News Archive

(0507) Week of January 31, 2007

School attendance lines to be redrawn in Powdersville area
Six award winning schools recognized by Board
Middleton denied pardon
Local dentist arrested for providing alcohol to minors
Meade named Lions Citizen of the Year
Stewart recognized for valor
Whereabouts of flight simulator raises concerns
County officials look into Sheriffs budget transfers
Wilson steps into Council position

Seems to Me . . . On Membership and Recognition

School attendance lines to be redrawn in Powdersville area

Anderson School District One is considering realigning attendance lines for four elementary schools located in the northern part of the District.

The rezoning will ensure current facilities in the growing area are evenly used while the District makes plans to meet future growth.

During their regular monthly meeting Tuesday, District One Board members heard a presentation from staff members on relocating school attendance lines for the four Powdersville area elementary schools.

The two areas affected are a triangle along River Road near Piedmont and another triangle area along Brushy Creek Road.

The River Road area students currently attend Wren Elementary and are being considered for rezoning to attend Concrete Primary and Powdersville Elementary. Students in the Brushy Creek area attend Hunt Meadows and are being considered for rezoning to Concrete Primary and Powdersville Elementary.

The lines being considered were moved in 2000 to insure attendance in two new schools, Hunt Meadows and Powdersville Elementary, and are being moved back to where they were originally.

Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler said the current lines were put in place when Hunt Meadows opened in 2000, “to ensure that school relieved some overcrowding.”

The new lines will coincide with current attendance lines for Powdersville Middle and Wren Middle, officials said.

Dr. Fowler said Wren Elementary is over capacity with more than 690 students and is currently using two portables, one for art and one for music.

He also said Hunt Meadows will need portables which cost $35,000 to $50,000.

“We are proud of our board leadership to keep our children out of portables,” Dr. Fowler said during the presentation. There is also a safety concern with portables, he said.

According to information presented at the meeting, Powdersville Elementary has an entire wing of 12 classrooms not being used.

Each of the elementary schools in the northern part of the District have a capacity of approximately 650 students, except Concrete which has a capacity of approximately 550, Assistant Superintendent David Havird said. “The District philosophy is to have 600 to 700 students in the elementary schools.”

Attendance at Hunt Meadows is currently at 657; Wren Elementary has exceeded its capacity with 691and is currently using two portables, Havird said. Powdersville Elementary has 395 students attending and Concrete Elementary has 405.

Havird said that when the lines were redrawn in 2000, approximately 50 to 60 students left Concrete and went to the new Hunt Meadows school.

If the new lines are approved, District officials estimate the attendance figures will be as follows:

Concrete Elementary from 405 to 508; Hunt Meadows from 657 to 529; Powdersville Elementary from 395 to 500 and Wren Elementary from 691 to 611.

Spearman Elementary, which has a capacity of 550 students will not be affected, Havird said. The school currently has 501 students attending.

Approximately 80 to 85 students will be affected by the changes, according to Havird.

“Any rezoning is difficult,” Havird said. “Our principals and teachers made such a committment when it was done in 2000. They worked extremely hard to make the transition go well.” He said he expects the same this time.

Dr. Fowler added that even with the changes, Powdersville and Concrete Elementary schools “will be full in just a few years.”

According to Dr. Fowler, the Board will need to begin looking at a building program to meet the growth needs of the Hwy. 81 (Piercetown) area soon. Several new large subdivisions are either underway or planned for the area.

Six award winning schools recognized by Board

During their regular monthly meeting Tuesday, Anderson School District One Board of Trustees recognized six schools and approved personnel recommendations.

Six District One Principals were recognized representing their schools which were named as State Gold and Silver Award winners recently.

More than $50,000 in award funds will “go directly into the classroom,” Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler said. “It was quite an effort and a great reward for a job well done.”

Recognized as Gold Award winners were Principal Brenda Ellison, Cedar Grove Elementary; Principal Mark McCall, Wren Middle; Principal Robbie Binnicker, Wren High.

Silver Award winners were Principal Jerome Hudson, Palmetto Elementary; Principal Dr. Charlotte McDavid, Pelzer Elementary and Principal Dr. Stacy Hashe, West Pelzer Elementary. Wren High alone received $25,000, Dr. Fowler said.

