County Commissioners will have a hard choice to make in this evening.

Seven candidates who want to be appointed to the District 1 seat for the rest of the year came before the County Commission during a Candidate Forum on Monday, February 12 to help the rest of the board gain some focus on who their choice should be.

That decision is going to be made on Thursday evening, February 15 at 5 p.m. as Commission Chair Hal Floyd announced during the introductions for the session and how it would go on Monday night. He confirmed that appointment schedule on Wednesday morning, and said the commission will also be hearing about forthcoming grant opportunities during the session.

Each candidate gave the commission good reason to give them the opportunity to be the one to take over the seat through year’s end as they addressed specific questions related to their letters of intent. All seven also responded to general questions over the role of county commissioners and issues facing the county and how they would seek to address them individually.

A number of local officials and residents from all around the county also sat in the audience to watch the Candidate Forum to hear what the potential appointees had to say. Another among the audience on Monday night of note: Clayton Tillery, whose father held the seat before his untimely passing.

Floyd, who serves as the Commission Chair and represents District 3, acted as the moderator for the night and noted that candidates were sat in the order of which they put in their letters of intent and resumes to the county. Hubbard was given the first question, and moved in that order.

Here’s a rundown of how the candidates answered, in alphabetical order on topics that were presented on Monday night. Note these are not meant to be word-for-word transcripts of their responses, but instead a general overview of where they stand. The Facebook livestream above can provide an in-depth stand on positions in response to the questions posed.

Andrew Carter

Andrew Carter

The WGAA station manager and music director at First Baptist of Rockmart, Carter has a unique perspective on the county few have: he’s seen and done much throughout his time going back and forth between both cities. The former Cedartown City Commissioner was asked about a note on his resume that cited his collaborative work with “stakeholders and Commissioners to achieve consensus and make informed decisions for the betterment of the city.” Floyd wanted to hear more details about that work to achieve consensus.

Carter did point toward a specific goal of the City Commission – and boards generally in Polk – to present a united decision-making process on “big issues.”

“In keeping with our own personal convictions to make sure that what we are doing is right,” he added as well.

He hopes if selected to ensure that he can continue to provide the same sort of unanimous consensus if chosen as well.

Carter, who just finished a second term in office on the Cedartown City Commission, noted he understood well the demands of what a County Commissioner faces daily, weekly and monthly. Especially with the demands of hearing from citizens.

His answer when questioned about what to do with the landfill focused on the lack of alternatives for the immediate moment, and the need for further study.

“One thing that we do know that finding other places to send garbage is not easy, because other communities, other cities, or other counties are having the same problem,” he said. “A lot of trash, a lot of sludge, things like that are going to different places and those places are going to close soon too.”

He did feel the county and local governments are going to have to tackle the closure of the Grady Road Landfill and “really sink their teeth” into the problem as the amount of remaining space in the facility shrinks by the day. He did note the need to ensure an equitable agreement with whatever happens in the future of the landfill, but he would need more information before formulating any proposal.

The third question over the structure of law enforcement in the county found Carter admitting “its a tough question” but he voiced his support for public safety, the funding that goes into it and the hopes for increased presence and enforcement overall.

He said his priorities for the job if selected with the fourth question was to work on the county’s intergovernmental relationships.

“Sometimes when you sit on a commission, you can get into a bubble,” he said. “I’m guilty of this as much as anybody… you need to know what is going on with other governmental entities and work together to make something happen.”

He noted a need to work on relationships with business leaders and “those on the front lines of what’s happening in the county,” and overall better communication with citizens about what is happening.

“The county is doing a much better job of getting the word out, but I think we can improve upon it,” he said.

Deborah Connelly

Deborah Connelly

Deborah Connelly – a local produce grower and tax preparation business owner – got her first question over a portion of her letter that stated she wanted to hold the county fiscally responsible for how tax dollars are being spent, and how she would bring about “accountability and legitimate oversight to the county?” per Floyd’s specific query.

Her response was all about the numbers.

“Well the first thing I will do is I will get my… I’m a numbers person. So, I love to look at numbers and analyze numbers. So I’ll look at the numbers… and some of the comments I get from the citizens in the county led me to that… comment, or that statement that I made… and just make sure that everything is being (fiscally) responsible. Because to me, that’s how things run. With numbers, and budgets and so forth. That’s my expertise and always has been. I worked at Fannie Mae in Washington, D.C. for about 20 years.”

She further expounded upon that by noting that she was involved with Fannie Mae in managing debt instruments and finding “creative ideas” on financing, and she hopes to bring that kind of financial expertise to the table if selected as a commissioner.

When addressing her role as a commissioner, she stuck to her want for data and specifically said she has the time, even with her own business.

“I would make myself available… and I would do that on a daily, monthly or whatever basis I need to do it,” she said.

