Originally created 07/19/00

City's court reporter wins clerk seat

The race for the new Columbia County clerk of court was expected to be close, but Cindy Mason handedly defeated Sandra "Sam" Washington in the Republican primary.

With all precincts reporting, Mrs. Mason won 6,065-3,065, or 66.43 percent of the vote.

Mrs. Mason has 24 years experience in the Augusta Judicial Circuit and now works as a court reporter transcribing court proceedings. During the campaign, she touted her experience in all areas of the court and with management issues.

"It's been a clean, exciting race, and I have had a wonderful support system," she said Tuesday at the county government complex in Evans. She spent Tuesday traveling the county to greet her supporters.

Mrs. Washington campaigned on her experience in the Columbia County court system. For the past seven years, Mrs. Washington has served as clerk of Magistrate Court. In 1996, she was sworn in as a magistrate judge. Prior to her work in Columbia County, she worked in Richmond County as a deputy clerk in the Civil and Magistrate courts.

Mrs. Washington congratulated Mrs. Mason.

"I did not lose anything. I love my job, and I will continue to do my job. The campaign allowed me to meet some wonderful people, and I learned a lot," she said.

Because there is no Democratic opposition, barring a write-in candidate, Mrs. Mason will take office in January.

Voters overwhelming approved extending the county special purpose local option sales tax for another five years by a 7,702-2,444 vote, with all precincts reporting.

The 1 percent tax is expected to bring in about $50 million. The bulk of the money will go for road projects, a new library and a new park that will be similar to Patriots Park.

"We're just delighted. It's a win-win situation for voters. You pay for all those improvements one penny at a time instead of adding to the tax base," said Andy Kingery, chairman of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.

Continuing the 1 cent tax was important, county officials said, because it frees property tax money to be used for other county expenses.

Republican voters weighed in heavily against a plan to create an at-large elected county commission chairman position.

To the question "Do you agree with our current form of county government composed of five commissioners elected from separate districts with the chairperson being elected from the board membership at an annual salary of $10,500?" 7,639 voted yes and 1,410 voted no.

To the question "Do you favor a change in the governing authority of Columbia County to include a full-time commission chairperson with a salary range of $75,000 to $100,000, plus additional expenses to be elected at large, plus five part time commissioners to be elected from separate districts?" 1,943 voted yes and 6,715 voted no.

"It means the voters are currently satisfied with our current system of government. But you and I know that this is a moot exercise. The questions for the November ballot are already set," said Alvin Starks, chairman of the county's Republican Party.

The county's legislative delegation, which first proposed the change in government, has placed questions about the proposed changes on the November general election ballot.


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