Seeking a third term as county chairman, Aaron Varner cited the success of the county's new impact fee ordinance and the county's relatively well-off water supply as reasons voters should re-elect him.
County chairman since 2000, Varner will face off against local developer Ed Hutter for the republican nomination on July 15.
"I think we've made tremendous progress in all facets of our government," Varner said Friday morning. "I just think it's been a very productive seven years."
Varner said one of his proudest achievements in his time as chairman was overseeing the complicated process of drafting and then passing the county's impact fee ordinance. Since the ordinance was passed in March 2005 it has collected over $6.5 million in funding which will be used to pay for road improvements, libraries and public parks.
The ordinance also survived a lawsuit from the Newton County Home Builders Association when Newton County Superior Court found in favor of the county in December.
Varner said it wasn't an accident that Newton County is better off than other North Georgia counties hit by the drought. In August the Board of Commissioners put into action a drought contingency plan more than two months before Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered Newton County and 60 other counties to reduce water consumption by 10 percent.
The water saved in those two months no doubt contributed to the county's comparatively well-off water situation from that of the rest of Metro Atlanta.
"We're probably in better shape," Varner said. That didn't just happen. Those are things that you have to be forward thinking on."
Varner highlighted the completion of the new county Administration Building, which was conceived of and constructed on-budget and on-time under Varner's leadership. The building now houses most of the county's administrative offices allowing the county to save on rent and energy bills.
Varner said he was proud of the work the county did in updating its development regulations, expanding the county landfill, in purchasing land for future public projects and the high degree of cooperation and collaboration that the board has with other governmental agencies and nonprofits.
"You can not afford to go it alone," Varner said.
Varner pointed out that since 2000 the county has not made any millage rate increases. The property tax increases that have taken place have been mandated by the state he said.
Varner also said that the county has been able to provide more services with less money by working more efficiently. An example of the county working more efficiently Varner said is the county's in-house road department which has re-aligned, resurfaced and made intersection improvements on 184 roads.
Attracting and persuading Georgia Perimeter College to open up a new campus in Newton County in 2007 was another success story Varner said he was proud of. The county now boasts four post-secondary institutions: Oxford College of Emory University, DeKalb Technical College, Troy University and GPC.
Varner said he has also worked to improve public safety in the county. Since 2001 the county has added five new fire stations, 54 fire department employees, a 600-bed Detention Center, 61 deputies and 87 corrections officers.
"That shows you that we're very concerned," Varner said.
Varner said that he did not have any regrets from his time in office thus far.
"We've done the best we could with the tools we had to operate with," Varner said.
While calling his challenge, Hutter, a "very fine fellow," Varner said he did not think that Hutter appreciated the complexities involved in bringing economic development to the county.
"I think some of the comments that he's made shows the fact that he's not been in government before and points out his inexperience," Varner said.
Referencing comments made by Hutter on how he would bring commercial and industrial growth to the county, Varner said, "You just don't get in a car and go talk to people, you have to work it through the process at the state level. I think a lot of people don't realize is that when you hear about a company that wants to locate here, they've already done a lot of research on their own and you didn't even know it."
Varner also addressed comments made by Hutter on the appropriateness of the timing of bringing impact fees to the county. In an earlier interview with The News Hutter said he thought the county's impact fees might be keeping away prospective businesses.
"I think it was very important that we had them and I think we got them at the time we needed them most and I think we will continue to need them," Varner said.
Varner serves on the Board of Directors for Northeast Georgia Regional Development Commission, Newton READS and DeKalb Technical College, is a member of the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Board of Managers of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia. He also serves on the Stakeholders Advisory Committee for the Georgia Sedimentation, Erosion and Soil Control Certification Program, the GRN Community Board on Mental health, Retardation and Substance Abuse, on the Newton County Board of Health and is a member of the Newton County Republican Party.
A life long resident of the county, Varner is the son of Roy Varner who served as Newton County Chairman in the 1980s.
He is a veteran of Vietnam having served with the 25th Infantry Division in the U.S. Army and is a member of the V.F.W. Post 2938. He and his wife, Anne, have been married for 39 years and have two grown daughters, two sons-in-law and four grandchildren. They are members of Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church.