Competition for Augusta's city attorney's post is still open, but it's hard to imagine anyone better qualified for the job than Steve Shepard.
City commissioners know him well. He's been serving with them for more than half a decade - much of that time as chairman of the finance committee. They trust him.
He also knows the drill and understands the rhythms of the commission - the various issues it must deal with at different times of the year. As a commissioner, Shepard is familiar with those issues as well. And that, he says, will give him a unique perspective as the city's attorney.
Shepard is an experienced lawyer in his own right, and though he's done some government work, he has no experience as a city attorney. But as a commissioner, he's had the next best thing: Keeping an eye on the current city attorney, Jim Wall, who's stepping down at the end of the year. "I've learned a lot about the process from watching Jim," says Shepard, whether it's "parliamentary procedures, social service requests, open meetings rules, setting of a budget... I think I'm qualified for the job."
So do we.
But we're sort of against it, too.
Augustans will lose a thoroughly competent and conscientious commissioner. It won't be easy to fill his shoes, although his term expires anyway in 2005.
Ironically, Shepard might wield more power as city attorney than as a city commissioner. As the city's top lawyer, he won't have a say in policy-making, but he'll have virtually the only say in how policy is shaped.
Properly, the District 3 commissioner will abstain from matters that touch on the selection of a new city attorney, but he does not believe that should exclude him from voting on the city budget - a document in which he plays a key policy-making role.