Confehr: Ridley Boys had a strong following for five decades

Friday, July 2, 2010

There's a pretty good story going around the county that's begging for a comparison with the Ridley Brothers' political leadership in Smyrna during the decades after World War II.

Smyrna had an Air Force base to train bomber pilots and military purposes continue there. It's where 125-130 soldiers from the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment are returning Saturday morning. One of the Ridley brothers was an intelligence officer during the WWII and one worked for a general. They thought tactically.

For decades, Sam Ridley was elected and re-elected mayor and his brother, Knox, served as chief of staff. Elections came and went. They held City Hall - even when there were opponents who might be able do the job just as well.

How? The conventional wisdom was that there was a spoiler put in the race to divide and conquer the challenger. Those who sought to unseat the Ridleys saw their anticipated base - from discontented voters - dissipate, as there was another option. Loyalists remained united and the old guard stayed in power.

Some who got mad, cooled off and returned to the fold, concluding the brothers may be rascals, but they're our rascals and they have the town's best interest at heart. Others were stubborn and a strict application of law does not smile on shenanigans, so the brothers had to contemplate retirement.

Here, there's a three-way race for county mayor. The story going around is that one candidate might be seen as a spoiler, intentionally or not, and that advocates for the incumbent's challenger want the third man to withdraw, thereby reuniting a base of discontented voters who would vote to throw the rascals out, regardless of whether they really are rascals.

It is recognized, nationally, that this is a bad year for incumbents. Some county commissioners have said that none of them might be in office come September because of the Aug. 5 election.

Whether there's any truth to these political theories hasn't surfaced - directly. Such speculation alternately diminishes or enhances the idea that regardless of background, trade or education, a man can still think logically and reach worthwhile conclusions and that it's possible whether he's driving a tractor, a route truck, or leaning against a fence post trying to decide how to cull a herd.

One might argue that management in America has done a fine job of messing up the economy, but conversely there are reasons to support someone who's been there and has been at the inner ring and knows how those guys think.

For these and other reasons, our readers and others who vote in Marshall County and their children are invited to attend the Marshall County Tribune's debate for the candidates running for county mayor. It starts at 6 p.m. one week from today - Friday July 9 - in the old Dixie Theater, rechristened the Marshall County Community Theatre.

We invited the five candidates for sheriff. Four declined. The mayor's race has its own intrigue and it's worth watching live in Lewisburg next Friday night.