Saturday, July 12, 2008

Upcoming Elections

In case you've missed the signs, local election season is here, with voting this Tuesday. This year's elections are pivotal for Oconee County. Several key issues are on the table that need to be addressed and handled carefully. These include water resources, land planning, overall growth, economic development, cooperation among governments, and more.

In general, it is my hope that on the county level, more resources and thought will be given to careful land planning and zoning and stronger, more open interaction and cooperation with other government bodies (BOE and cities). With the alcohol vote, Mars Hill widening and the down economy, this will be more important than ever. Given the dependence of our economy on construction, the logical temptation at the county level will be to approve anything that comes through the door, regardless of quality.

I will make one other comment -- several incumbent commissioners have made strong comments about the "sustainable" growth rate in Oconee in an attempt to offset the impression most Oconee residents have of rampant growth. Those commissioners conveniently focus on population growth rather than the votes they made that entitled several thousand more lots in our community than are currently built out. Had the economy not tanked, this "3-5%" growth rate would be much higher -- we would have trailers at our schools and roads that would be much too crowded for our infrastructure. Keep this in mind as you consider their claims.

At any rate, there are several seats that are of critical importance; while I won't offer a full slate of endorsements, I hope you will carefully consider the following positions along with all the others.

Oconee County Board of Commissioners

Post 1: Tough call. Johnny Pritchett is a good man and has been a good mayor in Bishop (he served on the BOC prior to 2004) and will serve the county well if elected. But Jim Luke, as a business owner, is a strong, independent representative for Oconee County and will get my vote.

Post 4: It is truly unfortunate that Mike Maxey chose to run against Chuck Horton. Had Maxey run against any other commissioner, he likely would have earned my vote. Mike is smart, independent, ethical, honest, a business owner and not afraid to think outside the box, and his platform reflects it. Unfortunately, he has chosen to run against Horton, a commissioner who already offers many of these very qualities on the BOC. In fact, Chuck's thoughtful votes on land use and development and his familiarity with other local governments are the true difference in this election between he and Maxey -- both have a record (Maxey from the planning commission, Horton from the BOC) and it is clear which is more in tune with the desire of most Oconee residents to have a managed, balanced approach to growth.

Despite Mike's thoughtful platform (note to other candidates -- you would do well to offer the same degree of thought as Mike does on his website in future elections), his required fealty to the "growth" industry concerns me. Chuck has shown considerable interest in Oconee County's municipalities -- he is the only candidate or BOC member to make a visit in the last 4 years outside the campaign season to a Watkinsville city council meeting. He also served as chair of the Board of Education in the 1990s and did an admirable job. His familiarity with the challenges facing municipal governments and our schools gives him strong insights that are needed on the BOC. It is my hope that Chuck will retain his seat on the BOC.

Post 3: Aside from one vote in favor of a large subdivision alongside the former Green Hills Country Club, Margaret Hale has been a strong supporter of common-sense growth in Oconee and a thoughtful approach to building infrastructure and development. Her opponent, Esther Porter, like Maxey, is beholden to the development industry by virtue of her business and in my interaction with her showed little knowledge of broader county issues.

Oconee County BOE

Post 4:
Chuck Toney is an experienced communicator, which is a critical skill in today's education arena. He is running against a qualified opponent in Mike Hunter. Chuck has been involved with the schools in a number of capacities for years, is the son of a high school principal, and will get my vote.

Post 2: Mack Guest is a client and friend. He is also perhaps one of the most qualified BOE members we have ever had. Mack has run and served on the boards of organizations large and small, and his understanding of what it means to be a board member (how to hire qualified staff, set policy, and let them run things) along with his knowledge of logistics, transportation, and cost savings from running his own transportation and logistics company is a great skill set. A vote for Mack is a no-brainer. This incident reinforces that point.

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