Director of Education Jane Harrison presented board members with a copy of the 2005-2006 Annual Report for the District. Copies of the report will be sent home to parents of students and used for recruiting teachers for the District, Harrison said.

Assistant Superintendent David Havird reported that the nutritional services program showed a $48,088 profit for December and a year to date profit of $145,938.

Upon the recommendation of Dr. Fowler, the board unanimously approved the following personnel changes:

Resignations - Tara Jenness, Spearman Elementary, Grade 5; Brooke Ko, Pelzer Elementary Kindergarten; Janet Moore, Spearman Elementary, Grade 3; Jennifer Smith, Palmetto High, LD self contained; Dearlene Whitaker, Wren High, Spanish/ESOL.

Retirement - Frankie Adkins, Palmetto High, Media Specialist; Esther Fogle, Powdersville Elementary, Grade 3; Ken Goforth, Palmetto Middle, Industrial Technology, Rebecca Hood, Powdersville Elementary Grade 5; Susan Pitmon, Spearman Elementary, Grade 1; Peggy Waits, Wren Middle, Grade 7 Language Arts; Julie White, Wren Middle, Grade 7 Language Arts; Brenda Wilson, Palmetto High, Computer Science/Business

Recommendation - Lisa White, Powdersville Elementary, Concrete Primary, Speech.

District Office Administration - Devid Havird, Associate Superintendent; Brian Barnard, Director of Maintenance, Becky Brady, Director of Personnel and Testing; Andria Hancock, Director of Technology; Jane Harrison, Director of Elementary Education; Debbie Joye, Director of Nutrition Services, Dr. Brain Keith, Director of Specials Services; Dr. John Pruitt, Director of Secondary Education and Steve Uldrick, Director of Finance.

Middleton denied pardon

By Stan Welch

Former Williamston Mayor Marion Middleton Sr. was denied a pardon on his third request,  despite the passage of a resolution by the current Town Council, supporting his application for pardon. Middleton, along with several supporters appeared before the South Carolina Pardons and Parole Board in Columbia on Wednesday, January 24. It was his third time appearing before the board in the five years since he pled guilty in 2002 to embezzling $76.000 from the Town ofWilliamston.

Mayor Phillip Clardy, who defeated Middleton for the Mayor’s job, also spoke in support of Middleton’s application. “As Mayor of Williamston, I speak today as the representative of a divided community. As a business owner and resident, I present my own conscience as well. Some will interpret these crimes, for which pardon is sought today as contributing to what may be Williamston’s darkest hour. History will judge Mr. Middleton’s actions, and their effect on the town, just as it will mine.”

Clardy acknowledged the resolution recently passed by Council supporting Middleton’s application, adding, “I would advocate your consideration of this pardon. This is my official position as Mayor. It is also my personal conviction, formed without pressure or influence of others. I would like to share in the leadership of healing that this pardon would serve.”

Middleton had earlier spoken to the Board, saying that he had fully and publicly acknowledged his transgressions, and had apologized for them. “I would ask your consideration of my request for a pardon of my crime against the Town of Williamston. I am truly sorry and take full responsibility. I have repaid what was owed. I have served my time in jail. I have no ambition in the political sense. I ask this pardon for my family and especially for my grandchildren.”

Also speaking in support of the application was Lee Cole, son of former Town Councilman Greg Cole. Cole spoke of Middleton’s service to the community, as well as of the donation of real estate which was later sold at the town’s auction, and which Cole said generated some $35,000 in revenue for the Town. He also referred to a donation of land to allow for the construction of a turn lane at an area school.

Sarah Dacus, present along with her husband, John Dacus, spoke of their long friendship with Middleton, and his service to both his country and his community. Kempi Shepard, pastor at Grace United Methodist Church also spoke on Middleton’s behalf, saying that his faith had transformed his life, and stressing the importance of forgiveness.

After everyone had spoken, they went out of the room while the Board discussed their decision. Since the hearings are an open meeting under state law, the media was allowed to remain. The media was asked to leave before the decision was announced to Middleton.

