Job growth and recovering from a troubled economy echoed as some of the needs for Newton County from candidates discussing their platforms at a two-hour political forum held Tuesday night.
State and local Democratic candidates running in the July 31 primary answered questions and voiced their opinions at a Newton Democrats forum held at the Washington Street Community Center.
J.J. Hayden, Newton County Democrat Party second vice-chair, served as the moderator for the event. Hayden requested for each candidate to give a brief background about themselves, and then asked three to four questions for each candidate to answer.
Georgia State House District 113
Incumbent Pam Dickerson, along with challengers Toney Collins and Sharon Sawyer stated their positions on charter schools, legislation for ethics reform in Georgia and how they would best serve the counties they were elected to represent.
Both Dickerson and Sawyer said they would vote against the charter schools amendment (H.R. 1162). Dickerson said the amendment was not just about charter schools, but more about the funding and who would have control over charter schools.
Sawyer said if taxpayers' money would be used to fund charter schools, then charter school teachers should have the same qualifications as teachers in public schools.
Collins said he would have to look at the amendment a little more, but as long as it was fair and didn't discriminate, he was fine with the amendment.
All three candidates agreed that there should be some type of limits on what lobbyists give to legislators when asked if the state needed legislation on ethics reform.
When asked about how to best serve the community, Collins said he would get out in the community and talk with people to find out what they need and want. Sawyer said she would initiate programs to help get vacant homes occupied and find ways to bring in tax revenue and new businesses to the community. Dickerson said she would continue to have town hall meetings, send email blasts and remain visible in the community by attending events.
County Commission Chair
Incumbent Chairman Kathy Morgan attended, but the challenger Marcus Jordan did not. Hayden asked Morgan what her number one concern for the county was, how she would help repair and maintain revenue in the county and how she would facilitate retail and entertainment opportunities.
Morgan said effectively balancing the quality of life versus decreasing revenues was her main concern. She said she wanted to bring quality jobs to Newton County, find ways to increase revenue without increasing taxes and help create an environment that would attract private investors and private industries to the community. Morgan added that the county has been marketing itself through economic development to bring in new jobs.
County Commission District 3 and 5
Hayden asked county commission District 3 incumbent Nancy Schulz and District 5 challenger Phil Johnson what was their number one concern for the county, their opinion on the county manager form of government and how they would support the common interest of Newton County.
Schulz and Johnson agreed that the number one concern for the county was the downturn in the economy.
When answering about the county manager form of government, Schulz said she believed the county manager needed to report to the chair and the chair needed to be accountable to the people. Johnson said there should be two managers.
He said one manager should look at the operating affairs of the county and the other manager should look at the financial affairs.
Johnson and Schulz also agreed that the traffic problem on Salem Road was one common interest of Newton County. Johnson said T-SPLOST, which will be voted on July 31, was the solution to the problem. If T-SPLOST doesn't pass, Schulz said local government needs to work with Rockdale County and the state department of transportation to address the problem.
Board of Education District 4
Challenger Franklin Perry and incumbent Almond Turner gave their views on the proposed Christian Learning Center in Newton County Schools.
Turner said deciding what type of doctrine to teach and taking an additional hour away from school curriculum were his main concerns with the Christian Learning Center. He said some parents may not want to expose to their children different forms of religion.
Perry said he believed the superintendent is in charge and should look at what should be done about the center. He said he personally felt having a Christian Learning Center was a good idea, but his main concern was how to make sure it was beneficial to students and in line with the school systems overall goals mandated by the superintendent.
The two candidates also responded to the proposed standards to evaluate teachers and expressed what they thought were some of the biggest opportunities for Newton County Schools.
Both Perry and Turner said they believed teachers should be evaluated. Perry added that teachers should be treated as professionals and Turner said teachers need support from parents.
Turner said the Newton County College Career Academy was the biggest opportunity for the school system because it added to the quality of education in the county. Perry said restoring credibility in the system, motivating students, and getting support from the community were some of the biggest opportunities for the school system.
After the question and answer portion of the forum, candidates gave closing remarks.
Other attendees included incumbent Eddie Johnson for Board of Education District 2, Courtney Dillard Sr. for U.S. Congress District 4, incumbent Ezell Brown for Sheriff, Robert Bradley for County Coroner and Stephanie Lindsey for Alcovy Judicial Superior Court Judge.