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Oliver out to buck chairmans curse
No commission chief has been returned to office since 1980
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When Tom Oliver qualifies for re-election as chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners this week, he will attempt to do something that no chairman has been able to do in three decades.

Win.

Some previous holders of the office did not seek a second term, but those who did have not won since at least 1980.

Is there a "chairman's curse?" Oliver doesn't think so ... or does he? "It might just be the un-luck of the incumbent," he said.

Beginning in 1980, Henry Ward, the only man to ever be mayor of Gainesville and later chairman of the county commission, served a single term. But Ward left to run for clerk of Superior Court, losing to Dwight Wood, who holds the office today.

He was succeeded by Jerry Nix, who had previously served as a county commissioner. After four years, Nix found the chairman's job took him away too much from his downtown service station.

"I had a great bunch of commissioners in there when I was chairman," Nix said. "I at first said I'd do it again, then Curtis Segars came along and I bowed out."

Segars, a well-known principal of Gainesville High School, had retired from that post. He ran and was elected in 1988. Segars, in 1992, fell victim to the curse, if there is one.

"That's one way of looking at it," said Segars, who lost his bid for a second term. "I had a re-election and lost. I'm not a politician. So, to do what politicians do -- raise money and appease certain segments -- I wasn't willing. I had this caveman's idea that if you did the right thing people would vote for you. Those days are gone."

Segars was defeated by Brenda Branch, who served only one term. She was succeeded by Al Gainey, who also served one term. Then came Gary Gibbs, who served one term and fell victim to the re-election curse at the hands of Oliver.

This week, Oliver will plunk down $200 to run again. But that's not the final tab. In 2004, Oliver and Gibbs each spent well into six figures to get elected to a job that only pays $7,477 a year, plus $178 per meeting, and can require as much as 30 hours a week in various events and meetings. There is a maximum of 12 meeting days per month, for a total of $2,136 per month.

For Oliver, the final figure was $185,000 for his 2004 campaign. He said he is "cautiously optimistic" about his chances. At this point, no one has publicly announced plans to run against him.

"We've got a good community and a good area and I'd be honored to serve four more years if the voters so decide," he said. "I'm going to live here and I want to make sure my grandkids can live here just as well as I have in my lifetime."

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