By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
TREY BAILEY: Do politicians really care?
Trey Bailey
Trey Bailey, District 1 Rep., Newton County School Board.

I hate the word politician. I bet you do, too. 

“Politician” comes preloaded with personal agenda and the preconceived notion that all of them lie, cheat and steal…all for their own gain. We’ve heard the news stories, read the blogsites and subscribed to the whistleblower podcasts. We take a little bit from each, mix it with a fraction of the truth and make our personal opinions known on Twitter and Facebook. 

Maybe the last 50 years of local, state and national politics have caused us all to be a little jaded when it comes to politicians. I get that. 

            About the word “politician,” Newton County Board of Education Chair, Shakila Henderson-Baker, says, “I prefer the term ‘public servant’.” I couldn’t agree more. Now I can’t speak to what happens in Washington, DC or even at the Gold Dome in the ATL, but I do know that the vast majority of local folk in politics are good people, doing the best they can to represent their constituency, while looking out for the best interests of the entire community. They are public servants, not politicians. And serving the public is hard work.

            Local public servants include the Chairman and the Board of Commissioners, Mayors and City Councils, Development & Infrastructure authorities and the Chamber of Commerce, just to name a few. 

In the past week I visited three different local public meetings and saw first-hand public servants in action. As a Board of Education representative for District 1, I participated in a public meeting where four other passionate public servants shared the burden of making and discussing policy and purchases that will create better educational outcomes for our local children. We also heard from some parents who felt like we let them down. We listened. We don’t have all of the solutions to all of the education problems, but we endeavor to make things better because we care.

I attended the public meeting of Newton County Tomorrow, a group of local leaders from municipalities, commissions, authorities, councils and boards. This group was focused and concerned about the future of our community and how we can collectively move forward together with better infrastructure, workforce development, quality of life and more employment opportunities for the next generation. 

I saw a ton of great work being done and open communication here by people who care deeply about our town. Old guard and new guard, Democrat, Libertarian and Republican, Black and white — all had a voice at this table. The potential for this group is incredible. And each of these public servants and concerned citizens showed great care for you.

            And then I witnessed the City of Covington public council meeting. Planning Commission Chair, Jared Rutberg, made a passionate plea for the council to heed the rapid growth in town, particularly with the increase of apartment complex approvals. You could hear both from Rutberg and the council the concern that all have for these issues. This is not something that is being ignored. Nay, this mayor, and council are well aware and working hard to create solutions for a very difficult and nuanced issue. That is because they care deeply about this community. 

These three groups did not look like agenda-driven self-promoting politicians. These folks are good people and true public servants of Newton County. But can we communicate better outside of our silos? Yes!

Newton County is at a crossroads. Division is easy. Unity is hard work. Sure, there are different opinions on how to make our charming town better. Yes, part of our county identifies as metro-Atlanta and part of our community identifies as rural-Georgia. That makes us unique. Maybe we can have the best of both worlds, or find a happy place somewhere in the middle?

The solution: public servants must listen to the citizens, and then continue honest, constructive leadership conversations that draw us together to work toward an agreed vision for Newton County. Boards and councils cannot make decisions in a vacuum or in a silo. Every individual decision from every board and commission impacts the whole. Newton County is interconnected. As leaders, public servants, we need to be more connected.

I’m sure there’s a few bad seeds, “politicians” who are not interested in working with others, but hopefully we can easily spot those and work together despite them. However, from my view, no one is getting rich while serving the public in Newton County. I realize we have some leaders who carry strong agendas that I suspect are representative of their constituency. And that’s what we want! We need people who care deeply and push passionately for our community to be involved at the highest level of leadership and influence. We just need to see more communication across municipalities, commissions, authorities, councils and boards. 

If we can get the right people at the right table to speak honestly and openly about the right things, then I believe we can come out of that room with a clear and agreed-upon vision for Newton County. I believe we can move forward, preserving charm and growing healthily. I believe there is a preferred future that we can all support. But we must be willing to meet in the messy middle and have dialogue, not stand on opposite poles and shout at each other. If we are true public servants and not politicians, then we can do this we must do this!

You, too, can be a part of this conversation. Attend public meetings and talk to your public servants. Sharing your thoughts and opinions on social media might help you vent, but it might not help solve the problem. Share those same passionate thoughts and opinions with your representatives or at public meetings. We listen. I promise. Even when we can’t fix the problem immediately, we are still listening and working to make the entire community a better place to live. “Politicians” might not care about you, but your local public servants do.

Trey Bailey is District 1 Representative for the Newton County School Board. He also serves as executive pastor of Eastridge Church in Covington.