By Clint Confehr
COLUMBIA, TN — One of the granddaughters of a Nashville F.W. Woolworth’s lunch-counter sit-in protester was elected to the city council here on Nov. 3.
“She was doing that victory dance with me,” DaVena Harrison said about her spiritual connection with Annie McGill Hardison, a revered Civil Rights activist here who died in July at 81.
Thirty miles south, Pulaski Aldermen Randy Massey was re-elected to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen with the most votes, 1,345, in a six-candidate contest for three seats. Incumbent Ricky Keith continues with 992 votes. Giles County Commissioner Larry Worsham won a seat on the city board with 1,235 votes. It’s legal for him to be a county commissioner and an alderman at the same time. Worsham has offered to be a city-county liaison.
Massey said, “We have a good relationship with the county commissioners. We work with one another on any issue.”
In Columbia, Hardison, 37, succeeds Councilman Carl McCullen, a 20-year veteran of City Hall. Hardison bested McCullen with more than half of the Ward 1 votes including write-ins. Two thirds of those Ward 1 votes were early- or absentee ballots.
McCullen congratulated Hardison election night for her good race, both told The Tennessee Tribune. “It was a very positive phone call,” she said. He wished her the “best of luck” in everything.
There’s a new generation in Columbia politics. McCullen has been in office half as long as Hardison has been alive. During the campaign, McCullen said if he won, he wouldn’t run again. Family is his priority now. Hardison noticed new local government leaders are younger. Columbia’s mayor is a father with school children. He succeeded a grandfather two years ago.
“We’re an example to a younger generation,” Hardison said, acknowledging others’ election this month, and suggesting that her generation “realize it’s time to step-up and be a part of what our community is.”
Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder advocates having a city-owned civil rights museum near the public square. Hardison said it’s important to know “where we’ve been, are now, and where we’re going. It’s a part of history. We celebrate all history, no matter whose history it is.”
Pulaski’s top vote getter knows there are “concerns about the statue” of Confederate soldier Sam Davis on Giles County’s courthouse lawn. “I’m not concerned about that statue,” Massey said. “We’ve got more important issues to worry about.” They include: jobs; activities for young people; and the likelihood of a state university acquiring Martin Methodist College. “It’s a big deal for Pulaski.”
The University of Tennessee approached Martin Methodist about blending their institutions. Subsequently, Middle Tennessee State University said it should absorb the Methodist college because its Murfreesboro campus is closer to Pulaski than UT’s Knoxville campus. “That’s like a town with a McDonald’s raising Cain because a Burger King is coming to town,” Massey said. “I don’t think [MTSU’s bid] will have any merit.” He prefers UT.
Either way, it will be good for parents in Pulaski. “It will cut the cost to go to college here … and there will be more faculty.” He said. UT will be good for Pulaski’s housing, landlords and businesses.
Pulaski needs sidewalks and better stormwater drainage, Massey said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is studying flood zones. “We’ll wait for FEMA to finish its re-mapping and get their suggestions,” he said. Stormwater “is an issue all over Pulaski.” Much of the water flows: from Spotwood Street; down to Sumpter – and McGrew streets; to North 3rd Street; and on U.S. Highway 31.
“I love working on those kinds of things instead of what’s controversial,” Massey said. “I live here and people know me. I’m very spiritual and put the good Lord first and go out to do what I can to please my constituents.”
As Massey wants Pulaski to grow, Hardison advocates economic growth in Columbia where she wants to: “work with the people coming in” and new businesses; and preserve a “southern family feeling because that’s what attracts people to Columbia.” She wants people to be proud of the city’s growth, its safe neighborhoods, and transparent government.
Hardison plans to continue discussions with residents “to let them know I’m their council member” and better understand what’s needed here, she said. “I want to serve as long as the people want me to serve, as long as I’ve got that zealous energy, as long as I see visions on ways to improve the community, but ultimately, as long as God sees fit for this to be what he wants me to do.”
Columbia’s Ward 2-5 winners are: Unopposed incumbents Ken Wiles and Anthony Greene in Ward 2 and 3; General Machine Works proprietor Kenny Marshall who succeeds retiring Ward 4 Councilman Mike Greene, a former state safety commissioner; and, Columbia Arts Council member Danny Coleman who succeeds the Ward 5 councilman who was appointed to serve the rest of his predecessor’s term.