DACULA -- When Mike Estep worked earlier this year on a way to honor a commissioner retiring after 16 years in office, he had no idea that a monument at a youth football field could soon be a lightning rod in his community.
Now, before the first season since the field has been dubbed Kevin Kenerly Field, its namesake is facing an indictment and could be suspended from office.
Estep, the former football director at the Mill Creek Youth Athletic Association, who is now the Touchdown Club president at Mill Creek High School, said he would never have expected to hear that Kenerly faces a bribery charge.
"I don't regret it. I feel terrible for everybody involved that this has become a focus," Estep said. "I don't know all this other stuff. It's not the person I knew."
When Duncan Creek Park opened in the Hamilton Mill community in 2008, Estep said Kenerly was instrumental in helping get the youth programs off the ground.
A little league football coach for more than a decade, Kenerly helped in everything from putting up a flag pole to preparing the association to have the largest football program in the county on the day the park opened.
Kenerly, who coaches at Duncan Creek, spearheaded a pilot project to build a $1 million artificial turf field at the park, saying it could cost less in long-term maintenance costs. That is the field that is named in his honor.
"The idea was to honor him for 16 years. I think it was a great honor," Estep said, adding that he recently was called to federal jury duty, where a judge reiterated that jurors should have an open mind until a trial is complete. "The guy that helped me had nothing to do with whatever these actions are."
For now, the monument still stands, and Estep hopes that the community will withhold judgment until after a trial.
According to Community Services Director Phil Hoskins, youth associations can name facilities on county parks if they have permission from the parks department for placement of signs or plaques and agree to be responsible for the cost and future maintenance of the sign. There is no policy about removing names.
Estep said no one has been vocal among the association to take down the monument, but he expects the issue to be resolved by a community decision.
"Mill Creek has always been about community first," he said. "How ultimately the community thinks about this, when all is said and done, that would be a decision for whoever is in charge of the association then."
Kenerly did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.
But Estep said he's pulling for the football coach.
"I've never seen anybody more committed to his football team and little kids. To me that's what it's all about. That honor was supposed to be about what all he had done for those little kids," he said.
"In my heart, I hope the person I know wasn't involved in any of this. Call me an optimist at heart."