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A conversation with JaNice Van Ness
JaNice Van Ness is the Post II Commissioner for Rockdale County since January 2007 and the owner of Peachtree Academy.

This is the first of an occasional series of conversations with local leaders, movers and shakers.

You've worked with two different administrations and approaches. You're now the experienced hand on the board.

Being the junior person on the board with the least amount of service, I had to do a lot of listening and learning about how the ordinances affect the decision we make and the rules that we're governed by. And the one thing that I always said would be hard for me is that everything takes so long in government. My goal is that if we can expedite things for citizens, be more customer friendly. This administration really embodies the customer friendly part of things.

Being a senior member now, I guess it's interesting because I do know rules of order a little better. The information is more familiar, what it takes to get something passed. The Chairman has an idea that he has to get buy-in from at least one of the two of us. I think that's something that he's been

I think they're learning the ropes and how things have to be passed, that there has to be consensus from the board.

Right now, one of my big pushes is trying to get together a joint meeting with the city and the school board from last year. I had hoped there would be more dealings with them on a regular basis because there are so many similar issues that we deal with, and for us to be unified with grant opportunities with federal stimulus dollars, or just for the betterment of the citizens for us all to communicate on the same page.

Are there other issues as priorities or that you want to see worked on or move forward?

With the tennis center being completed and now opened - that was one of our SPLOST projects using our tax dollars - I'd like to see that as an economic generator in our community and just a great drawing card as a regional tennis facility. That you're bringing in people from across metro-Atlanta and that you're bringing them in for hotel stays and dinner and shopping

What are issues and areas the county needs to focus on?

I think we need to work on a simplified business experience. When you come into the county and you want to do an expansion or you want to open a new business, that you have one central point person who takes you through the whole process and expedites things so that we can get construction projects underway as quickly as possible.

As a business owner I know how frustrating it is when you want to do something good for the community and you feel like your hands are tied by regulations or you don't know the process. Plus it's a friendlier business experience. You want to treat them the proper way.

What are some of the biggest challenges that the county is facing?

Getting qualified people in our positions. Setting the bar high for our director level positions, and recruiting those people. I think we need to spread the information a little further than we have in the past and go through different agencies that should be a good network for us so that when a job is posted, we get a great response from qualified people. It'd be really nice if we had a qualified pool from Rockdale County, in our own backyard. Why not employ people that live here?

Developing the leadership talent that is in place now. Develop the training and develop their skill level and really invest in the leaders we do have. I'd like to see a performance enhancement tool in place, so if you have a director with weak skills in an area, that you actually use some type of written system to identify the weakness and steps they would use to enhance their skill level and improve their overall skills.

What are some of the things you'd like to see preserved if you have to make tough decisions in the coming year, such as cuts?

I'd prefer not to have to furlough employees. Hopefully, using that performance enhancement tool, anybody that's weak would be weeded out, and the good ones would be allowed to work their normal schedule and receive their normal salaries. But furloughing the good ones too, that just doesn't make sense to me.

What made you want to run for commissioner initially and are those reasons still the same? Have they changed?

I'd say they're still the same. I really enjoy living in Rockdale County. I've lived here most of my life and am a native of Rockdale County. I feel like there are so many great opportunities here in the county for my family, my children as they're being raised to have a wonderful life here. I enjoy giving back to the community.

I've never been one to complain and sit on the side lines. You don't get many results that way.