Unaware to many, Paige visits county

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 30, 2001

Everyone, even those in the highest offices of our land, are allowed time away from the office, visiting with friends, relaxing “back home.”

That appears to be what U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige has spent the last few days doing here in Adams County.

His visit was shrouded in secrecy, kept close to the vest away from the eyes of the press and general public.

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According to Adams County Circuit Clerk M.L. “Binkey” Vines, Paige was down here hunting with him.

“It’s just a personal visit. I met him through a friend, and he came down here to hunt with me,” Vines said at a fish fry Saturday with members of the public, local officials and state Supreme Court Justice Charles McRae in attendance. “This is actually just a little private affair.”

And, so all can tell, that’s what it is. But it’s easy to see why people would raise a wondering brow to such a sight.

Paige, the secretary of a Republican president, friend to the state’s Republican Party, at an event packed with Democrats.

“I don’t know Mr. Vines, and I am not aware that Secretary Paige is in the state for any official visit. The best I can say is he is here for personal reasons,” Jim Herring, state GOP chairman, said.

Paige is not elected, but in a high profile position, when he makes an appearance, people take notice, and often jump to conclusions.

According to some in attendance, a representative of Democratic Congressman Ronnie Shows was there. Vines said Gov. Musgrove tried to make it down but had a previous engagement.

Why wouldn’t Shows send someone? There’s still a great likelihood that he’ll have to fight for this county in a race against Republican Congressman Chip Pickering.

And Musgrove wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t try to make a diplomatic appearance when a Cabinet member visits Mississippi.

But eyebrows are still raised.

Saturday’s fish fry was not your ordinary “private affair.” The “parties” Vines took Paige to Friday night, and alluded he was taking Paige to Saturday night, had political implications. Why?

Because elected officials are rubbing elbows with a very important, highly visible Cabinet member who hails from this state. Furthermore, with President Bush expected to sign an education bill in coming weeks, Paige isn’t making public rounds hailing what was a cornerstone of Bush’s campaign, never mind that he didn’t get all he wanted.

But all of this must be kept in perspective. It’s the holidays, and Paige has roots here in Mississippi.

Larry Harvey of Mize, Vines’ friend who supposedly introduced him to Paige, describes Paige as “like my father.” And so the tale goes, Harvey arranged for Paige and Vines to go hunting together.

That’s all, folks. Just a holiday hunting trip. Not that Vines isn’t using it for political purposes.

“This is good for Adams County. We are working to move this county ahead, and that means we have to go outside the county sometimes,” Vines said, referring to Paige’s visit.

True. Very true.

But I raised my brow, too.

Sam R. Hall

is managing editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3552 or by e-mail to