With District 3 Commissioner Ester Fleming's decision to not run for re-election, local businessman Jimmy Clark is optimistic about his chances of winning a seat on the commission this November.
On Tuesday, Fleming said he would not seek a third four-year term in keeping with his initial campaign promise that he would not serve more than two terms on the Board of Commissioners.
Fleming said he would continue to remain involved in the community after his term ends this year.
Fleming's wife, Delia, said he had not ruled out running for another public office in the future but that he would not be running for county commission again.
This will be Clark's fourth campaign for the BOC and his second campaign for the District 3 seat. He ran twice unsuccessfully for the District 2 seat.
Clark, who is running as a Democrat, cited the close margin that he lost by in 2004 as proof of his electability. In 2004, he captured 46.9 percent of the vote according to Covington News archives.
"That right there tells me that people want change," said Clark who is the owner of Team Sports and Signs, a business he opened up in 1987.
Clark said he is running on a campaign of bringing more recreation opportunities to his district, fostering smart growth throughout the county and curbing traffic congestion.
Clark said he would foster smart growth in the county by encouraging more businesses to come to Newton County to even out the county's tax base. Clark said he would reach out to businesses in Rockdale County and encourage them to open up locations in Newton County. Clark said he was especially interested in seeing a movie theater come to the county.
"I would use some creative strategies," Clark said. "I would court them and see what it would take them to come to Newton County to do business.
"As it stands now, when we spend our tax dollars, we don't spend it in Newton County; we take it outside the county."
Clark said he would also like to see the county change its zoning ordinances to allow for a smaller minimum house size and to require developers to set aside a certain amount of green space when they build new subdivisions.
According to Scott Sirotkin, zoning administrator for Newton County, in most residential zoning districts the minimum house size for a new home in the county is 1,800 heated square feet. That figure does not include garage space and unfinished basements.
"That's not across the board; there are some zoning districts where it's smaller," Sirotkin said.
Currently only conservation overlay subdivisions have a green space requirement, which is 33 percent of the total area Sirotkin said.
If elected, Clark said he would work to decrease travel time on such busy corridors as Salem Road by working closely with the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners and the Georgia Department of Transportation on solutions to address traffic concerns in both counties.
"It's going to have to be a collaborative effort on both parts to make this happen," Clark said.
As a commissioner Clark said he would have "an open door policy" for his constituents.
"I would have town hall meetings to let the citizens know what they need to do in order to get some of this construction money that is being spent with county dollars," Clark said. "I would lean on my citizens to tell me what they want."
Clark was born and raised in Covington and is a graduate of Newton High School. His store, Team Sports and Signs on U.S. Highway 278, sells sports apparel and team embroidery. He is also seeking to open a comedy club on Washington Street.
He and his wife Toni have five children who are all enrolled at Newton County schools. They are members of Springfield Baptist Church. Clark is a volunteer basketball coach for the Newton County Recreation Department and a booster club president for the Alcovy High School basketball team.