Originally created 09/13/98

Future unclear for commission post



Decisions. Decisions.

Appointing someone to fill Moses Todd's now-vacant District 4 seat is on the agenda again for next week's Augusta Commission meeting. But to commissioners and those wanting to take his place, Tuesday looks like just another day at the battle field.

"I think we're going to have to hash that one out at this Saturday's meeting," Commissioner Henry Brigham said, referring to a special weekend work session the board will hold Saturday. "At this point, I don't think there's anyone who has the votes."

There are three front-runners for Mr. Todd's old job -- Andrew Jefferson, Richard Colclough and King Singleton. A fourth candidate, Leechonna Gillis, an American Red Cross nurse, also is in the running.

It will take six votes to replace Mr. Todd, who automatically resigned his seat when he qualified for the Augusta mayor's race Sept. 3.

The commission has 35 days left to appoint someone, and the clock is ticking. If commissioners fail to appoint a replacement by Oct. 18, the governor may do it for them.

Mr. Todd tendered his resignation July 24, giving commissioners more time to pick his replacement. More than six weeks later, there's still no consensus on who that will be.

In fact, the only issue commissioners seem to agree on is that a special election should be held the next time a vacancy occurs.

At least four city officials and one commission candidate say voters should choose who represents their district. Augusta's consolidation bill calls for the commission to fill a vacancy on the board.

Mayor Pro Tem Lee Beard, along with commissioners Willie Mays, Jerry Brigham and Henry Brigham all say voters should decide who represents them, even if a special election has to be held. Mr. Beard said he plans to ask the legislative delegation to change the consolidation bill so the process will work that way.

Until then, commissioners must make the decision.

"I think the commission is up to rising to the occasion," said Mr. Beard, who put the item on Tuesday's agenda, like he did two weeks ago.

"I think it's time to make a decision and it shouldn't be a monumental task," he said. "You see what happened the other day. If a person is out on two of those committees, those committees can't function and it's imperative that they can."

Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who's been talking with other commissioners and plans to do more of the same this weekend, said a lot can change between now and Tuesday. But if he had to bet, he'd bet the commission takes no action.

"I think somebody's trying to force this and it just ain't gonna work if that's what they're trying to do," he said. "Plus, nobody's got six votes, and I still haven't made up my mind."

Ever since Mr. Todd announced plans to leave the Augusta Commission and run for mayor, commissioners have been lobbied by those who want to replace him and bombarded with letters and phone calls from supporters of potential appointees.

"People ask me on the street to support certain people, about all three of those candidates," Mr. Beard said, referring to the front-runners.

Mrs. Gillis said she has talked to every commissioner within the past month.

"They're all interesting men, all have their own personalities," said Mrs. Gillis, who added that even if she's not appointed, she'll run for the seat next year.

"I'm not going to give up," she said. "I'm going to keep trying. Someone needs to speak for our district and do some things that need to be done."

Mr. Colclough, president of the Augusta-Richmond County Neighborhood Association Alliance, says he really hasn't done much lobbying.

"All the commissioners know me. They know that I'm interested in it, as a matter of fact, I'm more than interested," Mr. Colclough said. "I know every commissioner, and they know what I've done. They know I've very active in my community and other communities as well."

The commission's decision should be based upon who the most active individuals are and who the community wants, Mr. Colclough said.

None of the commissioners contacted by The Augusta Chronicle would say which candidate he supported. As with most decisions facing the commission, some candidates are afraid politics will play a part.

"Some people think of this appointment as a reward for doing something nice for a county commissioner," Mr. Singleton said. "It's not that. This appointment is to serve the people in the 4th District. That takes a lot of heart and sweat."

Mr. Singleton, who would be the youngest man on the commission if appointed, and Mrs. Gillis both say if they aren't appointed, they'll try again next year when the District 4 seat comes up for election.

Mr. Jefferson, an instructor and department head at Augusta Technical Institute and a Richmond County School Board member, said he and other candidates are simply playing the hands they've been dealt.

If Mr. Jefferson is appointed to the Augusta Board of Commission, the school board seat will be empty for the next six months. District 4 would be without representation again. A special election would have to be held in March to fill that vacancy.