‘Doc’ Oldham seeks return to board as Dem

Jan. 15, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

Former Lee County Commissioner Larry “Doc” Oldham is ready to rejoin the board — this time as a Democrat.

Oldham, 71, who served one term in an at-large capacity from 2008 to 2012, announced Tuesday he plans to file for the District 4 seat on the board of commissioners now held by Republican Jim Womack.

Womack hasn’t announced publicly whether he’ll seek a second term in the 2014 election, but Oldham made his intentions known after receiving what he described as widespread support from around Lee County to try for another four-year term.

“When I ran the first time, I said I wanted to serve two terms,” Oldham said Tuesday. “I didn’t get to do that.”

Oldham was elected as a Republican in 2008, but increasingly found himself out of favor with the county’s Republican Party after clashing with Republicans on the board and frequently siding with Democrats in close votes. He sought re-election to an at-large seat on the commission board in 2012 but finished fourth in the Republican primary to Frank Del Palazzo, Max Dolan and Kirk Smith and wasn’t on the ballot in the general election.

Smith was the lone member of that group to win an at-large seat that November, joined by Democrats Amy Dalrymple and Ricky Frazier.

Last summer, Oldham switched his party affiliation to Democrat. On Tuesday, he described his falling out with the Republican Party in Lee County and his frustration with the direction the Republican-majority board of commissioners is steering Lee County.

“I didn’t vote straight down party lines, and the Republicans didn’t like that,” he said. “I’ve since asked myself that question (about where commissioners are taking Lee County). It appears to me they’re anti-business, based on being on the board and watching their votes … They’re against incentives. I’m not saying I like incentives, but it’s the way the game is played — you’ve either got to play ball or get out of the park, and Lee County has been out of the park the last two years. We’re showing industries we’re not interested in business.

“I got caught in the middle — I tried to vote for things I agreed with. Things I didn’t agree with, I didn’t vote for — and that’s where I got into trouble with the Republican Party.”

Regardless of party affiliation, Oldham says he wants to carry Lee County forward on a progressive note.

“I want to see our unemployment rate come down,” he said. “For that to happen, you’ve got to have jobs and industry. I think if a man wants a job, he ought to be able to find it.”

Oldham pledged to use “every tool we have in Lee County” to make the county a competitive player in economic development, saying that he’ll support innovation in education, be responsive to stakeholders and accountable to taxpayers.

“I can give the citizens of Lee County a choice about the future of our community,” he said.

A Lee County native, Oldham retired from S.T. Wooten Inc. in 2005.