The Board members expressed concern over two issues in particular. The first, and apparently most important, was the fact that Middleton’s term of probation has not expired. “I don’t see how we can grant a pardon when he hasn’t completely fulfilled the terms of his sentence,” said one Board member. Also at issue was the length of time, described as ten years, during which Middleton’s crimes occurred. “That bothers me a good deal,” said the same Board member who was bothered by the probation issue. The vote of the six members (one was absent) was unanimous to decline the pardon. Five of the seven votes would be necessary to approve the pardon.

Mr. Middleton declined to comment to the media after the hearing. Mayor Clardy, however, said, “The Town of Williamston needs to heal. My position today was in support of that healing. I do not advocate what happened, but the healing must begin. I hope that this helps. I want to be a part of that healing so that the Town can move forward.”

 Asked why he had abstained from voting on the resolution in support of the application, he said, I abstained for two reasons. First, I think the resolution was brought up improperly. It was not on the agenda, but arose from general conversation of the Council. Secondly, I did not wish for my position to be known in advance, in fear of the impact that position might have had on the situation.”

Middleton, 77, was unanimously turned down by the board on his first request in July of 2003 and again in January of 2005.

He submitted the first application for pardon in November 2002, just three months after he pled guilty to embezzling $76,000 from the Town of Williamston during his term as mayor. He served 46 days of a 90 day sentence, receiving early release due to a work-credit program.

Persons requesting a pardon must complete an application, submit three letters of reference, and pay a $50 application fee, a spokesperson for the department said at the time. Under state requirements, Middleton could apply for a pardon once his sentence was served and full restitution was made. At the time of the first hearing, it was reported that under the terms of sentencing, Middleton’s probation ended upon payment of the restitution. The Town of Williamston received a restitution payment of $76,000 in 2003.

Correction - A related article published in The Journal last week incorrectly stated that Middleton was appearing before the pardon board for the fifth time. Middleton was actually appearing before the board for the third time in five years. He went before the pardon and parole board in July 2003 and January 2005. Also Councilman Greg Cole did not serve on Council under Middleton.

Local dentist arrested for providing alcohol to minors in Georgia

According to police records obtained by The Journal from the Lincoln County, Georgia Sheriff’s Department, Dr. Robert Lagroon, a dentist with a Williamston office, was arrested in early January, and charged with  providing alcohol to minors.

Also charged were Kathy Ann Rhodes, 42, a resident of Lincolnton, and Kelli Broome, 38, also a resident of Lincolnton, and an employee of Lagroon, according to the incident report on file with the Sheriff’s Department.

Lagroon, 43, provided an address in McCormick, SC when he was booked. Lagroon maintains a dental office on Hamilton Street in Williamston. Broome,  was also charged with providing alcohol to underage people.

According to the incident report, on January 6, Lincolnton deputies were dispatched to a residence in response to a tip that minors were consuming alcohol. Deputy James Foskey reported that upon arrival, he observed at least thirty people in the area of the home. Several had red plastic cups, which were found to contain beer. Foskey said that once he and the other deputy were identified, the crowd wandered into the house, where they went out the front door and into a nearby tree line.

Foskey’s report states that sixteen underage persons were identified at the home, and ten of them admitted drinking alcohol. Several identified “the dentist” as having provided that alcohol. One stated that he had been hearing about the party and the dentist bringing alcohol for several days. The youngest of those who admitted drinking was a seventeen year old.

Among the underage drinkers was Kathy Rhodes’ eighteen year old son, who also charged the underage drinkers five dollars a piece to come into the party. He told officers that his mother knew about the underage drinking, as well as his charging admission.

 

Meade named Lions Citizen of the Year

The Williamston Lions Club recently recognized David C. Meade as their 2006 Citizen of the Year.

Meade was recognized during the club’s January meeting where he was  presented a plaque by Lionsw Club President Elaine West.

Meade is the Managing Editor of The Journal, Weekly Newspaper of Williamston, Pelzer, Piedmont.

He is a 1979 graduate of Palmetto High School and a 1983 graduate of the University of South Carolina where he received a BS Degree in Business Management with additional classes in Marketing and Journalism.

He is married to Renee (Scroggs) Meade and they have two children, Justin, a Junior at Winthrop University and Hayley, a Freshman at USC.

He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church and attends NewSpring Church.

