Several of Liberty County’s elected officers for terms beginning in 2013 were sworn into office Thursday in a ceremony that packed a courtroom in the Liberty County Justice Center.
Newcomers to their positions include board of commissioners Chairman Donald L. Lovette, District 2 Commissioner Justin Frasier and board of education District 2 representative Carolyn Smith Carter.
Lovette formerly held the District 2 BoC seat but vacated it upon qualifying to run for chairman, prompting a special election in which Frasier was elected.
Lovette and Frasier joining the commission will alter its dynamics, and Lovette called his chairmanship a “new era of leadership” in Liberty County.
“We have the obligation to bring to our respected boards and their positions, the very best in leadership we can give — the people expect and they deserve that,” Lovette said. His mother, Louise, beamed as she held the Bible upon which her son swore.
The ceremony included performances by the Liberty County Area Mass Choir and a national anthem performance by Quamea Shaw and Shameka Cochran. Bradwell Institute graduate and Louisiana State University student Braylon Hyde served as master of ceremonies, and local ministers offered invocations. A reception with refreshments followed.
Liberty County Probate Judge Nancy Aspinwall, who said she and other judges were sworn in earlier in the month, administered the oaths.
Hinesville City Councilman Charles Frasier held the Bible that his son, Justin Frasier, swore his oath upon next to second-term District 5 Commissioner Gary Gilliard, whose wife, Felecia, held his Bible.
Gilliard thanked his “home team” of supporters and said he campaigned for the District 2 newcomer before introducing him.
“I want to thank you all for believing in me, not only in my dreams, but for Liberty County as a whole,” Frasier said to District 2 constituents before thanking several members of the audience.
Returning officials Chief Magistrate Melinda Anderson, Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones and Coroner Reginald L. “Reggie” Pierce Sr. took their oaths at the ceremony. Others were inducted earlier Thursday in a separate ceremony, which included returning Commissioners Pat Bowen of District 4 and Eddie Walden of District 6.
Liberty County Board of Education members took the oath together, with District 2 newcomer Carolyn Smith Carter joining District 1 representative Verdell Jones and District 3 representative Carol Guyett.
Smith Carter’s son, Douglas Carter, held the Bible while his mother took her first oath of office, while Guyett’s father, Maurice Groover, and Verdell Jones’ daughter, Tajana Jones, held Bibles for their returning relatives.
Smith Carter’s presence on the board will bring a new dynamic, as she has criticized some board decisions and was a vocal opponent to the closure of Jordye Bacon Elementary School, where she retired as an assistant principal.
Board Chairwoman Lily Baker commented earlier in the month about Smith Carter taking office and her campaign criticism of the board.
“That’s expected when you’re on the outside looking in, but she’ll be on the inside now, and she will see things quite differently, I hope,” Baker said. “I try to work with all my board members, and she will be included to work with her, and hopefully we can develop that type of relationship.” During the ceremony, Smith Carter thanked those who supported her during her campaign.
“I just ask for your prayers that God will make me an instrument, not only for our children, but for our parents, our teachers and continue to pray for me,” Smith Carter said.
Guyett said that “education is alive and well in Liberty County.”
“We have children in such need in Liberty County, and only by truly working together can we make a difference in our children’s lives, because as you know, education goes far beyond the school-house doors,” Guyett said.
Fellow board member Verdell Jones echoed the sentiment and thanked District 1 residents for allowing her to serve their “most valuable resource.”
Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones’ wife, Felecia Jones, and Pierce’s wife, Carolyn Pierce, held the Bibles on which their husbands swore.
The officers spoke briefly after the oaths were administered.
Pierce thanked God and the community for support and drew laughs with a joke about his profession as an undertaker.
“I would tell y’all to come and see me, but I don’t think y’all would come,” Pierce joked.
Later, Virgil Jones built on Pierce’s humor in between expressions of thanks.
“What I do is what I say ‘one of those sure things in life: death and taxes,’” Jones said. “Unlike Mr. Pierce, I do want all of you to come see me.”