Candidates speak out at Q&A session
The Polk County Commission has a choice to make: pick a candidate together to join their ranks, or let the Grand Jury sat to hear criminal cases vote on who they think should take the District 1 seat.
Commissioners have a group of eight that are ready and willing to take over the spot on the board right now, and are just waiting for a vote to approve one of them to join.
To help make that decision, the candidates gathered at the Aug. 30 special session of the County Commission for an hour-long interview process before the public to let their positions be known on a certain number of issues, and provide information about themselves and their lives.
The group included Bobby Brooks, Dewain Campbell, Cleve Hartley, Jose Iglesias, Gary Martin, David McElwee, Harland Moody and Carson Tanner, and each had their own set of ideas and issues they expected to face if selected to be the next commissioner.
Here’s some information about each candidate that they provided to the commission during the Aug. 30 interviews, and their thoughts on certain issues they felt important to address:
The former District Attorney and judicial candidate, Brooks also once served on the Polk County Board of Education as well.
“I was born here in Cedartown and have spent my entire life in Polk County,” he said.
Brooks, who has practiced law since 1996, is married and has t wo grown children.
He is also a member of Grace Presbyterian Church.
He seeks the District 1 seat in hopes of looking at several issues in Polk County, among them adjusting to the coming growth.
“We’ve got to learn to adjust and accomodate that growth, which hopefully will come with more job growth,” Brooks said.
“We’ve got to make use of what we have and get ready for growth, but at the same time we don’t need to be raising taxes any further.”
A local businessman, Campbell was one of two additional entrants into the group of people seeking consideration for the District 1 seat.
Campbell, a cousin of Glenn Campbell from Polk County’s Landfill Advisory committee, said that though the landfill is one of the many issues he’s worried about, his biggest priority is getting industries to invest locally.
He pointed to a large number of restaurants coming into the area, bringing jobs but not those that come with living wages.
“We need jobs that are going to pay $20 an hour, or $17 an hour,” he said.
Campbell said he was born and raised in Alabama, but has lived in Polk County for 55 years.
Along with his business, he also was involved in youth sports.
Though his wife passed several years ago, he is still surrounded by children, grandchildren and great children who help keep him busy. He said he mainly wanted to do as much as he could to help Cedartown and Polk County be prosperous.
A former Polk County Commissioner and previous candi-date, Hartley is seeking to serve on the board a second time via an interim spot on the board.
He’s currently on the board of Coosa Valley Credit Union and was also on the Board of Directors for the Cedartown United Fund.
Hartley was chair, and also was chair of the Council of Elected Officials for the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, and worked for General Electric.
Hartley said that he believed his past experience on the commission made him an ideal candidate since he already was well versed in many of the issues already on the board’s plate.
“I believe I can make my county a better place to live, work, play and worship,” he said.
He lives with his wife Betsy at Meadow Lakes.
Local owner of Taxes de America, a member of the Cedartown Planning Commission and also a participant in the Lead Polk leadership class of 2017, Iglesias seeks to bring someone with both leadership experience but also a diverse look on Polk County’s future.
“It would be the honor of my life to serve the people, all the people,” he said. “I have a local proven track record, and I will work hard to advance the interests of Polk County.”
He added that it was important for him too to bring business sensibilities to county government, making decisions based on what’s best for all.
He and his wife Giovanna and their two children live in Cedartown, where his tax preparation business has been flourishing since 2007. Iglesias also serve on the board of Primary Healthcare, Inc., and was a stakeholder for Cedartown in the Comprehensive Plan process.
“But most importantly I’m a taxpayer just like you,” Iglesias said.
He had a number of issues he want to work on if selected, but chief among them was economic development. Among those he wanted to promote as an attribute for the county is the Polk County College and Career Academy, which he said he believes represents the future of education locally and business development generally as job training becomes just as big a focus.
The challenge he said Polk County faces in the near future is facing up to decisions made “10 to 15 years ago” that have impacted locals now.
“We need to improve communication and cooperation along all branches of government and with the people,” he said.
A former Cedartown City Commissioner and Board of Education member, Martin said he’s ready to serve now and said his ability to bring people together.
“I’m not seeking this seat with an agenda or a vendetta,” Martin said. “I’m seeking this office to make Polk County a better county and to better the conditions.”
Known just as much for haircuts at Martin’s Styling Center on North Main Street as he is for his past service to local residents, Martin hopes if he is chosen by Commissioners to give an honest look at any issue that comes before him.
And to him, Polk County still needs some work, with one of the biggest complaints to be addressed first: the landfill.
