Here's a look at the Board of Commissioners candidates:
Family:Married to Theresa Johnson Belton of Charleston, S.C. for 26 years.
Three children; Daniela is a graduate from UGA, Caitlin is a senior at UGA, and David is a younger child.
Occupation: 23 year retired Navy/Air Force officer
Currently an International Pilot for Delta Air Lines
Political experience: School Board Member for 8 years
Led passage of “Caleb’s Law” against Texting-While-Driving
Education: Bachelor of Science, Chemistry, University of Oklahoma
What are your goals if elected?
First, I want our kids to get the Baxter jobs that are coming. But they’re not going to get them unless they have the education to qualify for them. We must re-engineer our Career Academies to ensure our children are uniquely qualified for those high-paying – high tech – biomed jobs
Second, we must preserve our charming way of life. We must promote growth we can be proud of: good quality jobs for our children.
Third, we must protect our farmers.
What differentiates you from your opponents?
“I have a strong record of public service. I believe in service before self. After serving for 23 years as a Navy and Air Force pilot (having flown in 5 different conflicts until my retirement), I have served for many years, and in many capacities, improving our schools, lowering costs, and voting against tax increases. Additionally, I championed the passage of “Caleb’s Law” against texting and driving. In short, the major issue separating the candidates is that I have a proven record of results.
I’ve been on the Morgan Co. School Board for eight years. During that time, our high school graduation rate has risen to among the top 8% in the state, and our elementary schools have performed among the top 5% in the state (2 years in a row). Before being elected to the Board, I served for decades in our schools as a PTO officer, Band Booster President, and day-to-day volunteer. My opponent has never held elected office, nor put-in the time, hard work and volunteer hours I have to improve our local school system.
What do you believe are the problems in Newton County? How do you believe you can solve these issues?
“I’d rather talk about the good things happening in Newton, as well as our great state.
Georgia is now ranked number 1 in the nation as the best place to do business, number 1 in lowest taxes per capita, and number 5 in jobs created. Georgia is doing a great job creating a job-friendly environment, and the progress on the Savannah port and Baxter will make it even better.
Good schools are good for business. This year, Newton’s Theme School scored best in the state, and we have two Elementary Schools ranked in the top 5%. Scores are improving across the board, and our College and Career Academy just won the prestigious Ford Next Generation Award (one of only 17 in the nation).
Newton is known as the “The Hollywood of the South”, creating good jobs as well as incredible revenue from tourist dollars. Our Arts Association hosts an amazing selection of dance, music, and theater; and Covington just refurbished its historic town square. Most importantly, Baxter and related industries will bring unprecedented job opportunities to our community.
My commitment to you is to work for economic growth we can be proud of. I’ll help our schools continue to improve and re-engineer our Career Academies to ensure our children are uniquely qualified for these high-paying – biomed Baxter jobs. And I’ll embrace a business-friendly environment and fight for local control.
Name: Patsy Harris
Family: Husband of 30 years, Dudney Harris, a retired Eastern Airlines pilot and retired Air Force pilot. Son is a pilot and major in the U.S. Air Force. Two little grandgirls.
Occupation: Former Registered Nurse. Current published local historian.
Political experience: This is the first time I have run for office, but have worked behind the scenes on many campaigns and local issues.
Education: Associates Degree in Nursing 1980; Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology 1994.
Website: patsyharris112.com; www.facebook.com/patsyharris112
What are your goals if elected?
To ensure that all Georgians have the opportunity to thrive and prosper in health, education, work, and justice. Specifics include:
1. Pre-K available for all 4-year-olds. There are children in our state who, teachers and principals tell me, will forever be crippled intellectually and socially by not having that crucial year in Pre-Kindergarten. Right now, this lifelong boost comes only if parents can afford it or are lucky in the Pre-K lottery. This is shameful. We must give all our children - from the get-go – the opportunity to thrive and prosper.
2. Fund public schools as a separate and the 1st priority budget to prevent politicians from robbing our kids of their futures. The Constitution of the State of Georgia states: “public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia.” I think it should be THE primary obligation. From educated citizens flows the solutions to many of our state’s problems.
3. Reform and preserve the HOPE scholarship so that more students benefit.
4. Fund more well-trained career and mental health counselors at high schools who will spend time with students in making decisions on a career path, directing their talents, and raising their goals. Kids who feel a direction in life will have a higher self worth and be less inclined to drug use and promiscuity.
5. Keep Government out of the private school business.
1. Support our local hospitals. Hospitals in Georgia have closed and many more are in crisis, including those in our district. For many Georgians, a trip to the emergency room is a long life or death race. Healthy hospitals bring in more doctors offices and more supporting medical businesses, such as kidney dialysis and wound care clinics, for our growing populations of children, job-seekers, and retirees.
2. Ensure that quality physical healthcare is available to all Georgians at every stage of life. Over half the states in our country have accepted the expansion of Medicaid to promote health and save lives. If Georgia allowed our federal tax dollars to flow right back into our communities, 650,000 residents could be insured, rural hospitals would stop bleeding out and rehire employees, working Georgians would be healthier, and medical bank-ruptcies would decline. Simply, our state would be more prosperous with the resultant impact of $72 billion over the next ten years.
3. Ensure quality mental healthcare is available to all Georgians at every stage of life. Most Americans now understand the reality of mental health problems – that they are physical issues which can be treated just as are diabetes and high blood pressure. In the last few years many of Georgia’s county mental health offices were closed. This should be reversed so that every Georgian suffering and losing work due to mental health problems, will have close and immediate access to this first line of defense.