Meade served as President of the Greater Williamston Business Association for two terms. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Downtown Revitalization Committee for the GWBA and the Town.

He is Chairman of the Williamston Springwater Committee which organized the  2006 Spring Water Festival and the Christmas Park.

“Meade’s publishing of community happenings has always been an invaluable asset to the readers of The Journal,” Lion President West said. “In addition, he unselfishly took on the added responsibility of Spring Water Festival Committee oversight that resulted in one of the most successful in years.” “The Springwater Committee also helped organize the Christmas Park which was enjoyed by thousands of visitors,” Lion President West said. “This individual, though not a Lion, we feel certainly fits the mold of the Lions motto which is “We Serve.”

Meade co-owns and operates The Journal with his brother Richard.

Prior to the presentation, Meade spoke to the group about the history of the area’s local newspaper, The Journal and other issues related to covering local news.

Stewart recognized for valor

Sgt. Joseph Chase Stewart of the 1st Armored Division was recently presented The Army Commendation Medal with “valor” for his exceptional service and valor while serving in the Middle East.

According to a certificate presented with the award on March 30, 2006, Stewart was recognized “For exceptionally valorous performance in the face of the enemy.” According to the award, “Sergeant Stewart’s quick aciton and disregard for his personal sefety resulted in the defeat of a fleeing insurgent who had just attacked his fellow soldiers. Sergeant Stewart’s actions reflect great credit upon himself, the ready First Combat Team and First Armored Division and the United States Army.”

Commanding Col. Sean B. MacFarland signed the award.

According to Army documents, as the Bradley gunner overwatching a dismounted patrol, Sgt. Stewart reacted immediately to an insurgent who had just thrown a hand grenade. Sgt. Stewart returned fire and killed the enemy in the car as it attempted to flee. Sgt. Stewart’s quick action saved the lives of the other soldiers and enabled the safe medevac of a soldier wounded in the grenade attack.

Stewart serves in the Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, of the 36th Infantry Regiment.

He graduated Palmetto High School in 2001, enlisted in the army July of 2002. He seved in Iraq from May 2003 to July of 2004 and is currently serving his second tour in Iraq where he has been since January of 2006.

He is the son of Karen and Robbie Cochrane of Williamston and Joey  Stewart of Pelzer. He has a brother Cody who attends Lander University and a sister, Nikki, who is a freshman at Broome High School.

Grandparents are Jim and Nannie (deceased) Neely and Harold and Diane Stewart (both deceased).

Whereabouts of flight simulator raises concerns

By Stan Welch

Officials are looking into the disposal of a flight simulator which was left at the Anderson County Airport after a deal fell through with a flight school.

Acting on a tip that a frantic search was underway for the flight simulator last week, The Journal  contacted the federal agencies concerning any potential homeland security concerns that they might have. The terrorists who launched the attacks against America on September 11, 2001 reportedly trained on flight simulators in order to gain enough skill to carry out their suicide missions.

After several days of investigating the circumstances of the simulator’s disposal, Kathleen Bergen, spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) said that the agency, charged with overseeing aviation in America, had determined that the simulator was not operating at federally accepted parameters for a training device, and was therefore not required to be accounted for. “I spoke with Mr. Ferguson and he said the simulator had no computers or hydraulics, rendering it useless for training. Actually, the FAA has no official record of a flight simulator in the Anderson area,” said Bergen from the FAA’s Atlanta offices.

Despite reports of a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry, that agency also denied any interest in the matter.

The simulator, a large and sophisticated piece of equipment used to train and test commercial pilots was stored at the Anderson County Airport for several months, apparently after plans for a flight school which would have used the simulator, fell through.

 Anderson County Director of Transportation Holt Hopkins said that the operators of the school failed to pay their hangar rent and were eventually evicted, and the simulator was held in payment of the arrears. Eventually, the County decided to dispose of the equipment in order to free up the hangar space. Airport manager John Ferguson corroborated Hopkins’ account.

“We just put it on a county owned lowboy trailer and hauled it off to a salvage yard. I don’t remember which one,” said Hopkins. Neither Belton Metal or Carolina Recycling Group  could remember accepting such a salvage item. Belton Metal said that in the post 9/11 era, they would probably require some sort of documentation on such an item.