“There’s a lot of challenges in the county, industry being one of those and the airport being another,” he said. “But I think our most significant challenge is our new mountain, the landfill... One of these days someone is going to have to pay the fiddler, and we’re going to have to get a handle on the landfill.”
Martin has been in business in Cedartown for 54 years. He has one son, Wade Martin, who is a golf professional and coach in The Villages, Fla.
The former Assistant County Manager and co-owner of Brother Joe’s Coffee in Cedartown is hoping he might be the next choice for the county commission based off his past experience with the board.
McElwee, who left the county’s employ in 2016 to run for the office of Tax Commissioner against Kathy Cole, hopes that with his track record with the county he might be able to help with issues the commission is facing currently and in the years ahead.
Chief among those is the Polk County Landfill, which he said should come back under the county’s control.
“I’m not going to have any bones about it on where I stand, I absolutely think the county needs to take back over control,” said McElwee. “But the big challenge with that is being able to figure out where are we going to get the money to pay for it. Are we going to raise taxes? Because I’ll tell you as a property owner, I don’t want to raise taxes.”
He added the other crisis the county faces is in the future identity of the community, whether Polk County will serve as a bedroom community for Atlanta workers, or “do we want to be a thriving industrial metropolis. We’ve got to make some hard decisions.”
The husband and father and former business owner said he’s ready to join the board if called to serve. Chief among the ideas he had for getting Polk County ahead economically is focusing on tourism opportunities.
“We should get people into Polk County, take their money at local businesses, and send them home as soon as they are done here for the day,” McElwee said.
McElwee served for three years as assistant county manager, in which he said he was able to help in a variety of ways, from the creation of the Polk County Drug Task Force, among others.
He’s a veteran of the U.S. Army with 24 years of experience, including combat in Afghanistan.
Of all the candidates who were presented with questions on the night of Aug. 30, Moody kept his the shortest within the minute time frame he was given for all 8.
A former employee of Bakeart Steel with 31 years on the job and a U.S. Army veteran, Moody said he’s a lifelong resident of Polk County 52 years to “a wonderful lady.”
Moody said he wanted to focus efforts since it remains close to larger metropolitan areas on developing industrial prospects for job growth, but that “we also need to take care of our county employees.”
The challenge the county faces in Moody’s eyes are as others said the landfill, but he said the need for job growth was just as important.
“To me, no one is making the real effort to bring in industries in the community,” he said.
A salesman at Dingler Motor Company, Tanner comes to the board as an applicant without any political experience.
But he believes that is a good position to be in considering recent turmoil with the Board of Commissioners, issues he said he knows nothing about and doesn’t care to think much of if he’s selected to serve Polk County.
“I believe our greatest attributes are what’s here at this meeting, our people,” Tanner said. “The people of Polk County have a growing desire to be more hands on and proactive in the community, and I think that’s not only what’s going to take us to heal our Board of Commissioners, but heal many situations we face in life on a daily basis. Once our people decide to get more hands on, not only here but all over the nation as well.”
Tanner said the challenge he believes the county faces the most in the near future is motivating people to fix local problems.
“The economy struggles, but if you drive by there’s a lot of help wanted signs on a lot of places too,” Tanner said. “So many people say ‘I’m not going to do that work,’ but I’ll take a shovel in a minute if makes this county a better place. I wish we could all have that attitude.”
Tanner, husband to Westside Elementary speech pathologist Dana Tanner and father to three children, said that he’s a lifelong resident of Polk County and has no desire to go anywhere else.
“I look forward to staying here and serving you guys,” he said.
With the resignation of former County Commissioner Jason Ward on July 31, the clock has been ticking for the Polk Coun-ty Commission to determine who will take over the remaining time on the board for District 1.
A 60-day period is given for the commission to choose their next District 1 board member, which comes to a close on Sept. 29. Commissioners can call meetings and vote as many time as necessary during the next weeks to make a choice, and it must be completed by majority. Initially it was a 4-1 vote, but with the resignation last week of Stefanie Drake Burford from the District 3 commission seat, it’s yet to be determined how voting would be completed. Commission Chair Marshelle Thaxton said he was told they would have to vote unanimously as a board to choose the next commissioner, but that hasn’t been confirmed as of press time. If the commission fails to vote and approve a new District 1 board member to join their ranks, the decision will go to the Grand Jury.
According to the rules set forth following the selection of Commissioner Scotty Tillery, the position will be advertised for a month via the Polk County Board of Elections, and then applications for the District 1 seat will then be presented to the Grand Jury for a final decision. The same process will be enacted for the Commission’s District 3 seat previously held by Burford. That ticking clock ends on Oct. 22, when 60 full days will have gone by.