County Chairman Aaron Varner will face competition at the polls this summer as he has drawn a challenger for the Republican nomination for chairman: local developer and businessman Ed Hutter.
Hutter filed his declaration of intention to accept campaign contributions on Friday with the Newton County Board of Elections. So far Hutter is the only candidate for chairman to file a declaration of intent. Contacted for comment Varner said he planned to file his own declaration of intent shortly and would be campaigning for re-election.
Primary elections will be held on July, 15. Candidates officially register to run with the BOE the week of April 28 - May 2.
A successful developer, Hutter is an engineer by trade and is the vice president of a design and build firm, Hutter and Associates. He is also the owner of Integral Enterprises, a commercial development company.
A resident of Newton County since 1992, this is the first political office Hutter has run for.
"I just have a number of concerns about things that are taking place here in our county," Hutter, 63, said. "I keep seeing things that we have got to get a handle on before we end up with people who can't afford to live here from a tax standpoint."
Hutter said if elected he would work to keep property taxes and sales taxes down by attracting more industrial and commercial growth to supplement the county's tax base.
Hutter said he was concerned that senior citizens would be forced to leave the county in the future because they couldn't afford to pay the county's taxes. He also said he was concerned that so many young residents had to make the long commute into Atlanta to find work because there isn't an industrial/commercial base large enough to support the county's population.
According to the 2006 U.S. Census, the mean commute time for workers in Newton County is 29.9 minutes.
"I just feel like we need some jobs here in the county other than tax-payer supported jobs," Hutter said.
According to the Census, 16.3 percent of the county's 42,747 employed civilian workers are employed by the government.
If elected county chairman Hutter said he would work to bring balanced growth to the county by forming a county sales team to work in conjunction with The Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce and the Newton County Industrial Development Authority on courting big businesses to move to the county.
"To bring that industrial base and to bring that retail base I think we're going to have to look at some form of tax incentives to entice the people into the community," Hutter said. "It just makes me hurt to see some of the things that we could be doing that we're not doing."
Hutter cited his years of experience as an engineer working in all 50 states and his own development experience in Newton County - including the shopping center at the corner of Ga. Highway 36 and the Bypass Road - as his qualifications to be chairman and to be able to attract balanced growth to the county.
"I've worked with people who work in the trenches and I've worked with people who sit behind the desk in very powerful monetary positions," Hutter said. "I feel like I have a very well-rounded view of reality."
While calling Varner a friend and a good man with "very good morals and values," Hutter said he believed that Varner had reached his limit in managing the county's growth.
"I think that Aaron has reached his ability and I don't think he has the foresight and the insight that I have gained and garnered from my experiences," Hutter said. "I would be out selling Newton County. I'm not one that will sit back and take (the) status quo."
Hutter said he thought that the county's impact fees might be keeping away potential businesses.
"We're giving developers a difficult time when they have to belly up for impact fees which I'm not against," Hutter "I think they're good in some conditions but right now we need to support some of these retailers and (the) industrial base so we have a tax base."
Hutter said he was concerned with the county's water situation and that if elected he would find out why progress on the Bear Creek Reservoir has stalled.
"I want to find out just exactly what is the problem, why it isn't here," Hutter said. "I want to find out what is going on and why it is bogged down and what we can do to get it back on track."
Hutter and his wife of 42 years, Carol, have a son, a daughter and four grandchildren. His son is the president of Hutter and Associates. Hutter and his family first moved to Georgia in 1968 after he left the U.S. Air Force and began his career as an engineer consultant. Prior to settling in Newton County, the Hutters lived all over the state.
The Hutters are members of First United Methodist Church of Covington where he is chairman of the Council of Ministers. He also serves on the board of directors for Honduras Outreach International which organizes mission trips to the Central America nation.
He is also involved with Newton County Habitat for Humanity, FaithWorks, Covington Kiwanis and several job-training outreach programs with the Newton County School System.
"I'm only going to be one part of the puzzle but I will work very hard to try to bring some harmony and energy," Hutter said.