with vandalizing Anderson’s signs.
Augusta Commission District 7 candidate Donnie Smith, now commissioner-elect, won the Wild Turkey Wing award for responding to a friend’s call for help after a drunken brawl-type incident at Wild Wing Cafe. When Smith, a Georgia State Patrol officer, arrived on the scene, his friend had already been arrested and sat bleeding in the back of a patrol car. What happened next is under dispute. Some who witnessed the brawl and aftermath said Smith tried to intervene on behalf of his friend. Smith said he didn’t and was just trying to help. The arresting officers didn’t say anything.
Latasha Nicole Moore gets the Birds of a Different Feather award for telling sheriff’s investigators that a used-car lot owner approached her at a Roundtree event and promised her a car if she got four people to vote for Roundtree. She said she held up her end of the bargain but the car lot owner wouldn’t. So Moore, who was very familiar with the law having had numerous run-ins with it herself, called the sheriff’s office to complain.
When the car lot owner’s wife heard Moore’s allegations, she declared, “This girl is crazy,” and took out a warrant for her. Moore didn’t show up for court and was arrested. So she gets the Penned-Up Turkey award.
Richmond County Sheriff-elect Roundtree gets the Turkey Strut award for having a black-tie inaugural ball to celebrate his win.
Augusta Commissioner-elect Marion Williams, crowned Turkey of the Year Emeritus In Perpetuity before leaving the commission in 2008, loses that but receives the Leftover Turkey award for reappearing just in time for Thanksgiving.
City Administrator Fred Russell and Augusta commissioners, except for Jerry Brigham and Grady Smith, get the Chopping Block award for firing longtime recreation director Tom Beck a couple of years short of full retirement on a time-card fraud allegation. Beck worked in the recreation department for 35 years and never even drank a free Coca-Cola, much less commit fraud, and they know it.
Richmond County Democratic Party Chairman Lowell Greenbaum and the executive committee that scratched a retirement reception for Strength because he endorsed Republican Sanders were nominated for the Turkey of the Year award, but they’ll have to settle for the Half Baked Turkey award. Greenbaum was nominated for Turkey of the Year in 2005, and when notified, asked, “What do I win? Do I get a turkey?”
Finally, there are no turkeys among the 18 prominent Augustans and their wives who are holding a reception honoring Strength at the Milledge Road home of businessman Rodger Giles next month. Just residents who appreciate Strength’s 27 years of service.
I GUESS NO DEMOCRATS WILL BE ABLE TO APPLY: Some applications for free turkeys at the annual James Brown Turkey Giveaway will be taken Monday. Recipients must provide a valid state ID and proof of address, such as a utility bill or lease statement.
Somehow I find that humorous.