Her response about what to do with the landfill focused on her past experience in Cobb County.

“We never built a hill as high as we have here in Polk County, but we did bury a lot of stuff,” she said. “And they jut burned it. The issue… They just started to burn it. So what comes to my mind is that I’d go around to other counties and research and see what the alternatives are, because something needs to be done. And I’d start from there.”

When asked about her opinion on the structure of law enforcement in the third question, she made it clear that she was in full support of those on the beat and and wanted to see the county hire more officers.

Connelly got the chance to voice some items she would like to accomplish as a Commissioner. First, she wants to get the county a program going to provide low income citizens help in preparing their taxes.

“We used to have one, the AARP program… We could get volunteers to help us. I’d like to get some kind of structure up to implement that program back into Polk County,” she said.

She also wanted to ensure that programs in need of assistance, analysis on the numbers to ensure it is working properly. She didn’t have a third item to share just yet, but did later in another answer.

Janet Jolly Edwards

Janet Jolly Edwards

Edwards, who comes before the board as a candidate with long experience as an educator and still works with children, had her first question posed specifically about her experience with policy-making.

Floyd asked that “In your letter of interest, you say that ‘you would be a policy maker.’ How would you describe your policy-making skills or abilities?”

She relied on her long experience in special education in the classroom in the Polk School District, and thus her time spent involved in regulation and requirements during those years evolving to better help students during those past decades.

“When it comes to policy, I would again always be reaching out to see what are our state rules and regs, and then bring those down to a local level,” Edwards said. “And also always involving the citizens in the decisions being made, as well as the employees.”

She saw her role as a County Commissioner the same no matter if it is daily, weekly or monthly.

“I’ll need to know all the codes, all the ordinances and all the intergovernmental agencies. All the decisions that have been made, and the inner workings of employees and services that are provided,” she said. “And I’ll study those – daily weekly or monthly, that will be most important, and communicating with each of you always thinking of the future and what we need to be addressing in the future not just focusing on right now. And always trying to communicate with the citizens and seeing what they need, and again always supporting employees. And making sure that we’re also supporting our volunteer organizations that help (like) Keep Polk Beautiful, we have Pinhoti Trail maintainers, and Silver Comet volunteers and I think those need to be supported as well. And they need that validation from the County Commissioners, as well as the employees. They need that validation and to be supported.”

Edwards was the first to get the question about the Grady Road Landfill, and what she believed the plan should be going forward.

She said in conversations with citizens it always comes up, but without “all the knowledge and information regarding the landfill and the leases, its very difficult to answer that question exactly. I think there’s a lot of backstory I don’t know” and without it, she didn’t want to put forth anything immediately.

“All I will say is trash has to go somewhere, and I understand that it is a very trying topic for the citizens,” she said. “When it does close, it is going to be a major decision for Polk County.”

When addressing her thoughts about the structure of law enforcement in the county, she believes in supporting law enforcement and like the rest of the candidates recognized the vital role they play in community safety.

“Anything can need improvement, but I believe the structure in place right now with the county police force, and the sheriff’s office and the city, I think the structure setup is doing OK as it is. I think most importantly is we have support these individuals, they have a very tough job.”

When asked about her wish list of items to achieve, Edwards said that she doesn’t think in terms of what she wants to accomplish. She wants input from the citizens on their needs.

“It’s not about me, it’s about Polk County,” she said. “I would be working with a team of other people.”

She did note from her own experience is fishing the process of the land conservancy around the Potts Hollow Trailhead, and pushing out more information about recreation opportunities within the county. She also has goals to work on trash and litter campaigns, and get the support employees need who “have to manage those roads.” She also wants to get a greater amount of support for volunteer organizations.

Jordan Hubbard

Jordan Hubbard

Jordan Hubbard – former City Commissioner and local entrepreneur and dual-enrollment educator – got to go first in the Monday night forum with a specific question about the following from his letter of intent: “We must approach all issues with as many perspectives as possible.” With many perspectives on an issue, how would you help the board decide on the best perspective and how would you help the board unify behind the best perspective or position on an issue facing the board?

“Understanding people’s understanding of an issue its important that we get multiple sides. Same thing in government. We need to make sure that we’re not just seeing the same opinions, that we are talking to other folks from young to old to make sure that we are getting a better perspective.”

He bases that idea off of wanting to ensure that youth has an opportunity here in Polk County to achieve from their education upward to when they enter the workforce and beyond. Thus he looks at it from a lens of “focusing on the future” when making decisions that have long-lasting impacts.

“I want them to live here, I want them to be a part of the community,” he said. “But one thing I do hear is that sometimes they feel like they are being left out of that conversation.”

As part of the group of questions, Hubbard told Commissioners that he has a deep understanding of the time commitments that an elected official has to manage, and expects to get to work on day one.

