WKEU AM and FM hosted the forum, the final one before Tuesday’s election. For those who missed it, WKEU 1450 AM will rebroadcast the forum in its entirely, two hours, five minutes, at 10 a.m., Monday and will put it on demand on its website at www.wkeu.com
For those looking to meet the candidates one-on-one a final time before Tuesday, the Spalding County Republican Party will host a meet-and-greet with all of the candidates running for local offices as well as the other local elected officials tonight from 6 to 8 at party headquarters, 119 South Hill St., between Taylor and Solomon streets.
At the forum, candidates were given two minutes each for opening and closing statements and one minute each to answer questions from panelists including Ted Taylor and Tony Broski of WKEU and Ray Lightner of the Griffin Daily News. Bobby Chappell of WHIE was the moderator.
All of the candidates repeated their credentials, experience, qualifications and themes of their candidacies. Several talked about serving and or being the voice of the people in government, especially the challengers.
The three Democrats running in District 3 went first. Republican challenger Michael Renew, since he is unopposed in the primary and will face the winner of the Democratic primary, will be invited to a forum for the November election, Chappell explained.
When asked about consolidating departments or merging them with city departments, the three District 3 Democrat candidates, each had different answers.
Incumbent Commissioner Bob Gilreath said it was a loaded question, but while it might save some money, it would cost jobs. “We don’t need to go down that road to consolidation.
Rita Johnson said “consolidation would be smart, but we have to make sure there is no backlash if it isn’t thought through some. It needs to be done in a manner where’s people’s safety comes first."
Greg McClarin said bringing in more revenue was the cure.
When asked if there were any problems unique to District 3 specifically, Gilreath said, “my district is one of the best. It’s very clean, residents keep up their homes and yards.”
Johnson said, “not at this point, I want to find out and work together with the department heads to see what they are.”
McClarin said "there are some concerns, like crime. I look to work closely with law enforcement in some areas.”
He said, “jobs are very in need to put people, both to work and bring in industry.”
The District 4 candidates were asked about training for commissioners and the image of the county.
Bart Miller, who has made incumbent Eddie Freeman’s travel and training expenses a campaign issue, said he would “do what was required to represent District 4.”
Miller also said he would have town hall meetings to inform constituents of issues beforehand, so they don’t find out after the fact.
Freeman said he has always been an advocate of training, “get all the training you can get.”
As to the image of the county, Freeman said “with the new airport, it will create jobs, bring in tax funds. It is aligned pretty well with the stars and moon.”
He noted neighboring counties with airports are attracting industry. “They seem to get matching money for their big projects. With the T-SPLOST, we can get matching funds for projects here.”
Miller said jobs are a big issue. “We need jobs here, and people who want to stay here, not work here and live in Henry or Fayette. That’s got to do with schools and taxes.”
Miller added “we don’t need government jobs, we need industry, not something we have to pay to keep up.”
The four candidates for Probate Court judge each touted their years of experience.
Candidate Gerald Bailey is a long-time insurance agent. Jan Hunt has worked the past 23 years in Probate Court, beginning as clerk, and currently as assistant judge.
Kaye Landrum Norris has 25 years mortgage experience as well as the past few years operating a family-owned self-storage business with six locations. Cary Pope has 43 years experience as a certified public accountant and recently retired from Petro South and chief financial officer.
All four did not see the need for change in the office, with each praising for the work of the retiring incumbent DeWitt Simonton and looked to continue the excellence established.
With the clerk of Superior Court race, the issue was how to modernize the offices.
Incumbent clerk Marcia Norris said funding for updates, and an integrated system for law enforcement, district attorney and courts has been repeatedly cut from budget requests by the county. She said this could now come from a technology fee assessed in court fines, which she said she worked with Judge Sid Essary worked to get legislation passed to get the fee.
Challenger Edith Ray proposed a website with court schedules and forms, like other counties in the judicial district have, which could be done now. She also noted Spalding is the only county in the circuit not to have software where law enforcement, district attorneys and clerks are integrated.