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County Commission split on Board of Elections vote

By MICHAEL MURRAY
michael.murray@americustimesrecorder.com

AMERICUS – The Sumter County Board of Commissioners met on Jan. 19 for the board’s monthly meeting following a brief closed session during which the board interviewed two candidates for an open position on the Sumter County Board of Elections and Voter Registration. The board interviewed Terence Clemons and Phillip Deese for the position.
Towards the end of the meeting, board chairman, Randy Howard, asked the board for nominations for the position. Board member Thomas Jordan nominated Clemons for the position while board member George Torbert nominated Deese. After the initial vote, the board found themselves torn between the candidates with two votes for each. Howard cast the deciding vote for Deese.
After the votes had been cast, Jordan asked the board if they could discuss the decision further before making an official decision. County attorney, Kimberly Reid advised the board that the vote can be rescinded if they believe that further discussion is necessary.
“I was just thinking… We have a five-member board. We [currently] have three caucasians on the board and I just think that it would be the right thing to do, based on the fact that both candidates are qualified… to make sure that we have diversity on that board. So, if we have two African-American people and three caucasians, I think that it would be right…” Jordan said.
Commissioner Clay Jones echoed Jordan’s sentiment, saying, “As far as voting rights … If that board is not racially diverse … I have a problem with that.”
“I think that it sends the wrong message to the community, too … [This position] represents all of the taxpayers of Sumter County,” Jordan added.
Howard informed the commissioners that he knows Deese personally and can vouch for his character. “That’s the first time I’ve met [Clemons] tonight. I don’t really know anything about him.” he said.
Howard went on to say that Clemons had presented himself as a capable candidate and that either candidate would likely excel in the position.
The commission then went into a closed session to discuss the matter further.
After a closed session that lasted over an hour, the commission’s original vote stood and Deese was appointed to the position.
• Other items on the agenda for the Board of Commissioners included the approval of a letter of credit and a line of credit for the Sumter County Livestock Authority. The letter of credit was approved for the amount of $65,000 and the line of credit was approved for $100,000 pending an appropriate adjustment in the wording of the contract. County administrator, Bill Twomey, advised the board that the law requires this line of credit to be available in order for livestock transactions to be conducted in the county.
The board also approved the following:
• Howard issued a proclamation on behalf of the board, thanking former law enforcement officer, James Spriggs, for 40 years of service to the county.
• Howard was nominated to continue in his current role as the board chairman. The nomination was approved. Jones was nominated as the board’s vice chair. The nomination was approved. Nominations for Rayetta Floyd, Janis Jarvis, and Reid to continue their roles as county clerk, deputy clerk, and county attorney, respectively, were each approved.
• Col. Eric Bryant, of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, discussed the benefits of the department’s license plate-reading cameras with the commission. Bryant informed the board that the cameras have been in use for two years and “have proven to be very effective as relates to traffic enforcement.” Bryant advised the commission that the Sheriff’s Office is currently looking into equipment grants to help offset the yearly costs of the equipment’s maintenance and software updates.
• County Public Works Director, Frank Whitaker, informed the board that he would like to add a section of Mask Road to an existing contract for road improvements. The request was approved.
• The board discussed a request by the City of Americus to annex a property at 40 Morris Drive. Twomey informed the board that the annexation would likely not affect the county in any significant way and that he saw no reason to object. Reid advised the board that, if no action is taken, the property will be annexed by the city.
• The board heard from Sumter County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director, Nigel Poole, about an possible grant to be used for the purchase of a utility task vehicle (UTV) for Sumter County Fire and Rescue Services (SCFRS). Poole informed the board that a portion of the funding for the project could be taken from a previously-approved grant. Poole stated that the cost to the county for the vehicle, which retails for around $19,400, would total $7,610. After the presentation, Torbert said, “I’ve been in other counties where they use this equipment and saw it in use. They’re pretty valuable.”
• SCFRS Chief John Ekaitis asked the board to approve sole-source requests for two pieces of equipment, a John Deere XUV 825iS4 in the amount of $15,950, and a Medlite Transport Deluxe MTD in the amount of $3,850. The purpose for the sole-source request was that only one dealer is licensed to sell this equipment in the Southeast. The equipment will be purchased locally.
• The commission approved nominations for Samuel Adams and David Jennings to continue in their positions on the Sumter County Board of Tax Assessors.