Start spreadin’ the news... Boss Bailey’s back in town.
Yes, folks, think back to the good old days with Jim Bailey, aka King James, Emperor James, Cheaper by the Dozen, etc., the former chairman of the Barry County Board of Commissioners (1995-2001). Bailey, I am told by a number of sources, was seen Monday morning taking out petitions to run for State Rep., 87th District, joining the somewhat less than stellar lineup of Brian Calley, Susan Vlietstra, Frank Campbell and Brian Reynolds, not to mention the sacrificial lamb, Democrat Doug Kalnbach.
King James, who ran the County Board like a controlling corporate CEO for six years, likely was the heart and soul of the 1994 right-wing revolt over the animal shelter that unseated four incumbent commissioners. Trouble is, despite the promise of change, this revolt led to virtually nothing to benefit the county. It spawned a lot of artbitrary and lousy government decisions, the likes of which we still see remnants of today. So we have King James to thank for initiating the County Board’s lousy track record over the past dozen years.
Who can forget that wonderful decision by the county to drop out of the old Joint Economic Development Commission? Then Bailey and Co. proceeded to hire Small Government Consultants to get absolutely nothing for a wasteful fat price tag of $35,000 of taxpayer money. Small Government Consultants, with Craig Starkweather and Patrick Doyle, took the money, got out of town and disbanded a company that was dangerously close to being one of those phony scam companies we’re often warned about.
What about the ill-fated attempt to eliminate the county surveyor’s job, in which Reynolds totally outfoxed Bailey’s posse and kept his job via election law?
The Bailey era in county government also was marked by awful feet dragging on a new animal shelter, a project that finally was seen through by a grass-roots group of citizens which included Brian Reynolds (perhaps one of the things that helped draw the ire of Boss Bailey and his conspirators on the board who ended up with egg on their face when Reynolds brilliantly outmanuevered them).
There are other great Bailey stories that have circulated over the years, but he certainly had his supporters, some of them disturbingly demonstrating characteristics of people who drink the proverbial Kool-Aid. One of my favorite Bailey stories, though, was a public affair, during a First Friday candidate forum between him and Gary Newell when both ran for state rep. Newell, noting they were politically on the same page so often, said “Jim, I could hug you.” The noticably uncomfortable and homophobic Bailey replied almost immediately, “A handshake will do.”
Bailey spent some pretty big bucks to run for state rep. and lose in 2000. Then mysteriously he virtually disappeared from public view. It was said he was being a dutiful husband and helping with wife with her day care business. Interestingly, though he often railed against government handout programs, his own children often appeared in Reminder photos showing them as recipients of free programs for kids.
Well, this combination J.R. Ewing and Boss Hogg figure in Barry County politics appears to be primed to get back into the limelight. A part of me dreads it. But a part of me is amused and looking forward to it. After all, Boss Bailey is likely to give me plenty to write about. I may need it with Sandy James leaving the County Board. Won’t you come back, Jim Bailey?