Candidates vying to represent Rockdale County after the November election voiced plans to focus on public safety, economic development and transportation during a candidate forum held by the Rockdale/Newton League of Women Voters Tuesday night.
Candidates involved in contested races that will appear on the July 31 Primary ballot were invited to participate in the forum, which allowed each candidate one minute to introduce themselves and one minute to answer pre-determined questions followed by two minutes of closing comments to a crowd of over 100 interested voters. The organization will hold another candidate forum in October prior to the November election. Several candidates running for office but not facing opposition in the July Primary were also in attendance.
Rockdale Sheriff candidate Eric Levett took the stage first as the sole Democratic candidate for sheriff to attend. Challenger Donald Ferguson was reportedly out state to receive a degree and was not able to attend.
Levett told the crowd he is running for sheriff because the "time is right" to achieve his life-long goal of becoming sheriff.
"I am looking to forge a new level of service (in the county). I will focus on auto theft, burglaries and increasing resources in order to combat those crimes. It's about what individuals can do for Rockdale County. I plan to reconnect our relationship between all departments in Rockdale County."
Levett has been in law enforcement for 20 years and is currently a sergeant in the Criminal Investigations Division at the Rockdale County Sheriff's Department.
Rockdale County Commission Chairman candidates were next to take the stage with incumbent Chairman Richard Oden and challenger Brian Jenkins. Both candidates focused on the topic of economic development, though Jenkins focused on his career in government to express his concerns over looming transportation issues and his opposition to the Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) voters will decide in July.
"We have to address infrastructure," Jenkins said. "We need to come together as a community abd achieve as a community."
In response Oden said "Rockdale County is a much better place today than it was 30 years ago...we can't stop the growth. We need to prepare ourselves for the future. Look at my track record...I am still the best candidate to take this county into the future."
Four candidates seeking the county commission Post I seat - two Republicans and two Democrats including incumbent Oz Nesbitt, Sr. - focused on economic development, transportation, job growth and public safety.
Republicans Sam Smiley and Tom Harrison, both local business owners, agreed that public safety and quality of life are key issues, though Harrison says he aims to bring a level of trust in fiscal responsibility back into the community while Smiley said he aims to put money back into local infrastructure to spawn economic growth
Democrat Jerry Shepperd said his primary focus will be keeping revenue inside the county while also bringing new revenue and enhancing beautification in the county.
Nesbitt countered by saying he plans to continue working on job growth, economic development and the current state of the county's infrastructure.