NEWTON COUNTY — Republican County Commissioner Ronnie Cowan announced today that he plans to seek a third four-year term on the Board of Commissioners in next year’s election. Cowan represents District 5, which covers portions of the City of Covington and of north and east Newton County.
“My focus when I took office seven years ago was to put the county on firm financial footing,” he said. “We have made very meaningful improvements in our budget in the past seven years, but I certainly don’t consider the job done. It requires constant scrutiny and detailed attention to make sure we don’t find ourselves in the future where we were at that time.”
Cowan took office when the county’s financial reserves had been dangerously depleted due to the effects of the state and national recession of 2007-2008.
“We had only $2-$3 million in reserves, and that represented only half a month of actual expenses. We also had been running significant deficits in solid waste management, and that system had to be completely reformed. Growth in tax receipts, building permits and industrial investment really didn’t begin to recover until beginning in 2015.”
Cowan brought to the task at that time 25 years’ experience as head of the Human Resources Department at the City of Covington. He began his career as a Covington Police officer and holds a law degree from Georgia State University. He was certified as a mediator and currently practices real estate law.
In the seven years since Cowan came into office, he has pushed vigorously to pay down the county’s debt, including eliminating the debt incurred in building the Administration Building.
“In FY 2017 and FY 2018, Newton County was still having to take out Tax Anticipation Notes (TAN) just to operate and pay the bills until the tax revenue started to flow in,” Cowan explained. “Since we focused on building up our reserves, we have not had to take out a TAN in several years. The only new debt issued over the last eight years, excluding SPLOST GO bonds, was two Fire Fund issuances and the refinancing of a Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority note on behalf of the Solid Waste Management Authority.”
Before taking office, Cowan had been asked to draft a new county ordinance specifying duties of the board chairman and district commissioners. Additionally, he had overseen the creation of a new Solid Waste Management Authority that removed responsibility for landfill management from the five-member board of commissioners. While in office, Cowan also insisted that all county ordinances be put into code for the first time in history.
“Because of all that we have accomplished in the last seven years, I am eager to tackle the next four,” said Cowan. “We will be building on very meaningful improvements in the budget process and county procedures, giving us a firm foundation for a future that is primed for growth and new challenges.”