Democrat Nancy Schulz and Republican Keith Mitcham have a lot in common – they are both the owners of small businesses in District 3 and both stress the importance of fiscal responsibility – but they differ in their views on how to bring more business to Newton County.
Mitcham and Schulz are both seeking to take over District 3 Commissioner Ester Fleming’s seat on the Board of Commissioners when he vacates it at the end of the year.
While Schulz, the co-owner of The Oaks Golf Course, emphasizes the need for Newton County to become more friendly and pro-business, Mitcham, the owner of the Mitcham Cattle Company, a 1,000 cattle stocker operation, says he thinks District 3 needs to guard against becoming like Rockdale County with its unrestrained commercial development.
The two candidates’ civic organization memberships also shed light on the differing views they each have of what is good development for the county. Schulz is an active member of the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce and a past member of their board of directors. Mitcham serves on the Newton County Farm Bureau’s board of directors and is chairman of the bureau’s legislative committee.
“We need to embrace businesses that want to locate here,” Schulz said, adding that the county could do more in working with the colleges already located here to attract commercial and industrial development.
Mitcham said he would be “an advocate for quality growth” if elected.
“I think District 3 is really on the forefront of becoming Rockdale and an extension of Rockdale,” he said. “We’d really like to keep a distinction between the two [counties].”
He said he would also focus on finding solutions to the county’s traffic problems if elected and on bringing more recreation opportunities to the district.
Both candidates said they would make balancing the county’s budget their number one priority.
“We have to balance the budget. That’s number one,” Schulz said. “We have to look at how we make an investment in the community for the future and that’s going to be a balancing act.”
Mitcham said the board will be faced with an even more difficult task than usual due to declining tax revenues during this period of economic recession.
If faced with the necessity of cutting county services rather than raising property taxes (which neither candidate said they thought would be necessary) both candidates stressed that they would not cut back on public safety.
“We have to decide what’s most important to us,” Schulz said of the possibility of cutting back on services.
Mitcham said he believed the county could go through 2009 without having to cut services or raise taxes.
“Some projects may have to be delayed because of the timing. The revenue is definitely going to be less next year. I think we’re really going to have to rely on the department heads to step up and make the necessary cuts as needed, Mitcham said. “We need to operate in the black.”
He pointed to his lifelong residency in the county (he is a sixth generation family farmer) and the experience he has gained from running a small business for years as qualifications which he said will serve him well on the BOC.
“Running local government is like running a business,” Mitcham said.
“I am a lifelong resident of Newton County and have been here and seen the changes in the growth and want to continue to live here and raise my family in Newton County and make it a better place to live,” Mitcham said.
Mitcham attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College after graduating from Newton County High School. He and his wife, Sandi, have two children.
Schulz said her experience running The Oaks, which she and her husband, Dick, bought in the 1990s, and working to maintain a high quality golf course while at the same time dealing with diminishing returns has prepared her for the challenges the county is now facing.
In addition, as a nurse for the Newton County Health Department, Schulz says she meets with people from all different walks of life – exposure that she said will serve her well on the BOC.
“I’m in a unique situation to bridge the gap between diverse populations and I see District 3 as a great place to bridge that gap,” Schulz said. “I believe that I bring an interesting perspective.”
In leading the county, she said she would focus on enacting the county’s Comprehensive Plan which she says should lead the BOC in its decision-making process. Schulz also sees the Stanton Springs Industrial Park and the Covington Civic Center as important tools in bringing more commercial growth to the county.
“I’m just enthusiastic about being able to be part of finding creative solutions,” she said. “I think we have to be very clear in our vision. We as leaders need to somehow enlist the people as our greatest resource.”
If elected Schulz said she would focus on encouraging more involvement in the community by new residents of District 3, one of the Newton County’s fastest growing districts, by holding twice annual fireside chats in the district.
Schulz is a graduate of The University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University where she earned a Master’s Degree. She and her husband moved to Newton County in 1992. They have two children.