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Commissioner candidates participate in first NCVEP forum
candidate forum
Candidates participate in first Newton County Voters Education Project forum of 2024. - photo by Evan Newton

NEWTON COUNTY – Three candidates for the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) participated in the first 2024 Newton County Political Forum hosted by the Newton County Voters Education Project (NCVEP).

Candidates who participated in Tuesday’s forum at the historic courthouse included District 3 candidate Stephanie R. Lindsey and chairman candidates Marcello Banes and Marcus Jordan.

Those who spoke had three minutes to introduce themselves, following which forum moderator Mike Hester asked each candidate a series of questions.

stephanie r lindsey
District 3 commissioner candidate Stephanie R. Lindsey - photo by Evan Newton

District 3 starts off forum

First up in the forum was Lindsey, who was the sole candidate for District 3 in attendance. 

Current commissioner Alana Sanders stated via Facebook live that she was already scheduled to attend a conference and that she was not allowed to stream in to participate.

Nevertheless, Lindsey took to the forum table to share what her vision is for District 3.

“My vision for District 3 is action,” Lindsey said. “I’m focused. I’m dedicated. And most of all I’m motivated. And I’m gonna repeat that – I’m motivated to get the work done.”

Lindsey also stated that she is “passionate” about people in the community and wants to create a better future for everyone in District 3.

When asked about her plans to maintain infrastructure and water/sewer services in the middle of growth, Lindsey wants to look at areas where water/sewer services are currently strained, highlighting the Fairview Corridor in particular. Lindsey said that she plans to use assessment to critically think about how to solve these issues.

Lindsey then answered Hester’s question about the needs of youth in underserved areas by doing an assessment on the programs that are currently in place. Additionally, Lindsey wants to see movement on youth facilities in District 3.

The third question addressed homelessness as well as gentrification in Newton County. Lindsey said that she already has been addressing homelessness, contributing time, money and support to the homeless shelter in Newton County, but that more needs to be done.

“In terms of the homelessness, we have what I call a plague,” Lindsey said. “We see it, we try to stay away from it, we try to ignore it. But unfortunately, it’s now at our doorstep and what we have to do is we have to provide support for the agencies that are addressing homelessness.” 

In terms of housing, Lindsey called it a “difficult question,” but that the community should be willing to have their taxes increased to help those in need.

Discussion then transitioned to the path of home ownership, in which Lindsey feels that education is needed to help educate residents on how to go about purchasing a home. Workforce development is also a way that Lindsey cites as helping those in the path to home ownership.

The fifth question covered a hot topic among the more recent BOC meetings of citizens’ comments. Lindsey brought up the notion that citizens have three chances to speak at BOC meetings, but that the third time – the second portion of citizens’ comments – is the problem.

Lindsey said that citizens need to give their comments with dignity and respect, with sanctions needed to be in place to enforce comments that may be out of line.

Sticking with ethics, the last question covered division amongst commissioners and how to control the verbal altercations that have taken place recently. Lindsey said that “the fighting could have been stopped a long time ago,” citing the need for transparency. 

Lindsey stated that when it came to ethics, it’s all about one word.

“Respect. Respect. Respect,” Lindsey said. “You have to give respect, to get respect. Period.”

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Current chairman Marcello Banes. - photo by Evan Newton
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Current tax commissioner and chairman candidate Marcus Jordan - photo by Evan Newton

Chairman candidates take debate stage

Next were the two chairman candidates, current chairman Banes and current tax commissioner and chairman candidate Jordan.

In introducing himself, Banes reinforced the idea of One Newton, stating that he will continue to push that for as long as he is in office. He said that One Newton is about working together with the municipalities and organizations to create a unified vision.

Jordan said that his vision as chairman of the BOC is building the future, investment in the future and transparency.

The same six questions asked to Lindsey were asked to both chairman candidates.

Starting off the round of questions, Banes said that infrastructure and transportation needs are a “hot topic” but that is starting to change and that he wants to see that change through.

Jordan feels that collaborating with the education systems in the county will help bring in those who have skilled training. He cites new companies coming in such as Meta and Archer as new destinations for those in the county to go into the workforce to help with infrastructure needs.

The current tax commissioner kept the microphone to discuss topics of youth in underserved areas, stating that the county needs to look into federal, state and public partnerships to bring in after-school programs as well as senior and veterans programs.

The current chairman stated that continuing the collaboration with the recreation department is critical, and that utilizing SPLOST dollars for that collaboration will help address that issue.

Transitioning to the topic of homelessness, Banes wants to continue working with pastor Clara Lett and her homeless shelter as well as partnering with those who have special knowledge in that area.

Jordan mentioned the idea of working with legislative entities to help with homelessness programs. With gentrification, he said that he wants to look into the current homestead exemption to dive deeper into that issue.

The partnership with said legislative entities is no different, Jordan said, when looking at the path to home ownership. Additionally, the need to set up programs on how to purchase a home is something that Jordan said is important.

Banes shared the same sentiment that Lindsey shared earlier about workforce development, and wanting to strengthen that so that citizens can obtain the proper path to home ownership.

The chairman again agreed with Lindsey when looking at citizens’ comments, stating that the current agenda layout of citizens’ comments does not need change, but that the language needs changing so that order is kept.

Jordan agreed that all three opportunities in the meetings needed to be kept, but that his door was “always open” and encouraged citizens to speak with him whenever needed.

When looking at ethics amongst the board, Jordan called it “simple.”

“Simple, one word. It’s relationships,” Jordan said.

Jordan said that he will look to build relationships with everyone on the board and make it okay with the idea of “agreeing to disagree” at times. He calls his goal for the BOC to be a unified front.

Banes again cited the work that has been done to work together with the municipalities across the county and said that these things needed to be done within the board as well.

“You can say build relationships all you want, but those relationships gotta want to be built,” Banes said. “You can’t build a relationship with someone that don’t wanna have a relationship with you.”

Next forum date is set

At the conclusion of the forum, the emcee Rev. Harold Cobb said that all candidates running for office were invited and that they will continue to be invited for future forums.

The next listed forum by the NCVEP is April 19 at the courthouse from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. The listed races on the NCVEP flyer are Clerk of Superior Court, Coroner, Sheriff, Tax Commissioner and “Others.”