published Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Bebe Heiskell hangs on to sole commissioner job in Walker County

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    Bebe Heiskell, incumbent county commissioner for Walker County seeking reelection, talks with Elliot Davenport Tuesday at Heiskell's campaign party in Rock Spring, Ga. Heiskell is running for her fourth term as county commissioner.
    Photo by Allison Love.
    enlarge photo

Bebe Heiskell made history as Walker County's first female sole commissioner.

And for a while Tuesday night, it looked like she might be the last.

G. Paul Shaw, the challenger in the Republican primary who vowed to do away with the sole commissioner system and replace it with a five-person commission, led Heiskell, a three-term incumbent, for much of the night.

But Heiskell finally pulled ahead and won, unofficial records show. She garnered 51 percent of the vote to Shaw's 49 percent. Heiskell won't face a Democrat in November, so Tuesday's vote essentially secured her fourth term.

"It really was a nail-biter," Heiskell said. "I'm very grateful. I'm appreciative of all the votes I've got."

Priorities she cited for her fourth term include job creation, emergency preparedness and increasing tourism, including for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga.

Heiskell added, "Paul Shaw [campaigned] very, very hard. He worked hard for two years. He earned the votes he got."

Shaw, 68, has name recognition partly because he's a retired LaFayette family physician whose practice had 14,000 patients. And his family has lived in Walker County since the 1830s.

This was Shaw's first bid for political office -- and will be his last, he said.

"I'm not a political person," he said. "I'm just a citizen."

Shaw said he's dropped 14 pounds while campaigning, from 180 pounds down to 166.

"It's a tremendous amount of work. It's the only thing I've ever done in my life that's harder than medical school," Shaw said.

The only Walker County incumbent to lose Tuesday night at the county level was Gov. Nathan Deal-appointed State Court Judge Bruce E. Roberts. He was walloped by Billy Mullinax, the challenger in the nonpartisan race. Mullinax got 66 percent of the vote to Roberts' 34 percent.

Otherwise, Republican incumbents held on to every seat at the county level.

Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson handily beat his two opponents in the Republican primary. Wilson garnered 73 percent of the votes, followed by Freddie Roden with 20 percent and Billy Mullis with 7 percent.

Wilson will face Democrat challenger Tim Westbrook in November.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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