Thursday, December 01, 2016

Oconee Commission Appoints Executive Director Of State Green Industry Association To Hard Labor Creek Management Board

Replaces Horton

Oconee County Commissioner Jim Luke lost his bid Tuesday night to keep fellow commissioners William “Bubber” Wilkes and Mark Saxon from removing former commissioner Chuck Horton from the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board.

In a 2-1 vote, Wilkes and Saxon, over Luke’s objection, reappointed John Caudill as one of two citizen alternates on the Management Board but replaced Horton with Chris Butts, executive director of the Georgia Green Industry Association.

Luke is vice chairman of the Management Board and has contributed financially to Horton’s campaign for election to the Board of Commissioners in a special election that is underway.

At the Nov. 1 Commission meeting, Saxon and Wilkes had agreed with Luke to postpone a decision on the Management Board appointment until after the Nov 8 election, but Saxon and Wilkes decided on Tuesday to go forward with the appointments even though the Commission race went into a runoff.

Early voting for the runoff, now in its fourth day, has been light, with final voting tomorrow and on election day itself on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Little Urgency

The next meeting of the Board of Commissioners is on Dec. 20, and the Management Board is not scheduled to meet again until Feb. 20, so there was little need for quick action on the appointments.

In addition, as citizen representatives, Caudill and Horton are nonvoting alternates on the Board, so they sit at the table and vote only if the regular members cannot attend.

Wilkes, in making the motion, and Saxon, in seconding, gave no explanation on Tuesday night for their decision to move forward with the appointments.

The video clip below is of the vote on Tuesday night.

OCO: HLCMB Vote from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

The Board decides on its appointments of citizens to committees in executive session closed to the public and never explains the rationale for its choices.

All three commissioners agreed in an executive session on Oct. 25 to replace Horton with Butts, but Luke had a change of heart on Nov. 1 and refused to go along with the decision.

Appointments are for two-year terms.

Horton Questioned Board

At the January meeting of the Management Board, Horton had questioned some of the projections that are being used at present to plan for construction of a treatment plant and transmission facilities for the Hard Labor Creek reservoir.

Horton asked for “an unbiased look” at the need to move forward with those facilities before Oconee and Walton counties spend any more money on the project.

Luke missed that meeting, but Saxon, who also is a member of the Management Board, was present, and no one on the Board objected to Horton’s suggestion, though the Board has not taken any action on it.

Butts has been executive director of the Georgia Green Industry Association, a statewide trade association for the horticulture and landscape industry, since August of 2015, according to his LinkedIn page.

To this point, Butts has had no involvement with the Hard Labor Creek reservoir, now filling in the south of Walton County. He lives at 1450 Oconee Crossings Circle, in the west of the county.

Question In Interview

I asked Horton and Marcus Wiedower, the other candidate seeking the Post II position on the Board of Commissioners in the Dec. 6 runoff, about their positions on the future of Hard Labor Creek reservoir in separate interviews I did with each in late September.

Both Wiedower and Horton said the Management Board needs to have more information before deciding whether to go forward with construction of a treatment plant and distribution system to get the water to customers in the two counties.

Luke is retiring at the end of the month and will have to be replaced by an Oconee County Commissioner in January, making the positions of the two candidates important.

Their responses are in the video clip below.

OCO: Wiedower and Horton On Hard Labor Creek Reservoir from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

At a town hall meeting on Oct. 26, Oconee County Utility Department Wayne Haynie said that the county does not need the water collecting in Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir in the near or mid term because of the availability of water in the Bear Creek reservoir in Jackson County.

History Of Appointments

Horton was appointed as an alternate to the Hard Labor Creek Management Board in 2009, after Commissioner Margaret Hale, one of the original appointees, asked to be relieved of the assignment. Horton was to fill out the remaining two years of her term.

In 2011, Horton replaced citizen Hank Huckaby, another of the three original Oconee County appointees to the Board, when Huckaby became chancellor of the University System of Georgia. Huckaby had been a voting member of the Management Board, so Horton moved into a voting position in replacing Huckaby.

