Originally created 02/11/99

Bill makes marshal elected job



Augustans will elect the Richmond County Civil and Magistrate Court marshal beginning in 2001.

State Rep. Robin Williams' bill to make the marshal's job an elected one passed the Georgia Senate and was immediately signed into law by the governor Tuesday, Mr. Williams said.

"I'm glad it passed," a jubilant Mr. Williams said. "I think it's a good opportunity for the people of Richmond County to have a say-so on who their marshal is."

Marshal Steve Smith, the appointee of William D. Jennings III, chief judge of the civil and magistrate court, was in Atlanta on Tuesday for the signing.

Mr. Smith said he was excited about running for the job two years from now.

"It adds a new dimension to the job," he said. "I've always been responsible to the citizens, and now I'm directly responsible to them."

Meanwhile, Mr. Smith has job insurance because the legislation states that the person serving as marshal Jan. 1 "shall continue to serve as such for the remainder of a term expiring January 1, 2002" except in case of death, resignation or disqualification.

Judge Jennings said last week he thought making the job an elected post was unnecessary.

Mr. Williams denied the legislation was a sweetheart law designed to help Mr. Smith because of a rift between Mr. Smith and Judge Jennings.

The law calls for the marshal's election in November 2001 with the marshal to take office Jan. 1, 2002. The election would be nonpartisan and by plurality vote.

It also calls for the marshal to be paid $60,000 a year. Mr. Smith makes $56,399, he said.

The law gives the elected marshal authority to run his office and hire deputies who will serve at his pleasure.

The marshal's office serves the civil and magistrate court; executes court documents; conducts evictions, levies and sales; and provides court security and litter enforcement.

In the 1950s the marshal was elected, until local legislators changed the law to give the chief judge of the court power to appoint the marshal, Mr. Smith said.

Augusta Mayor Bob Young said he opposed the legislation because he didn't think it was necessary to elect city department heads and Augusta already has one elected law-enforcement officer -- the sheriff.

Sylvia Cooper can be reached at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.