September 9, 2008
Valdosta - A few campaign signs seem to wave at passers-by on a windy day along Ashley Street, and more signs should appear as the General Election gets closer.
Several local, district, state and national campaigns are underway with signs urging voters of who to vote for.
Some people might think it seems rather simple and perhaps a little fun to seek an elected office by handing out campaign cards, sticking signs into the ground, attending forums, and meeting new people along their own campaign trail.
Don't get fooled. Looks deceive.
"It's hard work," says Lowndes County Board of Commissioners chairman Rod Casey, a veteran campaigner. "It's not just getting a few cards and passing them out."
Chairman Casey knows first hand. He's had competition for all four of his terms and feels a bit lucky.
"Thankfully, none of them (races) involved a run-off. That's a campaign in itself," says Casey.
One veteran politician never had to work as hard to get elected as chairman Casey has.
"I've been through eight elections; none of them have ever been contested. So, I feel very fortunate that I have not ever had to worry about that," says Judge Arthur McLane.
Many other office seekers have worried about getting elected or re-elected, many put their professional careers on-the-political-line, but Judge McLane never had to.
"I think he's darn lucky," says Casey.
"I'm more than lucky. I'm blessed," says Judge McLane.
How did he become such a blessed politician without having to persuade voters to let him continue his judgeship?
Former Governor Joe Frank Harris appointed him to fill an unexpired term of Lowndes County superior court judge Gus Elliott, who decided to return to private practice. In July, 1983, with Judge McLane's family surrounding him, the Governor administered the oath of office and Arthur McLane became Superior Court Judge Arthur McLane. (Before his selection as superior court judge, he was a part-time state court judge from 1974-1983.)
"I've bought one newspaper advertisement thanking voters for their support," says Judge McLane about his tenure as a part-time state court judge, who never campaigned for his current Superior Court position.
Even though he's never had competition, voters sent their approval by way of the ballot box.
In July, 2000, 8,850 voters out of 12,345 (72%) of those who voted still made sure to select Judge McLane even though he was unopposed. Four years later, 8,715 voters out of 10,598 (82%) of those voting re-affirmed him.
"I've never had to specifically ask them for their vote, but in a way I have asked them for their vote by the way I conduct myself everyday in court," says Judge McLane.
His father's, Carson McLane, philosophy about work sticks with his son.
"His philosophy was (that) people, to the degree that they can, should always regard their occupation, whatever it is, as a ministry...you are to take that and use that to please God," says Judge McLane.
He walks a philosophical tightrope?
"It is a ministry, but it is also a responsibility, an obligation for me to do the job that I can do to the best degree possible to uphold the law and to maintain the rule of law and to make sure that I am society's spokesperson to people who come before me in court," says Judge McLane.
It looks like a relatively easy job to sit in court wearing a black robe and manage the proceedings, but Judge McLane realizes the gravity of his decisions.
He aspired to be a judge in law school like many of his fellow students, but he didn't know about the unseen issues that come with some cases.
"I didn't realize fully that some of the decisions I would have to make would be so terribly heartbreaking. I did not realize that some of the decisions I have to make that I think are legally correct would be so agonizing," says Judge McLane.
He's agonized about some of his decisions.
"The repercussions (are often) very heavy and very difficult and very consuming for those who were involved and very long lasting," says Judge McLane.
At the end of the year he hangs up his black robe as chief Superior Court justice and leaves a lot of stress behind, but not totally leave the legal system.
He plans to take mediation classes to become a mediator, serve occasionally as a senior judge when needed, travel, read, woodwork, hunt, fish and enjoy activities with his children and grandchildren.Two candidates want Judge McLane's position and voters will decide which one follows Judge McLane, but the winner have to keep on campaigning, something judge McLane never had to officially do.