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3-2-04 Vinnie Williams, Parades & Oconee Citizens for Responsible Growth

It has been disappointing that no group with the county’s sincere interest could get organized to offset the development pressure in Oconee County. The so-called “Responsible Growth” folks did more damage than good.

AVOC

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February 28, 2004

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Vinnie Williams, Parades & Citizens for Responsible Growth

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Vinnie Williams 2003 Special Photo

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC      Another Voice Oconee County

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In public service, an early lesson one learns is the duplicity and insincerity of many persons.Some people “play both sides of an issue”.  They would agree with whoever they were with at the time.  You develop a sense of limited trust.   You will leave enough “rope exposed” to try to accomplish something but be prepared to yank back for self-protection.

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Some people are vicious in their attempts to influence affairs or to “do in” an office holder.   I tried to and usually got along with most people.    However, there are some values and principles more important than popularity or perceived friendship.   I was old enough and experienced enough in life to proceed with caution although I would never hesitate to speak up for what I thought was right.

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We tried to provide facts and details on most of our undertakings.   That made it a little harder for the political antagonists to disseminate misinformation.

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Early on, I recognized that Vinnie Williams would talk to everyone (and probably agree with them) in spite of frequent comments of support.   I did provide information and cooperation that was beneficial to her so she treated me generally in a civil manner until near the end of my service.

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During my first two terms, Commissioner Jay Campbell frequently challenged me publicly.   Behind the scenes, the tension was worse than folks knew.   While he is a very intelligent person, he gave me the impression that he wanted to “pull all the strings” behind the scenes.   He seemed to like “Good ole boys” who would do his bidding.I sensed that I got in his way.   To this day, I have never understood what he stands for.    I understood very well that he did not like me and opposed me politically at most every turn behind the scenes - up until the time of my retirement.   Reports eventually came to me that he was involved and helped organize the candidacy of the Independent against me in the 2000 election.   He then joined forces with the “Melvin Davis Group”.  

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In 1998, we were busy completing a major renovation and addition to the courthouse.  At that time, a small group came to me complaining about growth.    I gave them an audience and listened and tried to cooperate.   I told some of this group that I would like to see the Homeowner Associations networking in Oconee County to help counter-balance the Development Community which has a powerful influence with money and ‘behind the scenes’ activities.   Some quoted this statement out of context and I got in “hot water” with some developers and even a commissioner or two.

The resulting group was named the Oconee Citizens for Responsible Growth.The major players initially were Mary Mellein, John Traylor and Karen Traylor.   I cooperated with them and spoke at their first meeting and encouraged others to come.   To my surprise, on the very first night some of them went on the attack! They were obviously going to be an activist group and demanded to set the agenda for the county.

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Soon they were joined by Violet Dawe (who opposed about anything I ever did) and Russ Page who, in my opinion and experience, wanted to set the county’s agenda and would get upset when he did not get his way completely on every issue.

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I immediately saw this group as political with some having axes to grind.   At least two of the current county commissioners attended some of the meetings and enlisted this group’s support.    (I have heard little from that crowd during this term while the incumbents have approved the largest number of residential units in the history of this county!)   Some of the organizers ran for office in 2000 and did not get “to first base”.   They were soon seen as egoists who wanted to take over the county government and many did not have a clue about how things work.

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I used to acknowledge two elements in Oconee County: the “Go-Go’s” and the “No-No’s”.   It was impossible to please both all the time.Neither wanted to give an inch to the other.   I saw my job as really a balancing act.   Often, one is caught in the middle of the “tug of war”.

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However, some of the activists wanted to attack and did so with some media coverage.   Russ Page, while having little credibility in most places where I circulated, became kind of a “Vinnie Creature”.  I saw him as one in a long line of folks she used as a mouth piece to stir things up for a story.   Some thought (and still do) think that Ms. Williams is a great friend!   Flattery can make one feel good while being used!

 

It has been disappointing that no group with the county’s sincere interest could get organized to offset the development pressure in Oconee County.  The so-called “Responsible Growth” folks did more damage than good.   Oconee still needs some reasoned, common sense, dedicated citizens who have our community at heart to take on some of these issues in a responsible way.

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For years, our community has needed a more sincere and responsible press than we have.   At times, I hear from citizens who seem to offer some promise to helping organize support for the public benefit and not be just a bunch of NIMBYs or Special Interests.

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This hope is probably somewhat naive but Hope Springs Eternal!

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See Vinnie Williams Letter on attending a meeting of the “Responsible Growth Group” - Below:

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November 23, 1998

Dear Wendell                                                                                                              (Typed Version)

 

In a few moments I am heading out to what I call “Jack Carter’s church, - although he frequently reminds me that it’s MINE now.Would you believe I haven’t missed a service since I rejoined- although I have gone to several special services at other churches, such as Mars Hill.

 

By now, you have gotten all the happy details of Jay Campbell’s --- sorry my typewriter ribbon ran out and I don’t have another -(presentation to the Citizens for Responsible Growth) but probably a few you didn’t and might enjoy.

 

Violet Dawe, of course trouble-maker that she is, invited Jay.And she sat such in what I can only hope is despair - as he shot down the whole room.And there was this elderly trampy-looking man beside her who, when he spoke, I recognized as D-----!   A meandering complaint.I still recall, at one of your 1st meetings as chairman, how you threw a net over him. - I loved it.

                                                                                                                       

------------ came by the O.E. Friday a.m. with tractor entries & I said I hadn’t noticed him at the meeting.He gave me a stricken look and said he couldn’t stand hearing you run down after all you had done for the county.He was elated at Jay (performance at OCRG).So was a ------------------ a neighbor of ------------, who attended our open house and reception for Karen Enters yesterday.He said he refused to go because he knew Jay would cut you up.He also was thrilled.Said many good things about you and also Peter Mallory.

 

Jay, of course, was not that dumb that he would hurt you.He is also sufficiently his own man - has come to terms with life & has the knowledge & smarts & self-confidence that he’d enjoy chopping the ignorant to pieces.Traylor began, at the end, whining about you at the B O C & Jay ­cut them off with “we won’t get into that - personalities.”

 

            Al C--------, Ted E-------, John G-------, H -------W , John McN------& several from the Ag community were there including Mrs. Buddy Shelnutt,All were happy for you.

 

            Most were NIMBY’s -------- of course.

 

            Thank you for letting the Christmas Parade end in the courthouse parking lot & also having the courthouse open that day.I’ll ask the folk, thru the paper (----------) to keep a rein on their messy kids.

 

            The parade is shaping up gorgeously.Carolyn Pritchett, God bless her, is helping, “Oh, the misse.. parade,” she cried when I threw myself on her expertise.

 

            I guess I should leave or ----------will be fixing a chiding look at me from the choir stall.

 

            The Fireman’s affair is coming together.I’ll get strong on it again after the parade is done - & I’ve eaten a Hershey bar to get my strength back.

 

            I shall fix Publix, Lowe’s, & Home Depot with a mud eye and mention all those fire engines that have appeared in the parking lots! -- and get $.

 

            Maridee and I are spending X-mas in NYC.

 

            Thanks again for the courthouse, pking lot - all else -

 

                                                            Ever ------------

                                                            Vinnie W


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