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Board of commissioner candidate forum to be held in courthouse

The six members of the Newton County Board of Commissioners make decisions that pave the way for almost everything that a resident of the county encounters or experiences while at, or near, their home.

That’s one of the reasons why Smart Growth Newton County, Newton Trails and the county’s two biggest media outlets have teamed up to present a forum for the three commissioner seats and chair position up for election this year.

The forum will be April 28 at the Newton County Historic Courthouse with a scheduled time of 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We’re real pleased that we’re partnering with Newton Trails on this forum, as well as The Covington News and the Newton Citizen,” said Johnathan Paschal, President of Smart Growth Newton County. “Newton Trails and Smart Growth share a lot of core principals. While we’re interested in good growth and good planning, we’re also interested in the human experience and how people relate in that good planning, as well as how they relate to one another.”

All of the candidates for districts 1, 3, and 5 commissioner seats, as well as the Newton County chair have been invited, and all but one have responded positively to the forum. The one who has yet to respond has not made contact with forum organizers as of Friday. Paschal said he is expecting 100 percent participation.

The forum will be geared toward the county’s growth and planning, with many of the questions having a preamble explaining why they are being asked, so the audience can understand the genesis of the question, Paschal said.

“It’s unique from a lot of forums, whereas we don’t believe in trying to ask “gotcha questions”,” Paschal said. “We’re going to tell candidates in advance the subject we’re discussing. We want to know their expectations of SPLOST, of the county register and that sort of thing. If they hadn’t thought of those things before, in terms of their candidacy, they will be thinking so then, and can respond appropriately at the forum.”

The chair candidates will take the stage first from 6-7:15 p.m., followed by the board of commissioner district candidates from 7:30-9 p.m.

Running for Newton County’s Chair are Democrats Phil Johnson, Marcello Banes and Michael Syphoe and Republicans Levie Maddox and Aaron Varner. Candidates for district 1 county commissioner are Republicans Stanley Edwards and Nathan Bradley. Candidates for district 3 county commissioner are Democrats Nancy Schulz, Susette Monk and Tim “Tee” Brown. District 5 county commissioner candidates are Republicans Jared Rutberg, Ronnie Cowan and Travis Moore.

“Citizens have the opportunity to hear candidates answer questions beyond the normal boilerplate that the candidates just put out,” Paschal said. “You get answers of substance of their vision of Newton County and in very specific areas.”

Newton Trails is a non-profit organization that creates, maintains and promotes multi-use trails in Newton County. Smart Growth is a citizen’s group that was started in 1998 to educate citizens on smart growth principals such as future planning.