Dennis Calvert, one of the former co-owners of Eastern Jet Aerospace, the company that was going to operate the flight school, tells a different story. Calvert says that the deal they had with the County and airport manager John Ferguson was that the company would renovate the hangar space to fit their needs, and begin paying rent several months later when they were up and running. Calvert says the company had a contract with Northeastern Airlines to conduct 2000 hours of training annually. The three year contract called for an hourly rate of $462,according to Calvert.

 “We moved in in May of 2003. The hangar was in bad shape, and we were going to fix it up at our expense. We were supposed to start paying rent in December. But Ferguson came to me in July of 2003 and said we had to start paying rent then. I told him that wasn’t our deal. In September, they served me with eviction papers and told me not to return to the airport. I asked how I could get my property back, and they said to pay the rent.”

Sometime during that process, Capt. Roy Stewart of the ACSO became involved. Calvert says Stewart tried to help him sell the unit. A former ACSO lieutenant, who was working at the airport as a training officer, says that Stewart came to the airport and asked him if he knew the owner. The lieutenant, said Stewart went through some old mail in the hangar looking for contact information. Calvert says he and Stewart had met previously, and that Stewart tried to help him make a deal to sell the simulator. Calvert says Ferguson killed that deal, like he did every one Calvert tried to put together.

Calvert says he isn’t surprised that the FAA was not concerned over the whereabouts of the simulator. “It’s a pretty fine line on their part. If the simulator is set up for training and certified by the FAA, then the reporting and tracking requirements kick in. But as far as the computers and hydraulics go, John Ferguson lied if he said they weren’t there. They were. Of course, he did everything he could to kill any deal I tried to make to sell the simulator or to bring in investors.”

Calvert seemed most upset by a phone call he received last week from a customer at the airport, who told him his simulator was being cut up and hauled off. “Why destroy that equipment? I just don’t believe they gave it away. There’s over three miles of copper cable in it. It’s worth several hundred thousand dollars in parts value alone. To rebuild it would literally cost millions of dollars.”

He said the unit was twelve feet by fifteen feet by twenty five feet, and weighed approximately 30,000 pounds. “They would have had to get special permits to move it. I did.”

Calvert says he still has two pieces of equipment at the airport. “There’s an L1011 cockpit training module and a three door training unit to teach attendants to evacuate the planes. That is still my property and I would really like it back before somebody cuts it up and hauls it off.”

County officials look into Sheriff's budget transfers

By Stan Welch

A recent meeting between three members of the Anderson County Council, County Auditor Jacky Hunter, and Sheriff David Crenshaw was intended to shed some light on how The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office came to be more than two million dollars over budget. Whether it did so or not is apparently still open to question.

The meeting, held at the request of Council Chairman Bob Waldrep, District Six Councilman Ron Wilson, and District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, took place Monday.

Even though the Sheriff’s Department deficit was the cause for the meeting, it seems clear that the issue that both Mr. Wilson and Ms. Wilson find most crucial is the manner in which funds are transferred between departments. Ms. Wilson has raised that issue repeatedly over the course of the last two years, saying that county administrator Joey Preston is required by the County’s budget ordinance to inform Council of all fund transfers of more than $2500.

Mr. Wilson, who has already tried to raise the issue of a full audit of the County’s finances, feels that the revelations of the Sheriff’s financial position only increases the pressure of such an audit. “According to the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) one point one million was spent to pay off the 45 new cruisers and vehicles the Sheriff purchased. But if those vehicles are part of a four year lease/purchase arrangement, only a fourth of the amount would be due. Where is the other $700-$800,000?”

Ms. Wilson described the situation as “horrendous. The administrator continuously violates the budget ordinance by transferring funds anywhere and anytime he wants to, then notifying the Council afterwards. Oftentimes, that notification comes months after the funds have been transferred. The Sheriff has as much as admitted that he has no clue where his money is. We simply have no internal budget controls.”

She cited fund transfers from the ‘04-’05 budget year that she said were unreported for eleven months. Preston has said that he includes such notifications in his administrator’s report, which is included in the packet provided to Council before each of their meetings. Wilson contests that claim, saying that such notification is unspecific and comes too late to comply with the budget ordinance.

