“Faces of Newton County” honoree Marcello Banes made history in November of 2016 when he became the first African-American to be elected Chairman of the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC).
Sitting in his office in Newton County’s Historic Courthouse overlooking the Covington Square, Banes said his first couple months as Chairman have gone well.
“The team is energized. We’re working well, we’re working as a team. That’s the biggest thing I think the community can be proud of, that we work as a team to try to solve issues,” he said.
If there is a theme to the Banes administration, it will be teamwork and transparency.
“I preach transparency. We’re not trying to hide anything from the public,” he said. “We’re going to do the very best that we can to let everybody know what’s going on in Newton County, whether it’s solid waste or whatever issue.
“I think the citizens of Newton County deserve that.”
A native of Newton County who grew up on the west side of the county, Banes said he’s never thought about leaving.
“I love Newton County,” he said. “Even if I wasn’t in politics, this is my home. This is where my family is, where I want to be.”
Banes is also an ordained minister. He said for the last four years, he has worshipped at Springfield Baptist Church. He said his faith guides him in all he does.
“I am a man of faith. I try to pray about every decision that I make, whether it’s for my family or for the county. I look to the Lord for just about all of my guidance,” he said. “I’m a strong believer. The scripture says ‘He will direct our path’ and I believe that, so that’s kind of the way I approach things.”
If he were not BOC Chairman, Banes said he would still be helping his nephew run the family business. He would also still be involved in community activism.
“I always felt as a citizen, we need to know what’s going on. Now on the commission, I still feel like the citizens deserve to know what’s going on,” he said. “That won’t change, I’ll always put a lot of effort in making sure that there’s nothing hidden.
“As a citizen I was fighting for that. Now, on the commission, I’m going to be fighting to make sure that they have the opportunity.”
Banes got interested in politics after studying politics and government at the Early Hope Ministries.
“We started studying politics and government and how it related to the church and the scripture. As we studied and learned about it, I had a passion for it. I began to get involved in things in the community,” Banes said.
Banes said he doesn’t have any political aspirations past the BOC chairmanship.
“I have a passion for Newton County. I want to see Newton County do great things. I want to see the board work together as a family and as a team,” he said.
Banes insistence on teamwork might stem from his time as a football player at Newton High School, where he started as a freshman at fullback and linebacker. He’s still a Rams fan.
Chairman Banes proposed to his fiancé, Cheneeka Walker the day he was sworn in. They haven’t set a date. And he says that he loves to barbecue. With his family, he competes in barbecue contests. His specialty is ribs, though he says he also cooks an excellent brisket.
He says that he comes to work every day looking to build relationships.
“Every day, I come to work looking to build a relationship. If one for some reason has become tarnished, I look to repair it. A relationship with the mayors of all the cities. I believe that if the county is going to be successful, the cities need to be successful.”
And he’s excited about Newton County’s possibilities.
“I think they’re great. I think we have a great board,” he said. “I think we’re going to make the citizens proud.”