The county Chairman’s race looks to be another interesting race. Previously the armadillo hat club (AHC) felt that there were only 3 candidates in the race: Tom Oliver (I), Doug Aiken, and Steve Gailey. Since then the AHC has added a few more names to the list: George Wangemann, Bobby Banks, Craig Lutz, Richard Mecum and Ashley Bell. So let’s provide an update and handicap the race:
· Doug Aiken- a citizen advocate who is probably best known as the chairperson for the ethics committee. Mr. Aiken is a regular visitor to the board meetings often making comments on the happenings of the day. He doesn’t have very much name recognition, but because of his TV18 time, he is very recognizable.
· Commissioner Ashley Bell- as reported previously is the current county commissioner representing Gainesville. Apparently he has been fundraising all over the state. There are reports that while the commissioners were down for training in Savannah, the commissioner had a fundraiser. Since the chairman is really just a commissioner at large it might be that the big war chest in campaign contributions can be used for this run. However, the committee filed with the state ethics commission says that it is for post 4; so as far as I can tell, the only place he can use the money is on a commissioner’s campaign for his current seat.
· Former Commissioner Bobby Banks- the former commissioner was ousted from office last year, but in his going away article, the commissioner said; “There’s so much I want to say that I’ve just got to watch what I say. Because it might come back to bite me in the butt in two years.” This makes me think that he may throw his name back in to see how it goes. When Banks started his term, he was considered a rebel and this time, he may try to be the peacemaker.
· Former Commissioner Steve Gailey- Commissioner Gailey also made mention of a “county wide” run in 2012 when he exited office. Running a county wide election will be a new challenge for the old politician. He will have to get a website, work on social media, and hit parts of the county (South) that have not been in play for him in the past. However, with his old connections, he will probably be able to hire a firm to help him bridge most of those gaps.
· Commissioner Craig Lutz- I guess Commissioner Lutz gets his name put in because most people think his ego is too big to be limited to South Hall County. I think this is wishful thinking for some, not because they want him as Chairman, but more because he would have to resign his current post to run for chairman. Others have pointed out that some of his campaign promises seemed to be focused on North Hall (i.e. Clermont library). I am skeptical, but will acquiesce to other opinions here.
· Former Sheriff Richard Mecum- this was probably the biggest surprise the AHC came up with. Richard Mecum had an extensive career in law enforcement and a long time Republican in Hall County. As the oldest person in the race, we are not sure if he wants to sacrifice his peaceful retirement for the chaos of our county commission. He will suffer from the fact that he has not had to run a campaign since the early 90’s and he too will need to learn the new ways.
· Chairman Tom Oliver- the incumbent Chairman has a lot of the same issue that we mentioned about Commissioner Gailey. The last election was not contested, so his last real campaign was over 6 years ago. A lot has changed. There is no doubt that he can raise the kind of money to have a political consultant run the social media and web content for his campaign. The issue with the chairman is the political luggage that he brings from Omega and City View. Not to mention the trouble he will have in North Hall with his Clermont Library vote.
· Council Member George Wangemann- the Gainesville city councilmember has a few obstacles to overcome, the first being the anti City of Gainesville vote. I am sure that one of the first questions that will be asked in a debate will have to do with the differential that the city charges the county customers on their water bills. Councilman Wangemann has shown himself to be a fiscal conservative, but as a member of LDS he may be too socially conservative for Hall County.
If we had to pick a front runner (a.k.a. the kiss of death), I will put former Commissioner Steve Gailey out in the lead followed closely by Richard Mecum. It is important to note that none of these candidates has officially thrown their name in the hat. While we wait in anticipation for the announcements, feel free to comment below.
Hugh Hall County Akston