Valdosta Daily Times

June 8, 2014

Former Lake Park mayor writes out his six-month term

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

LAKE PARK — Come July, it will have been two years since Ben Futch resigned as mayor of this Lowndes County town.

Within a six-month period, Futch went from taking office as one of the few successful write-in candidates to win an election within Lowndes County to leaving office with a resignation letter noting, “Polarizing Lake Park was not my intention, but I have come to the realization that teamwork with me as mayor under these conditions cannot exist. I am no quitter, but I am no fool, either.”

Controversy started early in his term. Within moments of taking office in January 2012, Futch entered the tie-breaking vote to dismiss two employees who had been employed by the city for decades.

Within weeks, two Lake Park city council members resigned in protest, leaving the council unable to officially meet and do business because of a lack of quorum. A judge ordered a special election to elect new council members as soon as possible.

While Futch pushed a platform of changing Lake Park’s image and making its government more transparent, controversies continued.

By the first of July 2012, Futch resigned.

In recent weeks, Futch has published a book giving his side of what happened during his six months as mayor. In “Write In ... and Right Out: A Small Town South Georgia Political Campaign,” Futch gives a vivid account of his actions and how he saw events unfold during his term as mayor. From his perspective, he tried changing the town’s long-running status quo, but his efforts met bitter opposition, obstruction, unfair media coverage, and supporters too timid to make a public stand for change.

In an email interview with The Times, Futch says he felt compelled to write this book to set the record straight.

“The untruths circulating got worse, as time went on,” Futch says. “If not for me, but for my family, I felt I needed to set the record straight about what happened during my tenure as mayor and what prompted me to become a former mayor.”

In the book, he notes that being mayor was difficult on him and his family. He considered the possibility of rehashing these experiences nearly two years later may cause his family more difficulties.

“Before writing the book, I had discussions with my family and they fully supported my literary efforts,” Futch says. “My time as mayor was very difficult for my family and I had tried to reassure them that this was a normal thing in small-town politics; however, nothing was normal about my experience.”

In addition to his memory in writing the book, he referred to minutes from meetings, various contractor and consultant reports by accountants, computer experts, state water representatives and others.

Yet, as mayor, Futch says now he remains most surprised at “how a few people could take over a town’s government. I won the election as a write-in candidate, but it was evident that the support for me ended at the polls.”

This realization illustrates the biggest lesson he learned as mayor.

“People may vote for you behind a curtain, but can be reluctant, sometimes even afraid, to take a stand in front of others, in a meeting or on the street,” Futch says. “More lessons that I learned from this experience are fully detailed in the final two chapters of the book.”

In reading “Write In ... and Right Out,” Futch hopes readers will learn from this lesson.

“If people want to change the direction our country is headed, they need to stand up and get involved,” Futch says. “Lake Park’s problems and politics are a microcosm of what’s going on in today’s America.”

As for things he would have done differently in hindsight, Futch says, “I should have more openly exposed the actions of some council members. ... I have no regrets about either running nor, under the circumstances, resigning. As I said in my resignation letter to Lake Park’s citizens, ‘I’m not a quitter, but I’m not a fool either.’”

Still, would Ben Futch ever consider running for office again? He says, “Possibly.”

Ben Futch’s “Write In ... and Right Out” is available in Valdosta at Daugharty’s Service Station, Joe Hall Used Cars, Dixie Cream Donuts, Kelly’s Automotive, King’s Grill and Only Options; in South Lowndes, Eagles Roost Campground; in Hahira, Johnson’s Frame Shop. Internet: Along with print copy, the book will soon be offered as an E-book and Audio Book.