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Our Views: Salute to trio of Hall leaders bowing out
Oliver, Bell and Cronic gave the best they had to make county better, safer
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Members of The Times editorial board include Publisher Dennis L. Stockton; General Manager Norman Baggs; Executive Editor Mitch Clarke; and Managing Editor Keith Albertson.

Barring an unforeseen emergency before year’s end or a political comeback at some future time, Tom Oliver has presided over his final Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting as chairman. He leaves behind a legacy of progressive leadership and accomplishment that future chairmen will find difficult to equal.

Politicians often promise to bring business skills to the elective offices they seek. Oliver did exactly that, and his business acumen helped the county government to maneuver through one of the most difficult economic periods of our time. As a result, incoming commissioners will find a budget surplus of some $5 million, a contrast from the deficit of $11 million that existed just a couple of years ago.

Others on the commission have noted that Oliver’s strength of personality alone accounted for much of what has been accomplished during his eight years as chairman. There is no denying the fact his tenure was marked by a stubborn determination to make happen those things he felt were good for the county.

As an elected official, Oliver has truly been the rarest of politicians: one who told you exactly what he believed to be right, regardless of whether doing so was popular. And more often than not, what he believed to be right was, in fact, good for the county.

Doing what you believe to be right even when it isn’t popular is the line of demarcation between a true leader and a politician. Oliver clearly qualifies as a leader.

Oliver has been a strong advocate of the need to bring new jobs to the county and a tireless supporter of economic development, a fact noted by officials at Lanier Technical College and the Featherbone Communiversity as they presented Oliver with tokens of appreciation earlier this month.

He has also worked diligently to do the things necessary to position the county for positive business growth, such as badly needed expansion of infrastructure necessary to recruit new jobs to the county.

If it makes it to fruition, there is little doubt that the Glades Reservoir, and the long-term potential of that proposed impoundment, would be Oliver’s greatest legacy. It is the sort of “big picture” project that requires the support of a true visionary, and Oliver has been its greatest champion.

There is no doubt the strength of Oliver’s personality, his often refreshing honesty in dealing with difficult issues and his never-wavering advocacy for the county he clearly loves will be missed when the commission convenes next year.

Oliver is not the only member of the commission leaving that body at month’s end. Commissioner Ashley Bell also will be stepping down.

Bell came rushing onto the political scene at a young age, riding the coattails of a speech at the national Democratic Convention to success at the local level. As political winds shifted so did Bell, drawing national attention when he moved his allegiance to the Republican Party after the 2010 elections.

Though he sometimes staked out positions with which this newspaper disagreed, Bell proved himself to be a committed commissioner who worked hard at the job and dedicated many hours to the position he held. With his obvious zeal for the political process, we fully expect Commissioner Bell to resurface in some public service role in the years to come.

The county commission office is not the only one losing proven public servants. A new sheriff also will take office, with Steve Cronic stepping down from the position he has held the past 12 years.

Cronic’s tenure has seen the sheriff’s office make tremendous strides, perhaps none more impressive than its having earned certification by the Commission for Accreditation for Law Enforcement three times during his administration. The local sheriff’s office is among only a few in Georgia to earn both state and national certifications during that time.

As sheriff, Cronic was responsible for overseeing the construction of a new detention center for the county and for relocation of jail operations into that facility when it was completed, a monumental task for any sheriff.

He also was responsible for seeing that personnel were properly trained to deal with enforcement of the controversial immigration laws generally referred to as 287(g), a delicate task in a county with a high immigrant population.

Cronic was recognized by the Georgia Sheriff’s Association as the “Sheriff of the Year” in 2007, and in 2006 was presented the Governor’s Public Safety Award by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.

But it is for setting a standard for professionalism among the rank and file employees of the department that Cronic will best be remembered. The calm, controlled, efficient demeanor which he personally projected as sheriff of the county for 12 years was reflected in the behavior of his subordinates.

To truly be the public’s servant in an elective position is a difficult and often thankless task, one performed well by these men. We thank them for their efforts on behalf of the county, even as we look ahead to the tenures of newly elected officials awaiting their chance to step into the role of government leadership.

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