Voting for the 2016 election is underway with a little over 800 people visiting the Newton County Administration Building to cast a ballot for either the Republican or Democrat candidates of their choice.
The primary election is a crucial one for Newton County with all three Board of Commissioners (BOC) seats that are up for election, along with magistrate judge, a one-party race.
In District 1 of the BOC, Republicans Nathan Bradley and Stan Edwards are the only names on the ballot; in district 3, Democrats are the only choice with Nancy Schulz, Tim “Tee” Brown and Susette Monk up for election; and in district 5, three Republicans are vying for a seat on the board in Ronnie Cowan, Travis Moore and Jared Rutberg. The choice for magistrate judge comes down to two Republicans: Melanie Bell and Shannon Sneed.
Early voting for the primary runs weekdays through May 20 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The candidates have been busy on the campaign trail as the primary election date, May 24 approaches, visiting constituents and attending forums.
The BOC candidates recently attended a forum hosted by SmartGrowth Newton County, Newton Trails, The Covington News and the Newton Citizen, held at the Newton County Historic Courthouse. The forum focused on future development of Newton County and trails in the area, with many of the candidates focusing their answers on their vision of the future of Newton County.
Moore said that he felt, within the fifth district, that the landfill was the biggest challenge Newton County will face during his tenure if elected. Rutberg disagreed, due to the newly formed Solid Waste Authority taking over responsibility of the landfill.
“The county-wide issue is finance, spending and budget,” he said. “It’s a noose hanging around our neck.”
Cowan, added another challenge the county is facing, in the “confidence and reliability” of the board of commissioners.
The confidence in and reliability of the board was a recurring theme among commissioner candidates with Edwards and Bradley mentioning trust and communications, and Brown talking about inclusion of the west side of the county in planning.
A big part of Newton County’s planning is its overlays. The county now has three — on Almon Road, Salem Road and Brickstore. The candidates had a chance to discuss the Brickstore Overlay, which was approved by the BOC on April 19.
That approval received mixed reaction from the candidates.
Schulz, who voted for the overlay, said that overlays are important to have “enhanced building standards.”
Edwards, who is running for a seat in the district the Brickstore Overlay is located, said he would not have voted for it if he was on the board.
“My answer was, ‘No,’ not in its current edition,” Edwards said. “When [large land owners’ properties] are separate, and when there are personalized tiers within the overlay, we have a problem. I thought we should go back to the drawing board for one more month. We waited 16 years, what’s one more month?”
Bradley, also running in district 1, stressed patience as well.
“As long as we step carefully and move forward making sure we do it right,” said Bradley of having the overlay. A great part of overlays is to help protect quality of life. We can do that as long as we are planning.”
All chair and commissioner candidates attended the forum, with the exception of chair candidate Banes and District 3 candidate Monk, both Democrats.