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Members of the Putnam County, Georgia Board of Commissioners and others pose with the barbecue cook-off trophy that was captured over the Putnam County Board of Commissioners from Palatka, Fla.

EATONTON, Ga. — When it comes to barbecue chicken, there are a variety of ways to do it.

But there’s only one right way.

At least that’s what members of the Putnam County Board of Commissioners in Eatonton strongly believe.

And apparently, they are correct.

They recently competed against the Putnam County Board of Commissioners from Palatka, Fla. a week ago to see who could cook the best barbecue chicken.

The fun-filled event resulted in the sale of hundreds of barbecue chicken plates in downtown Eatonton, adjacent to the Putnam County Courthouse.

Hands down, the two judges for the contest chose the Georgia team. The Putnam County Board of Commissioners’ team consisted of Billy Webster, Daniel Brown, Bill Sharpe, Gary McElhanney and Jeff Wooten.

“The chicken on the Georgia side was more wet and more moist,” said Brian Kiepper, a poultry science professor at the University of Georgia. 

Kiepper added that the barbecue chicken on the Florida side had a good smoky taste, but overall, the Georgia team had a better tasting wet sauce.

“The breast meat was still very, very tender, and really juicy,” Kiepper said.

The other judge was state Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville).

“I really liked that wet sauce on the Georgia team,” said Williams, who represents all of Milledgeville and Baldwin County, as well as the southern portion of Putnam County in the Georgia Legislature. “The other (Florida team) was good, but it was more of a rub.”

Williams said he would love to see the Putnam County Board of Commissioners from the Sunshine State compete against the Putnam County Board of Commissioners from Georgia again next year.

“And if that happens, I’ll be glad to serve as a judge again, because I love food,” Williams said with a big smile.  

Brown, who serves as vice chairman of the county commission, along with McElhanney, who recently was elected a commissioner; and fellow new commissioner Wooten, all participated in preparing and cooking the winning team’s barbecue chicken.

Webster, meanwhile, who serves as chairman of the Putnam County Board of Commissioners, along with Sharpe, helped in other ways, including playing hosts to the two men representing the Putnam County Board of Commissioners from Palatka, Fla., chairman Larry Harvey and county administrator Terry Suggs.

“All of this really exceeded my expectations,” Webster said. “A lot of interests was shown and it was for all the right reasons. It’s the holiday spirit as far as getting out the vote.”

Harvey said he and Suggs drove six hours to get to Eatonton. They arrived the afternoon before the event and stayed at The Lodge in Putnam County.

“We wanted to come up to try to help get out the election process and the get out the vote rally,” Harvey said, noting fellow commissioners were unable to make the trip. “My county administrator was able to come up with me and we’ve both just had a wonderful time.”

After the barbecue event was over, Harvey and Suggs drove back home.

Harvey was in hopes they would get back to see the Florida Gators upset Alabama’s Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship game. Not only did the Florida commissioners lose to the Georgia commissioners in the barbecue cookoff, but their Gators were also beaten by Alabama that night in Atlanta.

“I’d just like to say how exciting it was to be here,” Suggs said, while he engaged in conversation with Putnam County (Ga.) Manager Paul Van Haute. “This was a great opportunity. It was for a great cause. And when you get the opportunity to meet and network with some of your fellow counterparts from not only your own community but from another state, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to keep building a bond between each other.” 

Van Haute said to have the barbecue cookoff between the two Putnam counties “was pretty special.”

Those who attended the event braved some chilly temperatures in Eatonton.

“If I could change one thing, I’d make it in March,” said a smiling Van Haute. 

Suggs agreed with his counterpart.

The event was organized between the two groups as a way of encouraging registered voters to remember the importance of their vote in the upcoming Jan. 5 runoff election for the U.S. Senate seats.

The Senate race has national political implications.

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