Ron Wilson said in a telephone interview that his viewpoint is that notice of such fund transfers should precede the transfer, and not come after the fact. “I do not intend to be a rubber stamp for the administrator or anyone else for that matter. I wish to be notified before such transfers. As to the staff’s position that emergencies come up, well, that’s what emergency or special called meetings are for. Show me one emergency last year that required that kind if action.”

Both Council members questioned Preston’s and County financial analyst Gina Humphreys’  representation of the fund transfers to the Sheriff as a loan. Said Ron Wilson, “I had never heard that description until the other day. If this was a loan, what are the terms? What is the interest rate? When will it be repaid? Where is the authorization within the County ordinances that allows Mr. Preston to make loans? This seems to me to be an attempt to circumvent the budget ordinance.”

Cindy Wilson agreed, saying, “How can you just make a loan of a couple of million dollars and never even notify the Council? They just up and did it?” Wilson also reported that Sheriff Crenshaw indicated that his largest failing was his inattention to his department’s workings.

“He said several times that Mr. Preston and (former chief deputy) Tim Busha had done this or done that. But he acknowledged that the final responsibility is his. But the kind of personal and professional behavior that we have seen from Preston and Busha has gone on for several years, and no one seems to care.”

She went on to say that the current controversy over the County’s blue laws is nothing more than a smoke screen to distract people from the issue of an audit.

“The Anderson Independent and the Chamber of Commerce and Joey’s crowd have mounted a vicious attack, based on lies about Ron Wilson and I. There are valid issues involved, but they can be managed by civil discourse. A referendum is probably the answer. But we should not be diverted from establishing a full accounting of the County’s finances.”

Wilson steps into Council position

By Stan Welch

Recently elected District Six County Councilman Ron Wilson has plunged into his duties, making his presence known both on and off the dais where the Council sits during meetings.

He sees his first responsibility as finding funds for roads in his district. “The road funds they give Council members now are a drop in the bucket. It’s enough money to buy votes and not enough to get anything done. I intend to work with Dan Cooper to pursue state and federal funds for the roads in my district. As to the County paving funds, I will spend them only on paving, and nothing else.”

His determination to initiate a full audit of the County’s finances remains firm, perhaps even more so after a recent meeting with other Council members and Sheriff David Crenshaw. (See related article elsewhere in this issue.)

“We need a real audit. I read the recent audit documents, and you can hardly tell what you’ve read when you finished it. A real audit would tell us where the Sheriff’s money came from and where it went. Two CPAs I know reviewed the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) and they said there was nothing illegal, but that it was highly unusual to see an administrator with the authority to move money around so freely. I think that issue needs to be discussed.”

Wilson made a motion at his first meeting as a Council member to amend the agenda to discuss the possibility of an audit. The motion failed by a four to three vote. Wilson finds that significant. “People think my motion was to have an audit. It wasn’t. Essentially, my motion was to simply discuss the matter. Four of the seven Council members didn’t even care enough to do that. I can’t believe that people can even get elected with such reckless disregard for their responsibilities.”

Wilson says he is disturbed by the fact that the Sheriff seems uncertain as to how he got into such a deficit, estimated at $2.4 million. “I’m not sure he knows exactly how he got in the hole, but he seems to be willing to take all the heat for it. I like Sheriff Crenshaw, and I think he’s very honest, but there are still some real questions. For example, the $1.1 million supposedly needed to pay off 45 new vehicles. But that’s supposed to be a lease purchase deal, to my understanding. Why would it all have to be paid at once? I’m not even sure that all that money has been spent, or that it was all spent by the Sheriff.”

Wilson says he has been provided with the information he has requested since taking office. Among those items were a list of all County employees who drive county cars, as well as a list of all real estate commissions paid by the county last year. “There seem to be an awful lot of County folks driving cars. It’s hard to justify all of them in my mind. I just got the list of real estate commissions yesterday, and I haven’t had time to look them over.”

Seems to Me . . . On Membership and Recognition

By Stan Welch

The other night, I was cruising the web (I quit surfing years ago) and remembered something someone had told me a day or so before. They mentioned that county administrator Joey Preston had a listing on the Wikipedia website that they said was longer than an elephant’s trunk.