4. Treat our mentally ill in mental health facilities, not in jails and prisons.
5. Keep the Government and corporate CEOs out of my doctor’s office, my daughter-in-law’s doctor’s office, and my granddaughters’ doctors’ offices.
1. Partner with local business to retrain adults who have lost jobs and train young adults in job etiquette, such as job interviews and work relationships.
2. Establish Career Academies regionally, rather than attempting so in every rural county. This save the State money and allows larger, better-equipped, and more efficient facilities for our kids.
3. Support incentives to business and industry to re-locate to Georgia, but with tight contracts and oversight to hold them accountable to their promises.
4. Require companies to pay a living wage. Employees who receive minimal wage are more likely to require government services. Companies who respect their employees will have higher employee retention rates and a more economically robust community.
5. Enforce the requirement that companies pay equal wages to women as men doing the same jobs. In Georgia, women on average make only 81% of a man’s salary doing the same exact job. However, our 10th Congressional District ranks dead last in Georgia, with a 75% wage gap.
6. Promote small and emerging business, especially daycare providers and businesses based on the needs of large businesses in the region.
7. Balance immigration and the gap in Georgia's workforce.
8. Promote the Federal Bonding Program which allows employers to hire with less risk "ex-offenders, recovering substance abusers, welfare recipients, persons who have poor credit, individuals dishonorably discharged from the military, and economically disadvantaged youth and adults who lack a work history."
1. Ensure post-conviction DNA testing for Georgia inmates where DNA analysis could prove guilt or innocence and adequate DNA testing was not available at trial.
2. Strengthen coordinated community support for victims of sexual assault and family violence. We must make it easier for victims to 1) link to supportive services and 2) report crimes to police. A full 72% of sexual assault crimes go unreported, and only one of 20 offenders spend time in jail. In Newton County, from 2003 through 2012 there were 21 deaths from family violence, most by firearms.
3. Strengthen child support laws. We must shore up weaknesses, such as vague language, of child support laws. We must be creative in our laws that require parents to support their children. A jail sentence does not enable an indigent parent to earn child support money.
What differentiates you from your opponent?
I have told, and will only tell, the absolute truth to voters and constituents, while during his campaign, my opponent has dramatically inflated his roles in various issues to influence voters. In his quest for donors before qualifying, he told them, entirely uniformed, that the Democrats would not have a candidate in the race. Also, he and his primary election opponent agreed to run a positive race, but at the end, on the Saturday before Election Day, when no response was possible, voters received a mailer from my opponent bashing his opponent. My opponent also states in his campaign mailers that he has “never raised taxes,” but the minutes of the local Board of Education note that he voted twice to raise in the millage rate in Morgan County.
From the beginning of my campaign, I have stressed and feel strongly and gratefully that my duty is to represent our entire District, while from before qualifying for his primary, my opponent appealed to Morgan County voters and donors to vote for him so that Morgan County would have a representative in the State House.
I am dedicated to increasing teacher pay and health benefits, increasing the dollars spent on each student, and lowering the teacher-student ratio, while my opponent, on the local school board, boasts in his campaign mailers about cutting the local schools’ budget and dollars spent per student.
For 30 years I have been married to a spouse whose political views are opposite my own. We respect, applaud, and question our differences and work together to resolve issues with discussion, respect, compromise, and compassion (and it isn’t always easy), while my opponent maintains a life essentially insulated from opposing political views and throughout his tenure in office and this campaign has shown his total dedication to the authority figures of his political party.
I have been trained as, and I treasure work as, a team-player, who works together with those of differing affiliations, moving forward in collaboration, while my opponent continues to stress his ability to “lead men into battle,” as if those with different ideas are an enemy. And during his tenure in local office in which he represented an entire county district, he wrote in the local newspaper intractable, politically partisan articles, even at the urging of friends to cease, and alienated many of his constituents.
What do you believe are the problems in Newton County? How do you believe you can solve these issues?
1. Healthcare access – In the neighborhoods of Newton County live many families who struggle quietly every day with medical issues and unpaid bills and have no power to change their circumstances. In my knocking on doors here, they have opened their lives to me and described their situations. As elsewhere in Georgia, we must assure all Georgians access to good healthcare.
2. Municipal and County cooperation – I would like to assist in building an atmosphere of trust and commitment to common goals among Newton County’s governmental entities so that all the people of Newton can benefit from the collaboration of the many diverse and intelligent elected and employed officials.
3. The Newton County Jail is, for all practical purposes, a mental health facility, as are the other jails and prisons across the state. It houses folks who have fallen through the cracks of our state’s latest attempt at comprehensive mental health care. Some people truly need long-term treatment which only in-patient mental hospitals can provide. In other cases, the barrier to treatment is lack of beds in community-based facilities. I want Georgia to increase funding to provide more mental health beds.
3. In my knocking on doors in Newton County, I have seen 4-year-olds at home during school hours, unlucky in the Pre-K lottery and whose parents cannot afford to pay for a slot at a private school. I want to ensure that each of our 4-year-olds have a place in the life-long boost of Pre-K.
4. I want to make sure that the local and state governments stay on top of Baxter International’s promises. The potential benefits for both Baxter as a profit-driven business and our community that is in need of jobs and income are incalculable. I truly cheer each on with guarded optimism.
5. Baxter International and other new large businesses in the area, such as Caterpillar, set a new and exciting opportunity to increase employment outside their doors. I will promote collaboration with local governments and emerging entrepreneurs to assess the businesses’ needs which small and emerging businesses can meet, such as specialized cleaning, laundry operations, and child-care.