Andrea "Andre" Cooper is running for state representative; he will be a democratic candidate for the 95th District seat, which is currently held by Toney Collins (D-Conyers).
Cooper, who is an investigator in the Newton County Public Defender's office, said he is running because he feels his district is not being represented. District 95 contains portions of Newton, Rockdale and Gwinnet counties.
"I hear people say that they are not being represented. A lot of residents don't know who their representative is. I want to be there for the constituents and better address their concerns," Cooper said. "I won't be the type of politician that will only stay in their office. If you call me I will come and visit you where you live are.
Cooper said his main issues are improving formal education, creating jobs, and creating more community-based educational and recreational opportunities for youth.
Although Cooper said he is most familiar with his home county of Newton, he is planning to spend more time exploring Rockdale's issues over the next couple months. He has arranged to meet with County Chairman Richard Oden and is planning to travel around to all of the county's schools to speak with teachers; something he said he did in Newton County.
When asked about transportation, an important issue in Rockdale County, he said he is hoping to find ways to increase public transportation issues, but regarding the proposed transportation overhaul he said he's heard mixed thoughts from local officials.
"I'm still doing my research; that's why I want to sit down and talk with Chairman Oden and others," Cooper said.
Cooper said one of his strengths is the time he spends talking to people throughout his district, including many teachers. And when he talks to teachers, what he hears is that they don't like the current Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.
"A lot of them don't care for the CRCT testing. A lot of the young guys I see coming through the prison system have not been taught anything other than the test. We need a new system," Cooper said.
Obviously job creation is at the top of every candidate's list, but Cooper said he in addition to creating more jobs, he also wants to help rehabilitated prisoners get employment. Cooper has long been involved in law enforcement fields, including being a DARE officer and patrol officer with the Covington Police Department. Now as an investigator he sees areas where the system can improve.
"I hear a lot of guys who get locked up say they can't get hired; the law is working against them. The problem is if they're not hired they still have to pay their fees. If they want to pay their fees they have to go back and steal. We need to make changes to help these people stay off the streets," he said.
He said youth have long been a passion, and he is involved in three separate mentoring programs, including Newton Mentoring, The Military Mentor Program and a new program he is setting up.
Cooper's group will be called MEN, which stands for Mentoring, Empowering and Notifying. He is currently working on the organizations' bylaws.
"I care about youth; it's long been a passion of mine. As an investigator, I see some of the directions they're headed. We need more activities for them to do," he said. "They are our future and we need to get out there and turn things around. That's why I became a DARE officer in the first place."
Cooper also has significant experience in the construction and engineering fields, including stints as an engineer with Georgia Department of Corrections and a project manager for Atlanta-based Environmental Stone Works. He also owned his own business Cooper Concrete Co. from 1989 to 2003.
"I know the laws and I have planning experience. I hope to help plan a better district based on smart, healthy growth," he said.
Cooper is a life long resident of Newton County and has a wife, Cynthia, and one child, Mittia, who attends Live Oak Elementary. His community involvement includes work with The Center for Community Preservation and Planning, service on The Miracle Field Committee and service as a deacon at Pleasantview Baptist Church, all in Newton County.
People interested in volunteering with Cooper's campaign should contact Rasti Hollingsworth at 404-503-6474.
Collins, who currently holds the house of representatives seat for District 95, has said he will run again.