As a former elephant trainer who is fully aware of the length of an elephant’s trunk, I decided this list might be worth seeing. Lord, that ain’t the half of it. It is a pure wonder how any one man could locate, join, and excel in so many organizations in the relatively short time that Joey Preston has been on this planet.

Why, after reading this unbelievable list of organizations, awards, and achievements, one is left with the inevitable question of why this man is wasting his time in Anderson County? Now, I mean no disrespect to the County in which I now reside. It is a beautiful place, fully deserving of the most talented and productive leadership available.

Still, one can hardly help wondering what Joey Preston could do to resolve the federal budget deficit, given his extraordinary list of memberships in financial organizations, matched only by the endless roster of awards he has received from those organizations.

One also has to wonder why the Joint Chiefs of Staff haven’t approached him about this mess we have in Iraq. Preston’s wikipedia entry lists twenty five memberships in military related organizations or auxiliaries, and awards received from same. Why, the man was awarded outstanding ROTC Air Force cadet three times in 1984, while he was studying at UNCC.

Now, I hate to brag, but when I was at The Citadel, I walked more punishment tours and received more demerits than any other cadet in school history, except for my roommate, Tad Jackson. TJ’s record lasted almost twenty years. The man simply had a bad attitude. Lord knows I tried to counsel him, but to no avail. To the best of my recollection, neither of us was ever the outstanding cadet of the week. Of course, we did live a military life, rather than take a military class twice a week. We also had a strict honor code, which I’m pretty sure the UNCC ROTC program didn’t.

I knew where every hole in the fence was and every way off that campus without being seen. My friends and I never did understand the Shannon Faulkner brouhaha. Shoot, we’d been smuggling girls into the barracks for years. We even dressed one girl up and let her march at a Friday afternoon dress parade with us. If she had done a better job of pinning her hair up under her shako, we’d have gotten away with it, too. It was Jimmy Proctor’s date, if I remember right. Jimmy’s got a good government job now, although I doubt if you’ll find him on wikipedia.

During the Christmas holidays, my son and I were in WalMart and we ran into an old classmate of mine. Actually, all my classmates are old classmates now. Anyway, this particular classmate was also a member of my company. His name is Terry Potter, and he is the last guy you would ever expect to even survive The Citadel, much less excel as he did. Terry was a bookish looking, hook nosed, chicken breasted skinny guy who completely fooled us all. He finished The Citadel as the regimental commander, or the number one cadet.

He maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point ratio, and was a member of the Bond Volunteers and the Summerall Guards. The Bond Volunteers are the juniors in the Corps who are crazy enough to go out for the Summerall Guards, The Citadel’s world famous and elite silent drill team. They were abused and beaten and mistreated at levels that would be criminal anywhere outside the gates of The Citadel or Parris Island.

There were many nights when the BV’s classmates literally carried them to their rooms. We shined their shoes and brass while they treated their wounds and injuries. Terry also went out for the Junior Sword Drill, if I remember correctly. That is another exercise in punishment, and the last place you would expect this scrawny bookworm to be.

When I saw him at Christmas, it had been more than twenty years since we had laid eyes on each other. But I immediately walked up and said, “You’re Terry Potter.” And he smiled and said, “Yes, and you’re Stan Welch.” We hugged and chatted for a couple minutes before parting ways. But that few minutes renews the bond for another twenty years. It is a bond forged through four years of shared challenges and experiences. It is a bond that the highest ranking cadet and the lowliest senior private fully understand. Terry Potter and I were too far apart in our reactions to The Citadel, and in our purposes for attending, to be really close friends. But we were classmates and members of the same company. And we are both members of the Long Gray Line, that fellowship of Citadel grads that stretches around the globe.

Terry Potter, who is so unassuming that my son asked if he wasn’t really Harry Potter, is a full colonel working at the Pentagon, according to my last information from The Citadel grapevine. All he would tell me was that he is still in the Army and still in the Washington DC area. I think he’s in military intelligence. No website warrior is he. I would bet he’s been a little too busy to create his wikipedia file.

For myself, I have never been much of a joiner, and I am on record as having been less than thrilled with my own Citadel experience. But if a fellow had to be a member of a club, it seems to me he could do worse than be a member of the Long Gray Line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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