Elections dominate in ‘08

Published 8:33 am Wednesday, December 31, 2008

1. Obama wins historic election, McLendon wins Third term

In 2008, elections on the national, state, county or municipal level, meant change. Or the possibility of change.

Barack Obama made history in November, becoming the first black man to ascend to the Presidency of the United States.

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Obama defeated longtime Arizona Senator John McCain and will assume office in January as the nation’s 44th President.

Locally, Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon fought off the challenge of businessman Gerald Johnson to win his third term in The Camellia City.

McLendon won 1,015 votes to Johnson’s 664. Also, three incumbent city council members – Tommy Ryan, Ed Sims and Jean Thompson – were successful in their bids for re-election.

Mike Middleton was picked in Georgiana to succeed Lynn Harold Watson, beating Larry Creech, while Melvin “Blue” Shufford won in McKenzie. Watson, meanwhile, unseated Glenn King to win the District 5 County Commission race.

Incumbent Jerry Hartin defeated Lawrence Philpot in District 1.

Also on the county level, Deborah Crews was chosen by voters in June to replace Belle Peavy as the Revenue Commission.

Board of Education members also ran successful bids for re-election, although Billy Jones (District 1) was sweating until the final tally was announced.

Jones defeated Stacy Harrell by one vote in a July 16 runoff.

2. Gas up, gas down

By mid-2008, prices at the pump for regular unleaded gas were pushing $4 a gallon, prompting many people to go to carpooling and some government agencies in the state to move to a four-day workweek.

As the country’s economic woes deepened, there was one bright spot: gas prices began declining.

Prices in the Greenville area were averaging $1.473 this week – roughly half of what people were paying this time last year ($2.967).

3. Building Boom

In spite of a weakening economy, Greenville and Butler County saw a number of new construction projects in 2008.

After much anticipation, Sonic Drive-In opened near Wal-Mart, while an old favorite, McDonald’s, was completely rebuilt, offering customers double drive-through lanes, an indoor playground and 24-hour service. Walgreen’s brought a new pharmacy choice to the area with its opening.

$25 million in construction work was undertaken by the Butler County Schools System as well, including renovations at W.O. Parmer, GES and GMS.

4. New Jail Opens

After years of discussion and planning, the county finally opened its new jail for a public open house on October 20.

The new $6 million facility features a state-of-art security system, with individual electronic locking mechanisms and the ability to lockdown prisoners. The new facility is a far cry from the 1929 structure, which has been plagued with problems such as insufficient heating, overcrowding, leaks and even a 1996 federal lawsuit.

5. Honey Drippin’

Hollywood came to Greenville on February 2 as famed indie director John Sayles’ “Honeydripper” made its Alabama premiere at The Edge.

The film, shot mainly in Butler County during the fall of 2006, featured a number of locals as extras and in speaking roles.

Location shoots were done in downtown Georgiana, Greenville, in the Midway Community and in area cotton fields.

6. Mitchell immortalized

Lurleen B. Wallace Community College Greenville met a big challenge in 2008 when the campus’s new conference center was officially named in honor of Senator Wendell Mitchell.

Mitchell made a $300,000 donation to the college.

The naming was announced during a special ceremony held at the Greenville campus on May 9. The campus has seen continued growth in 2008 with new programs in technology and nursing offered.

7. Archbishop Visits

A local church celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2008 with two very special guests.

Saint Thomas Episcopal Church in Greenville marked 150 years in the community with the visit of Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church worldwide, and his wife, Lady Carey.

Lord Carey enjoyed a cookout with the men of the church, while the ladies visited with Lady Carey at a tea in her honor. The former archbishop, the first in his office to publish his memoirs, also presided over an Evensong service at the church, and held a Q & A discussion with parishioners and their guests.

8. Name sparks Uproar

On November 20, the Butler County Board of Education announced the name of the school would be The Butler County Magnet School. Other names considered by the board included the Barack Obama Magnet Academy.

Many Georgiana citizens and graduates of Georgiana High voiced their unhappiness with the board and their choice, saying the matter should have been brought before the public before any decision was made.

9. Murder/Suicide

Two lives came to a tragic end in Greenville on January 28 when GPD officers discovered the bodies of Patricia Lowery and her son, Schott Coshatt, in a mobile home on East Commerce St. Evidence on the scene indicated Coshatt fatally shot his mother, then took his own life. No motive as known for the murder-suicide. The mother and son formerly owned a pet shop located next to Lee Electric in Greenville.

More than 60 dogs were found on the premises, with the animal shelter and humane society members stepping in to help find homes for the animals.

10. Those we lost

The year 2008 marked the passing of a number of prominent citizens.

Longtime on-air radio personality Terry Golden passed away at age 65. Golden opened Greenville’s first FM radio station WKXN.

Butler County Commissioner Daniel Robinson lost his battle with cancer at age 59. He had served as a commissioner for district 4 for 12 years.

Former Circuit Judge Arthur E. “Bub” Gamble passed away at his home at age 88.

Former furniture store owner Ed Jernigan, passed away at age 85. He was a longtime supporter of Kiwanis as was James Peavy, who died at 92. Wink Fussell, a longtime Greenville Police Department officer, passed away at age 70.