Former commissioner, former solicitor vie for Super District 9 commission seat

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In a race to represent half of Augusta, the Augusta Com­mission Super District 9 election pits former Richmond Coun­ty State Court Solicitor Harold V. Jones against former two-term Com­missioner Marion Wil­liams, probably one of Augusta’s most recognizable politicians.

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Marion Williams  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
Marion Williams

Williams, 64, got on the commission by beating former Com­missioner Freddie Han­dy by a slim margin in a 1999 runoff for District 2, then beat him again in 2003 for a second term.

Term-limited, Williams set his sights on the Senate Dis­trict 22 seat in 2008 but lost in the Dem­ocratic primary to Ed Tarver, now a U.S. attorney. He lost again in a 2010 effort to unseat District 2 Com­mis­sioner Corey Johnson.

“They’re not cleaning out the ditches anymore; they’re not sweeping the streets anymore; the water can’t go anywhere,” Williams said of the city’s problems. “I put the blame on the commissioners.”

Canvassing the district recently, Williams said he spotted at least 25 burned-out houses left by owners and the city to disintegrate and house vagrants and vermin.

Williams shares the belief held by many that Augusta’s 1996 consolidation bill established five black districts and five white districts to ensure a balance, despite transiency, an increasing percentage of black residents and greater overall diversity.

“The charter was set up five and five so we have to work together,” he said. “If it was six blacks, it would be wrong.”

He said the commission is imbalanced now with five white commissioners and a white/Asian commissioner, making the four-member black minority powerless.

Williams might be best remembered for an idea that triggered an inquiry by the Georgia Bureau of In­ves­tigation – a proposed drag strip at Augusta Corporate Park off Mike Padgett High­way, across from which his son-in-law had purchased land before the proposal was made public.

Williams, who was not prosecuted, stood by his idea for a south Augusta attraction.

“We want the tourism, but for people to come here you’ve got to have a reason for people to come here,” he said. “No other commissioner has said nothing about bringing anything else to the city.”

Jones is far from inexperienced in Augusta politics and won nearly 60 percent of votes against Ben “Swain” McElmurray for State Court solicitor in 2004. He had lost an earlier bid for office, a 2002 state House race to Rep. Quincy Murphy..

Now 43 and practicing mostly criminal law with She­pard, Plunkett, Hamilton & Boudreaux, Jones remains active in politics. He had a hand in the voter turnout efforts that led to Richard Round­tree’s upset victory over Scott Peebles in the Democratic primary runoff for sheriff.

Unopposed for a second term as solicitor in 2008, Jones resigned the next year to run for state Senate against Hardie Davis. Davis won District 22, boosted by success in many white precincts, but Jones outpolled him in the 71 percent black District 9 portion of the Senate district by 1,132 votes.

“I feel very comfortable in District 9, without a doubt,” he said.

Jones said his legal skills would be an asset on the commission, primarily in ensuring that it has the facts and evidence it needs to make sound decisions.

Jones said the city’s big issues are infrastructure, poverty and jobs, and that there’s often no need to invent solutions.

“Most of the things that are affecting us, they’ve been looked at,” he said. “They just haven’t been acted upon.”

Jones said regardless of the color balance on the commission, overcoming Augus­ta’s racial divide is critical.

“No major city can grow unless you do something about that,” he said. “Atlanta is emblematic for that. No one is going to be on top with (Augusta’s) kind of racial dynamics.”

Beyond working together, Jones said, the commission must set common goals.

“It’s a lot of work that goes into being a commissioner,” he said. “You have the day-to-day; at the same time you have the strategic, the big picture of where you want the city to go.”

Jones suggested having staff establish a metric by which the commission could gauge difficult, complex choices, such as the elaborate deal-making and contracts associated with construction projects.

“Instead, it’s almost as though things are just handed to the commission,” he said.

Gene Hunt, a retired banker and longtime political observer who’s been involved in several campaigns, called the District 9 contest “a very difficult race to handicap.”

“My gut feeling is telling me that Marion is hard to beat,” Hunt said. However, “Harold is the kind that might beat him. Harold has run countywide and done pretty well.”

The higher turnout expected with the presidential election and a hotly contested sheriff’s race would likely favor Jones, Hunt said. He thinks the race will be close and likely result in a recount.

Voters’ familiarity with Williams will both help and hurt him, Hunt said.

“He’s going to be himself, and everybody knows what you get from Marion,” he said.

Which is unpredictability, said Ralph Walker, an Au­gus­ta State University political science professor emeritus. He notes that Williams didn’t always march in lockstep with his black colleagues on the commission.

Williams was “sort of an independent voice” with a “certain amount of leadership about him, a certain amount of charisma,” Walker said, predicting a close contest with Jones.

Former Commissioner An­dy Cheek said Williams remains a friend but that he could support either him or Jones. Cheek said Williams would restore the openness in decision-making that the commission lacks.

“He’s not afraid to ask the questions,” Cheek said. “He’s not afraid of slick businessmen.”

