Originally created 02/29/04

Tuten gets endorsement of rival's relative



Grover Tuten, a candidate for Richmond County coroner in Tuesday's special election to fill the unexpired term of Leroy Sims, received endorsements from Mr. Sims' widow, Betty, and one of opponent Lt. Jimmy Wylds' relatives last week.

Mr. Tuten had taken the podium during a barbecue at the Julian Smith barbecue pit when Mrs. Sims rose to say "one more thing."

"In this election it's important for everybody to know how important experience is, and continuity," she said.

"You can't imagine someone going into the office of coroner having no experience. They'd be totally lost."

Mr. Tuten agreed.

"I don't know who's going to run it," he said.

"You are, Grover," said Lt. Wylds' second cousin Bobby Wylds, rising from his seat.

"I promise you, this man knows what he is doing," Mr. Wylds said.

"That's the reason I am here, trying to get as much support from the Wylds side of the family for him that I can. It makes for some interesting family reunions, believe it or not."

Mr. Wylds retired from the Richmond County Sheriff's Office last year after 39 years.

HE SAID IT: Lt. Wylds, of course, argues that his experience on the front line has better prepared him for the coroner's job than Mr. Tuten's time "behind a desk."

"Everybody doesn't leave the room when the coroner gets there," said Lt. Wylds, who has spent more than a quarter-century in law enforcement working the road patrol beat.

"In 27 years, I've seen death in every form there is," he said.

"I've been to as many death scenes as Grover has, and I've probably been there first."

MONEY TALKS: As the time nears to appoint interim Airport Director Buster Boshears to fill the position permanently, salary negotiations are in full swing.

Ousted Augusta Regional Airport Director Ken Kraemer had the misfortune of being the second-highest-paid employee in city government during his two-year stint, earning an annual income of $120,000.

Word has it Mr. Boshears has no intentions of accepting that much pay, much less asking for it.

When approached about the possibility of a six-figure salary by aviation commissioners, the local flight icon reportedly declined.

The salary range aviation commissioners have OK'd for him could net him more than $106,000 a year.

Instead, he is expected to bring home only about $85,000 annually.

Mr. Boshears would say only that negotiations are in the works, not that he passed up the possibility of big money.

Either way, taxpayers can look for him to make significantly less than his predecessor, which might not make "good cents," but common sense says it will keep penny-wise, pound-foolish city officials off his back for the time being.

CAMPAIGN WHISPERS: Apparently, 28 years in office isn't enough for Richmond County Tax Commissioner Jerry Saul. Last week, Mr. Saul decided he will seek re-election in November for an eighth term of heading the city department.

There was some speculation Mr. Saul might not run.

His wife was diagnosed with breast cancer but is now on the mend. So, Mr. Saul says he'll be back for one more four-year stint.

"She's feeling good, and I'm feeling good," the tax commissioner said late last week.

His announcement means Roger Tomlin, the director of the Richmond County Department of Motor Vehicles, will postpone his campaign another four years.

Mr. Saul said he expects his eighth term will likely be his last.

If that's true, Mr. Tomlin said, he will run in 2008.

"I've been with him 22 years," the DMV director said as to why he would not oppose the long-time commissioner.

"He's been very good to me over the years."

THE GOODBYE GIRL: As this column goes to press, the blonder half of City Ink, Heidi Williams, is leaving Augusta's political landscape for South Carolina's Upstate.

This weekly column will continue under the direction of Sylvia Cooper with regular contributions from the rest of The Chronicle's newsroom.

Thanks for the memories and the mayhem, folks!

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228.