Horton unsuccessfully challenged Melvin Davis for the BOC Chairmanship in 2012, and early in 2013 Davis proposed that Horton be removed from the Hard Labor Creek Board as well as from the Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority, of which Horton was chair.

The Board went along with Davis, though it later that year reappointed Horton to his current position as an alternate.

Horton lives at 1061 Ramblewood Place, outside Watkinsville.

Split On Board

Normally, the Board of Commissioners simply reappoints citizens who ask to continue to serve on committees, as Horton did at the Commission meeting on Oct. 25. Neither Caudill nor Butts appeared at that meeting.

Though Davis does not vote in regular sessions except in the case of a tie, he does participate in discussions of appointments in the executive sessions.

Davis and Wilkes both have had signs supporting Wiedower on their property during the campaign. The same is true for incoming BOC member Mark Thomas, though he says it was put there by his wife.

Saxon did not have a sign in his yard when I checked before the election last month, and he said he has remained neutral in the campaign.

Luke contributed $583 to Horton’s campaign.

(My wife has a sign for Horton in our front yard and has contributed $250 to his campaign.)


Only 1,119 of Oconee County’s 24,058 registered voters have turned out in the first four days of early voting.

Voting has been uneven over the week, but the average of just less than 280 voters per day indicates turnout is likely to be very low for the runoff, which will fill the unexpired term for Post II commissioner.

If that average holds, and it could go up with the final day of early voting tomorrow, only about 1,400 persons will participate in early voting.

In recent elections, about half of those voting cast their votes before actual election day, in this case on Dec. 6.

That suggests that only about 3,000 persons will participate in this election.

The estimates are very rough, because no two elections are the same. This one has only one contest on the ballot, and early voting is only for one week, with no Saturday early voting.

Other BOC Elections

Participation in recent BOC elections has been quite varied, as in reflected in the chart below.

At the Nov. 8 election, Horton got 8,028 votes, and Wiedower got 5,360.

Those numbers are more than any BOC candidate has gotten in winning a contested election in May of this year or in May and July of 2014.

Ben Bridges, in losing on Nov. 8, got nearly twice the votes that Wilkes got in winning the runoff in the Republican primary runoff in July of 2014.

It seems possible the winner of the election on Dec. 6 will do so with vote totals even lower than those from that July 2014 runoff.

Wilkes had lost to incumbent Margaret Hale in the May 2014 primary but defeated Hale in the runoff.

Click in either of the two charts to enlarge them.


Anonymous said...

Wilkes, in making the motion, and Saxon, in seconding, gave no explanation on Tuesday night for their decision to move forward with the appointments


Bubber and Saxon: Y'all have a duty to explain your decisions. It is absolute chicken #$%^ that you did not have the courtesy to explain your decision to the public.

Bubber is simply an embarrassment...he adds no value to the county commission.
For every single vote since he's been on commission; he's sided with King Melvin.
Honest question: Would he have run for commission if it didn't provide health insurance??

Saxon has zero backbone, and brings little to the commission. There are so many intelligent, independent minded residents of Oconee; how do we get them to run for commission??

Hoping for changes with the 2017 commission.

Anonymous said...

See what happens when you challenge Melvin Davis!!

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously last night to accept Chairman Melvin Davis’ recommendation that former commissioner Chuck Horton be removed from two government boards, though Horton could have continued to serve on each as a citizen.

The commissioners decided to replace Horton with one of their own, rather than advertise for citizens to fill the positions.

The commissioners did agree, at least informally, to consider adding a citizen to the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board at some point in the future.

That citizen would serve as an alternate, rather than as a voting member. The current rules allow for a citizen to serve as a voting member, but not as an alternate.

Horton challenged Davis unsuccessfully for the chairmanship of the Board in last July’s Republican primary. He has said he had expressed an interest in staying on the HLC Board as well as on the Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority, which he has been chairing since last fall.

