Marion Williams returns to the Augusta Commission

Marion Williams: Newly elected commis­sioner says he hasn't 'mellowed.'

 

His reputation for being argumentative and sometimes unpredictable wasn’t an issue for the 18,662 voters who elected former District 2 Commissioner Marion Williams to represent half of Augusta on Tuesday.

The former two-term Augusta Commission member, who was roundly defeated by Commissioner Corey Johnson two years ago in his attempt to regain the District 2 seat, got more than 55 percent of votes Tuesday in Super District 9, which spans commission districts 1, 2, 4 and 5.

Williams, a pastor and retired railroad worker, beat former Richmond County Solicitor General Harold Jones without doing any significant fundraising or campaigning.

“The people elected me last night; they asked me to run again,” Williams said Wednesday. “They know what Marion Williams is all about and they chose to do that.”

And what he’s about hasn’t changed, he said. Williams said he hasn’t “mellowed” or quit doing the things that supporters – and detractors – say he did while on the commission from 2000-2007.

“I’ve been like this all of my life,” he said. “The answer is ‘no,’ I don’t have a rubber stamp.”

Those on the commission who pride the body’s ability to move forward with projects such as the new courthouse and convention center say the return of Williams means more questions about relatively routine items and the addition of another ego to a panel that already includes a few large ones.

“He’s always been known to question a lot that’s on the agenda,” said Johnson, who is a distant relative of Williams. “It’s going to be interesting, trying to figure out how the egos are going to be balanced.”

Johnson said it was up to the media to determine how much to indulge politician egos and urged its members to use restraint. He thought that a heavy focus on the presidential election and Richmond County sheriff’s race probably led many to vote for Williams out of name recognition.

Commissioner Jerry Brig­ham, whose District 7 seat was filled Tuesday by Georgia State Patrol Lt. Donnie Smith, had a grim outlook about Williams’ return. He and Williams served on the commission at the same time at the start and end of Williams’ previous tenure.

“They’re going to argue over useless stuff, more than they do now,” Brigham said. “I think Augusta is heading toward a rough spot politically.”

In a Wednesday morning radio appearance, Smith said spoke to Williams and hoped to begin forging a relationship that will be productive on the commission.

“We have talked and we both are trying to find middle ground,” Smith said.

Tuesday decided all but one commission election. Mary Fair Davis was elected to replace term-limited Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles. The District 1 race heads into a Dec. 4 runoff, however, between incumbent Matt Aitken and retired health educator Bill Fennoy.

If elected, Fennoy will restore a 5-5 black-white color balance on the commission that will add yet another dynamic to the sometimes divided group. The 6-4 “imbalance” was often cited by some of the panel’s four black incumbents when the other six – five whites and one who is white and Japanese-American – voted as a bloc.

Williams was never known to vote in lockstep with his black colleagues, however.

He still thinks a drag strip in south Augusta is a good idea, and thinks the ridicule it received probably had only to do with his making the suggestion, Williams said.

“The drag strip is a money maker,” he said. “We need to do some things that would get some revenue into Augusta, instead of putting it on the backs of the taxpayers.” If the commission had approved the $5 million venue, “We’d be like Charlotte today” and have $30 million in the bank, he said.

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