Tuesday's runoff election for mayor will say a lot about what Augusta will be like in the near future.
But the race for the Super District 9 commission seat may be just as important, if not more.
It may be only one of 10 commission seats - but as a recent swing vote, it has the potential to be a uniting influence or a dividing one.
Interim Commissioner Freddie Handy is the clear choice - and a most important one.
We strongly urge voters in Super District 9 to vote for a functional Augusta Commission on Tuesday by voting for Freddie Handy.
His opponent, outgoing school board trustee Johnny Hatney, has clashed with colleagues and kept the media - which informs his constituents - at a pretty fair distance. Moreover, we're not sure he's done the same with the disgraced Charles Walker political machine.
In contrast, Freddie Handy is affable and works well with others - regardless of race.
Oddly enough, that latter fact does not always advance Handy's popularity. There are some in Augusta who believe anyone who works well with other races is a traitor. In truth, that's a statesman. That's Freddie Handy.
Some people also abuse power when it is granted them. Handy is not one of those people. As a former 30-year electrician in the Air Force and at Savannah River Site, you could say Handy has a healthy respect for power. He won't abuse it.
Indeed, in tenures as a Richmond County commissioner and a consolidated city-county commissioner from 1993-99 - and since being reappointed to temporarily fill interim Mayor Willie Mays' District 9 seat last August - Handy has been collegial, reasonable and color-blind.
It comes from his south Augusta upbringing in a diverse neighborhood. He not only works well with fellow commissioners of all stripes, he is friends with them.
Again, that irks the race hustlers. But Handy is dissuaded and unafraid.
"I have to do what is right," he says. "I have to do what is best for Augusta.
"We all need to work together. They're trying to separate us, divide and conquer."
Outgoing Commissioner Bobby Hankerson was cut from the same mold as Handy. Sadly, Hankerson lost his re-election bid Nov. 8 by a mere football team: 11 votes. It was a tremendous loss for the community.
We risk doubling that loss if District 9 voters do not turn out on Tuesday to keep Freddie Handy on the commission.
Fellow Commissioner Don Grantham imparts a sense of urgency about it.
"Having served with Freddie Handy, realizing how dependable he is, I'd like to see the voters of the 9th District help move Augusta forward by voting for Freddie Handy," he said. "We can't move forward without someone like him."
In some ways, this race may be more important than the mayor's race: The mayor sets a tone for the city, which is vitally important, but he has no vote; the Super District 9 commissioner, who represents commission districts 1, 2, 4 and 5, not only has a vote, it's a swing vote.
We need it to swing toward unity, progress and working together for all of Augusta.
We need to keep Freddie Handy. We'll need him.
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