Anonymous said...

The next time Mark Saxon makes a stand as commissioner will be the first time Mark Saxon makes a stand as commissioner. And I agree, Bubber is an embarrassment. Be your own man, not King Melvin's puppet.

Kudos to Jim Luke for standing tough during his last days as a commissioner.

The Calls Creek No Sewer crowd better hold on during Melvin's last few days...

Zippity said...

I agree, thanks to Jim Luke, the only commissioner willing to buck the boss. Worried about the low election numbers. This usually means the second place person will win the run off and this will leave us with a non-questioning commission.

Anonymous said...

See bellow...Here it is y'all! King Melvin's last desperate attempt to push through Calls Creek sewer and who knows what else??!!
Y'all did not expect Melvin to leave office graciously and honorably did 'ya?

And here are ultra important subplots:

1) The commission is only allowed to meet in executive session to discuss personnel, land acquisition and potential litigation.

If County Attorney Daniel Haygood and County Manager have an ounce of integrity, they will not allow Calls Creek to be discussed at the executive session. It does not fall under the three legal reasons to call exec session. If it's about Calls Creek, it's illegal.

2) John Daniell, Mark Thomas and Chuck Horton/Marcus Wiedower should be raising a storm! Calls Creek sewer needs to be decided by the 2017 commission, not a lame duck commission. What is John Daniell made of? Marcus Wiedower accepted $1,000 from Melvin's campaign he strong enough to call out King Melvin and demand this stop now...Horton has had no issue challenging Melvin. And what about former Industrial Development Authority member and incoming commissioner Mark Thomas? Is he going to be a silent pushovers without a backbone like Bubber and Mark Saxon? The IDA looks the other way at chair Rick Waller's conflicts of interest foing business with the county.

3) Let's see how committed the Friends of Calls Creek are. They need to do everything in their power to stop this, and to loudly call out Melvin Davis for this shameful, unethical and irresponsible action. The Banner-Herald and Oconee Enterprise need to be all over this. The Friends of Calls Creek have worked hard but they have also been somewhat passive. This is it y'all...who's going to step up?

Sat 12/3/2016 10:00 AM
Friends of Calls Creek
Special BOC Called Meeting Monday Morning

The Oconee County BOC will hold a "Called Meeting" Monday, December 5th, 11:45 AM for the sole purpose of going into the secretive

Executive Session

The Agenda for this meeting was posted on Friday for a few hours before being replaced by the agenda for the regular first Tuesday BOC meeting.


The BOC cannot vote in Executive Session but is able to vote afterwards before adjournment. One cannot help but think that a vote to expand the Calls Creek Plant may be the reason for this Monday morning meeting. A vote to waste $8,000,000 of Oconee County taxpayer funds. Or maybe it is just about "Land Acquisition and Personnel Matters".

However, it seems rather odd that Chairman Davis called for a special meeting and Executive Session just a day before the regularly scheduled monthly BOC meeting.

Please attend this meeting if you are able.

Important Dates

Monday, Dec 5th - BOC "Called Meeting" 11;45 am County Courthouse
Tuesday, December 6th - Regular BOC Meeting; and Runoff Election for BOC Post 2 between Chuck Horton and Marcus Wiedower.
Sunday, January 1st 2017 - Arrival of the new BOC

Plus any unscheduled dates the current Chairman sees fit to call a BOC meeting.

FOCC has its own Face Book page!
Like Us @

Locations Needed in Downtown Watkinsville for "No Sewer" Signs

If you know a merchant or homeowner on any of the main streets in Watkinsville, please explain our predicament and ask permission to place one of our "No Sewer" signs.

Friends of Calls Creek | 706-669-1015| Email | Website

Anonymous said...

Everyone needs to call, email, personally talk to Mark Saxon about the ethics of discussion in executive sessions. Only he now has the power to stop Davis. We will know if he has any sense of pride and personal ethics on Tuesday night.