With the recent announcement that District 5 Commissioner Monty Laster will not seek re-election this fall, Randy Vinson, a former Special Projects Coordinator for the county and an architect for the Arnold Fund, has announced that he will run for the vacated seat.
"I respect greatly the work that Monty Laster did and would not have run if he had ran because I thought he was doing an excellent job," said Vinson who is running as a Democrat. "I have always been concerned with our growth and growth management and wanted to get involved. It's something I felt like I needed to do."
Vinson pointed to the current home building and mortgage crisis as issues, of which he was particularly concerned.
In September, The News reported that the county's 2007 foreclosure rate was set to eclipse that of 2006. From 2000 to 2006, the county's foreclosure rate has increased by 465 percent.
"I think all of our critical issues revolve around a lot of the growth management issues that we've been facing and I hope that I can offer an insight based on my professional education experience that others might not have," Vinson said. "I'm afraid of what might happen with so many of these foreclosures in our county and how we're going to address all of that in conjunction with the growth."
Vinson said the last 17 years he has spent planning, teaching and working on growth and development issues will aid him in addressing the county's housing problems if he is elected to the Newton County Board of Commissioners.
"It is from this experience that I believe I can help the county commission make well informed and forward-looking decisions that will help Newton County remain a great place to live, work, shop and play," Vinson said in a release announcing his candidacy.
After serving as the county's special projects coordinator and planning director, Vinson joined the Arnold Fund in 2001 where he has since worked on projects in the private sector. He has managed the development of the Clark's Grove neighborhood in Covington and is currently planning and designing the new college town of Mount Pleasant near Georgia Perimeter College's Newton campus. He is also an environmental design instructor for UGA where he teaches students the principles of mixed-use development and smart growth from the school's small studio in Clark's Grove. This is the first public office he has run for.
"The county will not stay down forever," Vinson said. "It's bound to come back but there will be a window, a critical time of overlap between the foreclosures and our growth."
Despite a gloomy forecast of more foreclosures in the future, Vinson said he is optimistic healthy growth will come to the county.
"I'm coming in with a feeling that we can make a difference and really protect our small town atmosphere and our small town quality of life and our rural atmosphere and still embrace growth," Vinson said.
Vinson is a past president of the Newton County Historical Society and is a member of Smart Growth Newton County. Vinson and his wife Sara have lived in the county since 1994 after first becoming familiar with the area as UGA graduate students. The couple has two young children, Claire and Eli.