The 2016 local primary election will be held on May 24th – a little less than 200 days from now.

That vote will potentially be the most impactful election in some fifteen years, because it will determine who leads Walker County through the rest of this troubled decade and (hopefully) into a better situation. Incumbent sole-commissioner Bebe Heiskell, who has absolutely destroyed the county financially, is weaker than she’s been since taking office – making the position ripe for a challenger to take her job away.


Despite the obvious opportunity of this vote, and the heated discussion about it in public, there’s been some.. reluctance.. for anyone to step forward as a candidate, at least until the last few weeks – and even now there’s hardly a flood of names.

A full YEAR before the July 2012 primary vote, challenger Paul Shaw stepped up as a candidate with a fully-formed campaign and Web site. You’d expect for 2016 we would have seen the same thing from people interested in the Commissioner’s job, but there were doubts until late summer if anyone would even run at all.

Finally two people have made formal announcements of their plans: corrections officer Lonnie Henderson of LaFayette and business owner Shannon Whitfield of Chickamauga.

Lonnie Henderson Shannon Whitfield

Henderson [left above] claims no prior political experience and hasn’t yet decided which party he will affiliate with. He’s set up a Web site laying out some personal background, has a Facebook presence, and is asking for donations to pay the party qualification fee.

Whitfield [right above] is a Chickamauga councilman and a Chamber of Commerce leader who intends to file as a Republican. He’s also set up a Web site and Facebook with donation options. (Whitfield’s Facebook profile was originally created for his Chickamauga council campaign(s).)

Henderson’s Web site makes clear his positions on Hutcheson closing, sole commissioner government, and the current Commissioner’s job performance. Whitfield’s site says he will eliminate the position of county attorney and claims he supports “a referendum” about sole commissioner but does not give his personal opinion of sole commissioner government.

Both candidates are adding content to their respective Web sites and posting on Facebook, so knowledge of their positions on various matters will likely expand in coming days.

There are several other possible names circulating, including Shannon McConnell of LaFayette (who filed fundraising paperwork with the state a year ago but seems to have done nothing since), Ray Nelms of Wood Station (he’s handed out some business cards), and a guy named Mike Peraden [?].

Other names (including a few more widely known to voters) may surface in the next few weeks.

It’s been difficult to get people interested in running for several reasons, one being the horrible condition Walker County has gotten into under the leadership of Bebe Heiskell.

Bebe NOPEShe’s let the roads and bridges deteriorate, raised taxes, chased off businesses, pulled property off the tax list, traded huge special projects for campaign contributions, gotten the county into massive debt, and created a toxic atmosphere for anyone challenging the status quo.

The sole commissioner system that created Heiskell’s reign of terror is also a deterrent to potential candidates: anyone who wants the job will have to do it full time, which means putting other careers on hold and making personal needs a lower priority behind managing the county’s business.

Another obstacle to finding candidates? Behind the scenes arm-twisting and intimidation of those who MIGHT run, on behalf of an elite group that prefers only one candidate challenging Commissioner Heiskell.

There have been meetings, conversations, and get-togethers where a small number of influential, politically-connected county residents, including current/former Republican Party leaders and past candidates for office, have been deciding who they want to run and who they will financially support.

After The One was chosen by this group, other possible candidates were approached and pushed to stay OUT of the race, told that it’s better for the county if the ballot is small.

That’s outrageous garbage.

One viable candidate means one point of failure, one person whose health and determination are all that separate Walker County from another disastrous Heiskell term. One candidate means a single target for Heiskell’s campaign to attack, and a single person who can suddenly drop out of the race after keeping others from joining it.

More importantly, it shouldn’t be up to an elite group of deep-pocket politically connected people to choose who wins and loses the election before it’s held. That’s anti-American and a slap at every registered voter in Walker County.

The winner of May’s election should be decided by all the people, from a full list of candidates representing many communities, walks of life, values, and ideas – not just one hand-picked in a proverbial “smoke filled room” by FiSDOPs who benefit from things staying the way they are.

Some who support the “one candidate” idea have been convinced that Heiskell is guaranteed reelection if too many challengers split the vote. That’s a false argument: Georgia has runoff elections for a reason. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote recipients (whoever they are) will go to a runoff next July and be chosen, again, by voters.

Walker County residents should never again be put in a position of having to hold their nose to vote for a weak or unlikable candidate simply because that candidate is the only viable alternative to Heiskell. Those who wanted to create that situation should be ashamed of themselves.

All the time spent deciding which candidate is The One has burned up valuable time that should have been used to campaign, build name recognition, and raise money. Bebe’s name is known by every voter, her reelection fund had nearly $60,000 in it back in the summer, and her benefactors have already put up signs like the one below advocating for her reelection.

Bebe Audia Reelection Billboard

Choosing NOT to campaign until now has done more to help Heiskell than having a dozen candidates opposing her could ever do.

For the same reason, anyone else contemplating a campaign – intimidation and threats aside – should hurry up and decide. The opportunity is here but slipping by fast.

Commissioner isn’t the only race on the ballot next year. Other key positions like Sheriff, Coroner, Tax Commissioner, State Senator, two State Representatives, a handful of school board members, District Attorney, and other vital roles will be presented to the voters.

So far the only interest in ANY of those has been focused on the coroner’s job, of all things, and no definite reportable names have surfaced publicly even in that race.

Maybe becoming the next (last?) Sole Commissioner of Walker County isn’t your calling, but one of those other roles could be.

Your Vote Is Your Voice

Even if you don’t run, make sure you can vote. Get registered if you haven’t. Update your registration info if you’ve moved or married since first becoming a voter. And then make that effort to actually vote.

The worst election defeat isn’t the one where you lose, it’s the one where your enemy cruises to a win because nobody makes a real effort to challenge them and voters don’t bother to show up and exercise their right to choose who governs them.


    Candidate Registration: March 7-11

    Voter Registration Deadline: April 26

    Early Voting Begins: May 2

    Primary Election: May 24

    Primary Runoff Vote (if needed): July 26

[*The local Primary election is not held the same day as the presidential primary election. That’s March 1st. Go vote then, too. Voter registration for THAT race ends February 1st and early voting begins February 8th. Candidates from both the presidential and local races will go on to a final general election in November.]

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9 comments so far

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  1. OMG One of the possible candidates is NOT a nice person. Two faced, puppy killer, liar, and has a conviction on his record for something that shows he is a thief as well.

  2. How can anyone believe a sole commissioner is conducive to strong county government? Those days are well past. Until that is remedied,at least,don’t allow more than 2 consecutive terms for a candidate. No one person should be given that much power over the future of thousands of people. It breeds corruption of the process.

  3. Celeste I know you’re not taking about Mr. Whitfield so process of elimination…..

  4. We listed five total candidates, or potential ones anyway.

    — LU

  5. Mike Peardon is a hard working, God fearing man that is tired of the direction our county is going in.

  6. You can’t rip people off and treat them like dogs and expect them to stand behind you in your time of need. Karma is a B—h. It will always come back and bite you. Always.

  7. Don’t beg, it doesn’t become you. It looks like after stealing and being a crook you would have money. Call your sister and god sister. Or better yet call judy judy judy. Karma Ha

  8. If you would like to see the vision,goals and personal life about Mike peardon ,than visit his web site at walkerstrong.net.he is a supporter of the five person board .he has told me that the lafayette underground is a group of people that care about our county.Mr Peardon will be attending the lafayette parade tonight in order to get his message out thru his web site.walkerstrong.net,will tell you his story

  9. Thanks, we’ll check it out.

    — LU