Sometimes voters want change and they really can't put their finger on why.
This is not one of those times.
Augustans know change is vital, and what must be done.
They're tired of a rudderless, bickering government and the lost opportunities and unrealized potential it represents. Census figures indicate middle- and upper-middle-class residents are voting with their feet - a net of 900 of them left Richmond County from 2003 to 2004, according to the University of Georgia.
That's not just hundreds of taxpayers; that's a drain of intellectual capital. And that's harder to replace than tax dollars!
Augustans also will increasingly tire next year of multimillion-dollar budget deficits - over $8 million this year alone - and the tax increases that may be necessary to balance the budget.
They're also fed up with divisive, racial politics and leaders who can't articulate a vision, much less sell one.
Enter Deke Copenhaver.
A successful real estate businessman, church deacon and head of the greenspace-saving Central Savannah River Land Trust, Copenhaver is exactly what his mayoral campaign slogan advertises: a refreshing change for Augusta.
Copenhaver out-worked the competition and out-sold his vision to voters in the Nov. 8 election, besting everyone but entrenched interim Mayor Willie Mays. Now the two face off in the runoff election Dec. 6 to serve out the last year of the term of Mayor Bob Young, who took a federal job earlier this year.
Anyone who believes Augusta can do better than it is, can be better than it is, needs to vote for Deke Copenhaver on Dec. 6.
If Augusta were a business, its shareholders would be up in arms. The competition is running circles around Augusta: Communities such as Columbus, Ga., are thriving; closer to home, Columbia County is growing like kudzu while Augusta lost 1,866 people from April 2000 to July 2003.
But those are just numbers. They could be turned around - with the right leadership and the proper morale.
Copenhaver offers both. A graduate of Leadership Georgia, and named by Georgia Trend magazine as one of Georgia's top "40 under 40" leaders, the 38-year-old combines youthful ideas and energy with business-tested savvy. And he will do more for race relations in a few months than many longtime politicians ever have.
Indeed, that may be one reason he's been endorsed by both the candidates he beat in the Nov. 8 election - notably including third-place finisher Helen Blocker-Adams, an African-American businesswoman who defied the race hustlers by endorsing Copenhaver last week over Mays, who is black.
Copenhaver also brings most-impressive credentials to the campaign, especially for one so young: on the boards of the Community Foundation for the CSRA, Augusta State University Foundation, Augusta Museum of History, the Family Y of Metro Augusta and the Georgia Alliance of Land Trusts. He was named by Gov. Sonny Perdue to the Georgia Land Conservation Partnership Advisory Council; he co-chaired the 2005 Georgia Chamber of Commerce Red Carpet Tour of Augusta; he had a hand in Leadership Augusta's "Destination 2020" vision for the region; and in 2003 he won the Linda H. Walter Leadership Award from the Family Y.
Most importantly, Deke Copenhaver is willing to acknowledge the area's shortcomings and to work on them; the interim mayor, a longtime officeholder, won't even acknowledge there's a deficit. And another of Mays' colleagues said of the loss in population, "I don't think that's a significant loss."
This "all's well" approach only has Augusta treading water. It's long since time for change.
This is a critical election for Augusta's future. Please remember to vote Dec. 6 - just a week from Tuesday.
And vote for Deke Copenhaver for mayor, for capable new leadership.
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