Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis is at center stage as the county orients itself for next year’s Board of Commissioners elections.
Davis, who is 75, has until noon on March 11 to decide if he wants to seek a fifth term as a party candidate or until noon on July 1 should he choose to run as an independent.
Commissioner Jim Luke says he plans to retire, meaning that, if Daniell were to run for Commission chair, three of the four regular posts as well as the chair position could be up for election.
Former Commissioner Chuck Horton and former candidates Sarah Bell and Maria Caudill say they are still deciding if they plan to run for any of the open spots.
Others are considering their options as well.
No Response From Davis
I sent email messages to all five of the incumbents asking them for their plans for next year.
Davis was the only one who did not respond. I sent him a second request using a different email, but he did not respond to that either. Davis normally does not respond to email I send him.
The other four incumbents responded, with Daniell saying he is “investigating a run for Chairman in 2016.”
Saxon said he is “Unsure if the chair will be available. Will keep that option open. Plan to run for reelection for post four.”
Luke said he did not plan to run for reelection and did not plan to run for the chair position.
Commissioner William E. “Bubber” Wilkes said “At this time I have no plans to run for chairman.”
I sent email messages to Horton, who gave up his position as commissioner in 2012 to challenge Davis, to Margaret Hale, who lost her re-election bid to Wilkes in 2014, to Maria Caudill, who challenged Hale and Wilkes in the 2014 primary, and to John Larkin, who ran against Daniell in that 2014 primary.
I also sent an email to Tammy Gilland, who ran against Saxon in 2012 and Hale in 2010.
I did not send email to others whose name I have heard mentioned but have not committed to run in the past.
“I have not decided what I will do,” Horton said.
“At this time I do not plan to run for office next year,” Hale said.
Caudill said she wishes “Good luck to every individual that runs” but has not yet decided if she plans to be one of those.
“At the present time, I have no plans to run for a BOC position,” Larkin said.
“At this time, I have no plans to run in the next election,” Gilland said.
Larkin is running for a seat on the Bogart City Council in the only Oconee County election on Tuesday.
Larkin is one of four candidates seeking the two seats on the four-person council.
Incumbents TL Turman and Linda Turman are seeking reelection.
David Nunn joins Larkin as a challenger.
The top two vote getters will earn the four-year terms.
Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Bogart Community Center.
All of the incumbent Oconee County commissioners are Republicans, and the competition in Commission elections going back to 2000, when Davis ran the first time for BOC chair unopposed, has been in the Republican primary.
Someone could file to run as a Democrat, and candidates can run as independents.
To qualify as an independent, the individual would have to have the signed petitions of 5 percent of the 21,632 persons who were registered to vote in the May 2012 primary, or 1,082 registered voters.
The primary, should more than one candidate file for a party, is May 24, and the runoff, should one be necessary, is July 26.
The Oconee County Commission members serve four-year terms, with the chair position, Luke’s Post 1 position, and Saxon’s Post 4 position up for election this year.
Daniell, who holds Post 2, and Wilkes, who holds Post 3, were elected in 2014.
All posts are county-wide.
Should Daniell decide to run for the chair position, he will have to give up his Post 2 position upon qualification, according to County Attorney Daniell Haygood.
“The basic rule is that you have to resign if the end of your term is later than the beginning of the term you are running for,” Haygood told me in an email message on Sept. 18.
This means that Daniell would have to resign to run for the chair position but Saxon would not.
If Daniell were to run and resign his current position, the Post 2 position would remain open until a special election is held. The Nov. 8 general election is designated as a special election date on the Secretary of State calendar.
Daniell challenged Davis for the BOC chair position in 2004. Davis won handily with 63.4 percent of the vote.
In 2008, Bell challenged Davis, and Davis got 50.8 percent of the vote.
In 2012, Horton challenged Davis, and Davis got 54.2 percent of the vote.
When Daniell challenged Davis in 2004, Daniell was relatively unknown, though he had been on the Board of Education.
He has served on the Commission since his election in 2008.
Daniell is 47-years-old at present.
Davis turned 75 in September, but he is active and appears to be fit.
In recent months he has pushed hard to re-acquire power that the commissioners voted to take away from the chair in 2009.
In September, for example, he told department heads to begin copying him on all email correspondence with the county administrative officer, although the organizational chart approved by the commissioners in 2009 stipulates that department heads report to the administrative officer, not the chair.
Davis also rewrote the Human Resources Policy and Procedures manual after it had been written by Human Resources Director Malinda Smith, County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko and former County Administrative Officer Alan Theriault.
In the rewrite, Davis made himself the equal to Benko in the administration of human resource policy and procedures.
The Board has not approved the changes, and Daniell led the push back against the change. That is a position he would give up in March if he decides to run for the chair position, leaving the Commission weaker in resisting Davis’ initiatives.