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Going over the mountain to get your driver’s license renewed? County Clerk Don Townsend, pictured here brandishing the license he achieved at the cost of much sweat and suffering, says do yourself a favor and pay extra for the eight-year license. You don’t want to go through that ordeal more often than you have to.

By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter


Dade County Executive and Commission Chairman Rumley is agitating to get Georgia to bring once-a-month driver’s license service to the county, and says he hears complaints every day from Dade denizens forced to drive over the mountain to Rock Spring to renew. 

One of those complaints came from Don Townsend, who works in the commission office as Dade’s county clerk. Townsend was obliging enough to sit down and tell the Sentinel his tale of woe, as follows:

“This was last summer, during that period when it got so hot,” said Townsend. “It was 102 outside. It was at least 81, 86 degrees inside the building.” 

Temperatures at the Rock Spring driver’s license facility, built to hold maybe 30 or 35 max, were boosted by body heat, said Townsend. “It looked like 100 people were standing there,” he said.

And that was after you got inside, he specified. “I couldn’t even get in the door,” he said.  “The line was outside the little building, down the sidewalk, and I thought, surely not.  Well, come to find out, that was just the beginning. That was one line that fed into two or three inside.”

So Townsend stood endlessly on the blistering sidewalks with the other applicants. “Then, like cattle we went through the little – what do you call the bars that cows go through?” he continued. “Well, the first step to go through this little lady over here. She only takes so many people and then she’ll just disappear.” 

When Townsend finally achieved his shining moment with the elusive lady, she told him she hadn’t had a raise and four years, and then she rewarded him for his wait with: A number. 

“That was just the first step, to get the number,” said Townsend. “Your number is 81 or whatever, and they’re serving 29.”

There were 12 chairs and about 85 people in competition for them at any one time, said Townsend. It had not been pretty. “We’re already hot, we’re standing at too close quarters,” he said. “A lot of people were getting mad because they did not know about the new license thing. Of course they would stomp and snort and shout and fight, and then they’d back out the door and leave, and two people later, the same process. You’re thinking you’re never getting out of here.”

He shook his head. “It was horrible,” he said.

The angriest applicants, said Townsend, were the ones sent away for not having all the documents needed to meet the state’s new “Secure ID” requirements (see accompanying story). Townsend himself had come laden with everything he had – passports, utility bills, Social Security card – and did not have that kind of trouble. 

Still, such was the trauma of the event that he elected to take advantage of the state’s offer to pay extra for an eight-year license. “I don’t care what it costs,” he told himself as he stood in line. “I will get the longest-lasting license I can possibly buy.”

The worst thing of all was how long it took, said Townsend. “I tried not to fuss because I knew it was going to be bad, but two hours? Come on,” he said.

The one potential positive of the ordeal, said Townsend, was his decision to designate himself on the new license as an organ donor, allowing his still-useful internal fittings to be harvested for use by others in the event of his own sudden demise.

“I stood so long in there I finally decided to become a donor, because I felt like I was going to die in the line,” he said.

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