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Year in review

By Staff
Leadership changes top story
Jonathan Willis
As we close the book on 2008, a look back suggests that it was a year of change, not just in the county, but nationwide.
County residents watched this year as history was made nationally with the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.
Obama, the first African-American to be elected to the nation's highest office, ran on a platform of change, which was a theme that resonated with local voters. However, county residents chose Arizona Sen. John McCain by an 8,048 to 3,469-vote margin.
Nationally, Obama handily defeated McCain by garnering more than 52 percent of the vote while Democrats won the majority in both the House and Senate
Local races
Locally, county voters elected an entirely new county commission and new city councils in Red Bay and Russellville.
Red Bay voters elected Bobby Forsythe as mayor. Forsythe defeated incumbent Jeff Reid.
In Russellville, businessman Troy Oliver was elected to fill the seat of outgoing mayor Johnny Brown, who chose to run for city council in 2008. No incumbent council members in Russellville or Red Bay were re-elected.
"It just looked like people were ready for a change," former Russellville councilman Burns "Buckshot" Saint said after losing his bid for the mayor's seat in August.
"They cleaned out the city and the county this year."
All four members of the previous county commission were defeated in the summer's primary elections. New commissioners Stratt Byars, Howard Hutcheson, Don Hastings and Greg Smith took office in November.
Vina Mayor D.W. Franklin was re-elected to another term, but voters in Hodges are still unsure who their mayor will be.
The Hodges' mayoral race ended with a one-vote victory for Mayor Ed Crouch over political newcomer Nick Howard. Howard, however, contested the election and Circuit Judge Terry Dempsey ruled that a new election be held in late November. Appellate courts are currently holding up the case and no new election date has been set.
School system changes
For the first time in many years, both schools systems within the county will be under new leadership in 2009.
Longtime Russellville educator Dr. Wayne Ray retired this month after 43 ? years in the city school system. He served the last eight as superintendent. The city school board is accepting applications for his replacement, but no definite time frame has been announced.
Bill Moss, who was elected to two terms as superintendent of the Franklin County school system, did not seek re-election and will be replaced by his former assistant superintendent Gary Williams.
Chamber moves
The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce began 2008 in search mode looking for the right person to fill the vacated seat left open when former chamber director Lisa Stockton resigned. Stockton served several years as executive director of the chamber of commerce before leaving to take a job with the state.
After a month-long search for a replacement, the chamber board of directors turned to a familiar face in county circles, hiring Cheryl Bradford as the new director. Bradford's busy first year culminated with a highly successful Watermelon Festival that drew thousands of people to Russellville.
Sporting news
The top sports stories of 2008 both revolved around gritty and resilient Russellville teams whose ultimate goal came one win short.
Last spring, the Golden Tigers' boy's basketball team made an incredible run to the state championship game before eventually losing to Butler 66-59. The season included a 32-0 start, a second chance in the playoffs and one of the most exciting seasons in school history.
Russellville, who entered the playoffs as the only undefeated team in the state, lost in the first round of action to Wenonah. But, a day later, the Coach Michael Smith and his team were notified that the Dragons used an ineligible player and were disqualified from the playoffs. The Golden Tigers went on to beat Muscle Shoals for the fifth time that season in the regional finals and moved on to the final four.
The most surprising sports story of 2008 was the Golden Tigers run to the football state championship game. Though many fans thought this would be a re-building year for a program that was replacing a two-year starter at quarterback, tailback and its best wide receiver/defensive back, someone forgot to mention that to the team.
A week four loss to Hartselle cost the Golden Tigers a region championship, but it set in motion a 10 game winning streak that included a quarterfinal win over that same Hartselle team. Russellville would eventually lose to Vigor 50-30 in the state championship game.