Cheek predicted the black community might line up behind Jones for his youth, polish and professionalism. The younger community is less angry about the past and more concerned about the future and the basics – safety, cleanliness, infrastructure, Cheek said. The community will likely support “young black minds that will give off a good image for leadership,” and that is Jones, he said.

MARION WILLIAMS

AGE: 64

OCCUPATION: Pastor, Friendship Baptist Church

EDUCATION: Completed high school; attended seminary

POLITICAL BACKGROUND: Eight years on Augusta Commission; unsuccessful runs for state Senate (2008) and commission (2010)

FAMILY: Single, three daughters, three grandchildren

HAROLD V. JONES

AGE: 43

OCCUPATION: Attorney

EDUCATION: Bachelor of arts, South Carolina State University; juris doctor, North Carolina Central University Law School

POLITICAL BACKGROUND: Elected Richmond County solicitor in 2004; unsuccessful runs for state House (2002) and state Senate (2010)

FAMILY: Wife Kimberly

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Ruckus
467
Points
Ruckus 10/01/12 - 12:56 am
2
4
Necessary for Augusta

He was very necessary for Augusta and no matter how much drama was involved. He stood by his beleifs and did'nt back down. I think thats why alot of people disliked him but alot more liked him for it.

irishfarmer
24
Points
irishfarmer 10/01/12 - 08:10 am
2
4
Go Marion Williams! Just what

Go Marion Williams! Just what we need in Augusta and for District 9. We need someone like him to go and fight for our side of town at this time.

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 10/01/12 - 08:24 am
6
1
Are you kidding me?
Unpublished

He negotiated a sweetheart deal with Larke for his church property. If I remember correctly for about 3 times what it was worth while poor residents in the same area were given nothing for their property. His son in law bought property and incorporated a business called Drag Snacks because he had inside info on where Marion was trying to get the drag strip built. He supported the suing of Augusta by an ex employee that should have been fired long before she was. Wasn't he in the group that went to Washington to tell them how wonderful Ronnie Few (who was run out of Washington because he was incompetent) was and how Augusta was just a bunch of racists? This is what you want as your representation??? I can see why Augusta is considered a hick town and will never be a great place. Keep electing these knuckleheads...

Fiat_Lux
15083
Points
Fiat_Lux 10/01/12 - 09:22 am
4
1
Williams and other obstructionists w/ agendae

had no trouble at all for 8 years in blocking anything they didn't want passed by the commission. They went to the restroom, didn't show up at meetings at all and by a host of other means essentially blocked the process of governing this county.

God help us if he gets elected again. He is about the worst commission Richmond County ever had. He doesn't build consensus, he hinders and derails for the sake of special interests rather than out of the slightest concern for the welfare of all.

He proved himself a biased idiot who was full of himself the last go 'round, and IMO, only like-minded people would support his candidacy ever again.

irishfarmer
24
Points
irishfarmer 10/01/12 - 10:01 am
2
4
That is your opinion. In this

That is your opinion. In this district we need someone who will fight for the small things that can become big problems if not looked at and handled. Is he perfect no and he is far from it. he will at least stand up for those who need it when they give him the facts that the city is wrong for something. Again is he perfect no, but we will know what we will be getting and Harold jones would not be right for Augusta at all. Its a lesser of two not evils but bad candidates and Marion is better in this situation. Again hope no one is offended and goes to the teacher and has this pulled off of here. But again i do realize the truth hurts.

SON of Scoob
434
Points
SON of Scoob 10/01/12 - 11:18 am
4
1
Enough

I would think Richmond County has had enough of this guy. He is the poster boy for grid lock. Poster boy for shady dealings, like the drag strip and his son or son in law's hot dog stand. And there was the deal for his church. Shady - Shady - Shady

Wise up voters we have too many politicians like Marion Williams in this country.

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 10/01/12 - 02:13 pm
4
1
AC article 9/24/2011
Unpublished

In 2006, urged by then-Commissioner Marion Williams, the commission authorized a $25,000 feasibility study on construction of a south Augusta drag strip. The commission vetoed the idea, and Williams’ son-in-law was caught buying a nearby lot for a “Drag Snacks” business before the strip’s proposed location was made public.

Fiat_Lux
15083
Points
Fiat_Lux 10/01/12 - 04:20 pm
3
0
Any fool can be stubborn

but it takes a real pro at obtuseness to stall things out the way ol' Marion did over the years.

The truth that hurts is that South Augustans might actually send him back to do it all over again.

crkgrdn
2287
Points
crkgrdn 10/01/12 - 04:36 pm
3
0
Harold, glad to see back in the arena

Harold Jones has the manners, intelligence and approach to leadership that will bring success to the whole community. I am very happy to see his return to the public square.

AutumnLeaves
7021
Points
AutumnLeaves 10/01/12 - 06:18 pm
0
0
Harold Jones vs. Marion Williams for District 9.

Regarding a commission race between Harold Jones and Marion Williams for District 9. Is there anyone else running? Please?

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