November 18, 2004
Decatur County-- Many of us got tired of all the unending political advertisements, debates, news stories and signs everywhere for the November election.
One story almost got away, a story about an amazingly successful campaign slogan. Who would have thought a rifle might count as Margarett Barber's best friend during deer hunting season.
"It makes you feel as if you can accomplish something," says Margarett , holding a .30-06 rifle In Claude Shirley's gun and pawn shop.
Maybe she feels like Claude felt when he won the Decatur County treasurer office by almost 1200 votes, thanks in large part, to his unforgettable campaign signs. "They see a sign that says, 'Shoot Shirley or he'll be Decatur County treasurer.' They want to know, 'what is this,' says Claude about the signs he put at the busiest intersections in the Decatur County. The signs were so memorable people thought he had them by the thousands. He didn't. He only had 70, plus, a few bumper stickers.
Claude said, "The 'Shoot Shirley' was a joke," but it became his very memorable campaign slogan, inspired by a local newspaper story. "I just took a newspaper article and turned it around and used it as fun," says Claude.
A joke that turned politically serious. Some voters thought it was the other candidate playing a dirty trick on Claude.
It wasn't. "I didn't want anybody to shoot me," says Claude, showing off the guns to Margarett. Instead, Claude Shirley wanted their votes for an office that only four of Georgia's 159 counties have.
The others are Glascock, Haralson, and Terrell Counties. The elected position brings a lot of responsibility and Claude had second thoughts about running.
The treasurer was responsible for about $30 million, but the post pays $150.00 a month. "Don't make sense does it?" asks Claude with a laugh.
What triggered him to run? "Keep it from being abolished. See, that was the main thing right there," says Claude. The previous treasurer of about 15 years decided not to seek re-election. If no one qualified to replace him, the position would be eventually abolished, so Claude kept the post alive.
A county treasurer must, in part, collect money owed to the County, report to grand juries, pay the County's bills, select the financial institution(s) that will handle County money and sign all checks; about 1,100 checks each month.
What makes a gun dealer and pawn shop owner qualified for such an office? "Fifty-four dollars," says Claude. The qualifying fee for a job no one else in the county wanted. He told friends that he'd qualify if no one else did, and he kept his word. "I went over 15 minutes before the qualifying deadline."
He didn't aim for the county treasurer's job, but he got it anyway. "It's going to be fun and interesting," says Claude. Like when Margarett Barber goes deer hunting.
At one time, all of Georgia's 159 counties had elected treasures. Claude Shirley takes his Decatur County office in January.
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