Sports comparisons rally to rescue administrator

I dropped by City Administrator Fred Russell's office last week to see how he was holding up with so many people blaming him for things they should be blaming the commissioners for, such as the $93,750 buyout of General Counsel Chiquita Johnson.

He was sort of glum and started comparing his job to that of a football coach. A coach works hard but ultimately has to depend on his players, and when they fumble the Monday morning quarterbacks want to fire the coach, he said.

Having once been a football coach's wife, I could relate, but it was kind of a tired analogy, so I said, "Let's compare it to another game."

"Skeet shooting?" he posited. "Throw it up in the air and see what gets shot down.

"Archery? Always walking around with a target on your back. And somebody always has the bow pulled.

"Maybe kayaking? Always in rough water, and you never know when you're going to turn over or bang up against a big rock."

"What about baseball?" I said.

"Three strikes and you're out, or in this case six," he said. "Or being a goalie on a hockey team. You stand there, trying to protect the goal, and people are throwing things at you 120 miles an hour. They all have sticks, too."

"What about horse racing?" I said.

"Sometimes you're just along for the ride," he said. "Or bull riding. You have to hang on, and you realize it's nothing but a big bunch of bull."

Yes, like people blaming him for the Johnson fiasco although it wasn't his decision to hire her as general counsel.

Most commissioners were hell-bent to get the in-house legal department in total control and away from Stephen Shepard's firm after they fired their first general counsel, Eugene Jessup. They promoted Ms. Johnson although it didn't take exceptional mental acuity to know she was trouble on a stick.

Only Commissioner Jerry Brigham voted against hiring her.

SPARE THE ROD: Commissioner Joe Jackson said he doesn't plan to arrange another dinner meeting of the board at Villa Europa or anywhere else, but if he does he'll invite the media and all 10 commissioners, not just seven.

CAPITAL CAPITOL NEWS: Augusta-area Republicans breathed a sigh of relief when new Georgia House Speaker David Ralston announced his committee assignments last week, leaving Rep. Ben Harbin chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Speculation was rampant that Mr. Harbin might be replaced because of a 2007 DUI allegation. And to make the cheese more binding, the speaker appointed Rep. Barbara Sims, of Augusta, to that committee, which will strengthen Augusta's voice in Atlanta for the support of the Medical College of Georgia. However, many Republicans were angry that Mr. Ralston did not remove Rep. Bob Lane, R-Bulloch County, as chairman of the Game, Fish and Parks Committee, as punishment for donating $1,000 of his campaign money to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes . The money was donated to Mr. Lane by Republicans.

SHOOTING STRAIGHT: Butch Palmer, a recent candidate for the District 1 Augusta Commission seat, is still trying to rid Harrisburg of riffraff. He said all the decent Augusta urban dwellers he knows have concealed-weapons permits and are in a dilemma about what to do with their guns when they go to North Augusta.

"We all shop and eat out in North Augusta (Augusta's best asset) but, to go there we have to leave our blighted neighborhoods to make the treacherous ride through this shantytown onto Broad Street to the Fifth Street or the 13th Street bridges," he said. "... Once we start across one of the North Augusta gateway bridges begins our dilemma. We are decent law-abiding citizens, and we know we cannot carry our guns into North Augusta, which is in the neighboring state of South Carolina.

"A weapons checkpoint on the Georgia side of both of the bridges would be a good idea, but the chaos we face in Richmond makes a weapons checkpoint a pipe dream.

"North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones, a brilliant man, may be able to help us if he knew of our troubled situation. Do you think that he might grant special permission to our few inner-city law-abiding citizens to keep our weapons in our cars while we patronize North Augusta? Of course we will assure Mayor Jones that we feel safe and do not have any need, want or desire to carry weapons through North Augusta, but we are faced with the problems of the logistics of getting from our crime zones to his beautiful city of refuge."

So the only thing Mr. Palmer is likely to run for in the future is North Augusta.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? I'm always looking for column ideas, and someone suggested I see what happened to some former politicians or political candidates. So I got to work.

Before I knew it, I had enough info for two columns even though I still hadn't found Moses Todd, Napoleon Jenkins and several others. So I will do some now.

Jack Connell: Mr. Connell was in the Legislature for 34 years, serving as speaker pro tem of the Georgia House for 28, thereby becoming the longest-serving speaker pro tem in the nation. He retired in 2002 and actively ran his businesses in Augusta until recently, when he became a resident of the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home, although he spends holidays and special occasions at home, according to his wife, Nan.

When he retired from the Legislature, he "missed it terribly" and still does, she said.

Marion Williams: Mr. Williams served two terms as Augusta's District 2 commissioner and campaigned for his successor, Corey Johnson, whom he plans to run against and defeat this fall. The only good thing about that: I wouldn't have to worry about who would be Turkey of the Year in 2011.

Barry Fleming: He lost his job as attorney for Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson when Mr. Richardson resigned, but has been hired as general counsel for new Speaker David Ralston.

Mr. Fleming was chairman of the Columbia County Commission in 2002 when he stepped down to run for the House of Representatives. When the Republicans became the majority, they elected Mr. Fleming majority whip, the No. 3 person in the House. Then in 2008 he resigned to run for Congress against Paul Broun and lost.

Mr. Fleming said public service is in his blood. His father was chairman of the Columbia County Board of Education for 12 years and a city councilman in Harlem.

"So I'm sure I'll run again," he said. "They say the only cure for politics is embalming fluid."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228

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