Andre Cooper is once again running for the District 3 Newton County commission seat as a Democrat, but he believes he's four years wiser and more experienced this time around.
Cooper, 43, was recently hired as an investigator in the Georgia Capital Defender Office, but prior to that he spent two years in the Newton County Public Defender's Office and one and a half years with the Newton County Sheriff's Office.
"I was inexperienced last time. I've spent the last four years out in the community. I've been staying involved, and I think that the time has allowed me to gain experience and hearing the needs of the people," Cooper said Tuesday. "This time around, I have the experience to lead and make good, positive decisions for the community."
One of the groups that Cooper has heard from most clearly is county employees, who he said have struggled through budget cuts and furloughs.
He said if county employees aren't fairly treated, the county will struggle to keep and attract quality employees, which will affect the services the county is able to provide to the public.
"As a county employee, I saw and felt what they felt. One of my biggest things, what I heard a lot from them, is the retirement program. I talked with someone who has been there for 30 years, and they still don't feel safe in retiring," Cooper said.
He also wants to address employee furlough days and is glad that the current budget proposal is adding back five paid working days to employees.
Cooper hopes county employees are never treated the way he was in 2010, when he was made a part of the budget cuts and struggled to pay the medical bills of his daughter, who was dealing with a rare liver disease.
"What about the people? I'm for taking care of people, both employees and the community," he said.
Cooper also wants to invest more money in public safety. He said people will have no incentive to buy houses or open businesses if Newton County can't offer them a safe county, distinct from the situations in the metro counties.
"I want us to strive to provide our community with healthy economic growth, sustainable resources and accountability for today and the future," Cooper said.
Cooper has been working with the Capital Defender Office for the past several months, being hired full-time two months ago.
He travels all around the state to investigate murder cases.
He also works part-time in construction.
Prior to working for the state, he was a bailiff for the sheriff's office for one and a half years, and also worked in the county public defender's office for two years.
He previously worked as an engineer with the Georgia Department of Corrections for four and a half years and was a project manager for Atlanta-based Environmental Stone Works. He also owned his own business Cooper Concrete Co. from 1989 to 2003.
A lifelong resident of Newton County, Cooper graduated from Newton County Comprehensive High School. He has also taken classes at DeKalb Technical College and Southern Polytechnic State University, but is 20 hours short of earning a degree.
Civic and nonprofit involvement
Cooper is on the Miracle League of Newton County committee, and is also a part of the local team working to open a Boys and Girls Club in the western part of the county.
He and his wife Cynthia, have an 8-year-old daughter Mittia.
Cooper can be reached by email at email@example.com or at (770) 598-1732.
He previously ran for the District 3 commission seat in 2008 and the state representative seat for District 95 in
"I'm not a politician; I'm somebody who cares about people. That's it," Cooper said.
"I think we've gotten away from caring about people and the community, and that's my main concern."