TIFTON -- Richard Golden was elected chairman of the Tift County Board of Education Tuesday in a show of support from other board members after what has been a controversial year for the new chairman.

In April 2004, Golden stepped down from his post as president of the board after being arrested April 20, 2004, for aiming a gun at Derek Pettiford of Tifton and shooting holes in Pettiford's car. Pettiford admitted that he had trespassed on Golden's property on U.S. Highway 319 North to fish in a pond, saying he did not see signs posted.

A few days later, the local branch of the NAACP called for Golden to resign from both the board and his position as president.

Despite stepping down as president, Golden remained a member of the board. Board Member Erick Willis was then chosen to replace Golden as president.

On Dec. 8, 2004, Golden reached a plea agreement just before his trial was scheduled to begin. Originally charged with aggravated assault, Golden pleaded guilty to charges of pointing a gun at another and felony criminal damage to property.

Golden was ordered to pay $2,025.54 in restitution and $2,175 in court costs. He was sentenced to three years of probation and 100 hours of community service.

Tuesday, school board members re-elected Golden as chairman, the new title for the head of the board. Both Golden and Willis were nominated for the position.

Board Member John W. Smith nominated Golden and Board Member Scott Shiver nominated Willis. By a vote of five to one, with Willis abstaining as acting chairman, Golden was re-elected to the head of the board. Only Shiver voted against Golden's ascension.

"I am overwhelmed by your confidence displayed here tonight, and humbled," said Golden after the vote. "You have further solidified your commitment to me as your chairman."

Before his resignation, Golden had served as president since he was first elected to the board in 1998.

After the election of chairman, the vice chairman post was decided. Willis nominated Shiver, who had served as vice chairman, while newly elected board member Liz Carson Keith nominated Tommy Fresh. Fresh defeated Shiver and was voted vice chairman.

To contact reporter Dusty Vassey, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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