Hubbard told Commissioners that when addressing the issue of the landfill, “we need to look at the numbers and what is in place and figure out what to do with this over the next 10 to 12 years.”

He did point out the issue isn’t “so much the landfill, it’s who uses the landfill.”

“It’s not all Polk County folks. You can sit there at the Comet trail and watch truck, after truck, after truck and not know what trash is coming in. So looking at the future, again we need a plan in place. 10 to 12 years isn’t that long.”

He believes for the need to get a plan into place after careful study of what others have done, and get it going as soon as possible. He did also note that despite being a “capitalist at heart” and wanting controlled growth, a new landfill should be decided upon by the people and how it should operate.

“I think what we’ve seen with this landfill is an example of why the county should control what is going into the landfill,” he said.

Hubbard voiced his support for Public Safety in his third answer of the evening, and kept it simple: the PCPD needs to be funded.

“If you have a Police Department, you should fund it,” he said. Even though the county does a great job of providing training, it needs to work on retaining those officers once they have gained experience on the job.

Hubbard noted that one of his first priorities in the job will be to ensure the county is telling its story, but also to ensure that local residents are staying informed about projects and goals and seeing those come to fruition throughout the year.

He also saw planning and implementation of said goals as the second priority, and support of employees as the third major goal if he’s selected to serve.

“Polk County people working for Polk County government is the way it should be,” he said. The only way to get that is to ensure employees have everything they need to do the job.

Jose Iglesias

Jose Iglesias

The former District 1 Commissioner

Iglesias’ letter noted that he had been “part of intergovernmental relationships” and Floyd wanted to know based on that how he would continue to improve those relationships. A past County Commissioner appointed to District 1, Iglesias did take a moment to note that in his letter he mistakenly wrote his wife’s name incorrectly and apologized profusely for the error.

Then he got down to business.

“I believe we can reinforce the existing relationships whether it be with the cities, whether it be our state representatives, whether it be with people we don’t like like Waste Industries. We need to reinforce our relationships with entities like Polk County Water. They just finished a new facility, I toured it. I spoke with Ryan Prince. It’s excellent we can see where our money is going for our water fees. Creating those intergovernmental relationships is key to being successful and putting our county on the map. We are a unified front to our making our county better for the future.”

He responded that he had no issue with the time commitments required and was already familiar with the day-to-day experience based on his past time in the District 1 seat.

Iglesias noted when asked about his thoughts on what to do about the landfill his past time on the board and that “when I was commissioner, I made sure that we took the landfill to court. Waste Industries – we took them to court, and we won. The previous Board of Commissioners, we were unified and I believe this board is unified as well.”

He pointed out that when he served previous at the age of 45 and some 27 years remained on the life of the landfill in space and even up to now, many who are serving won’t be around when it was scheduled to be covered up for good. If the decision is made that far in the future, he said he would be 78 years old. He also noted issues with the previous landfill across from Grady Road and continued maintenance, and the future maintenance needed once the facility closes.

As far as what to do next, he did say that there are options before his time was up.

“The next landfill, we could build it maybe halfway between Polk County and Floyd County, or let’s put it into Rockmart,” he said. “How about Rockmart?”

Iglesias noted the “question was phrased very differently from how it was asked several years ago” when he was under consideration for the job of County Commissioner.

He noted the difference between how deputies and jailers are handled in their role at the Sheriffs Office versus that at the Police Department, where the former are under direct control of the Sheriff and the latter falls under the guidance of the County, and thus the direct control of the County Commission.

He claimed during his statement the county couldn’t actually take any direct action on either department, and it “would be a minefield to get into that.”

Iglesias when asked about his top priorities noted that he has a wish list, but that the problems the county faces surrounding the mental health of the community is one of his top priorities. He also wanted to work further on broadband access issues and cybersecurity for the county government.

“Our county is not exempt from a hack or a breach,” he said. “We’re not. When I was chairman of the ordinance committee and the technology committee, we made sure we were protected and the IT director had everything we needed to do that.”

Derinda Stephens

Derinda Stephens

Derinda Stephen’s opening question focused on her long experience in the real estate market and on her service on the Board of Tax Assessors. Floyd’s question to Stephens based on her letter of intent was the first to address a specific issue facing the county in the years to come: “As a board member, how would you propose managing the growth that is coming to Polk County, and protecting the agricultural and rural feel of our community?”

“I feel like we need to have a plan,” Stephens began. “We need to be proactive and the growth that is coming here. I don’t know about elaborating on the agricultural part, but as far as the growth coming to Polk County, I did read there is a 4% prediction in 2027. We’ll have 4% growth, and I do believe it is going to be a lot more than that.”

She went into depth on that real estate experience, noting that over the past two years as a broker and head of Integrity Realty that she has done more commercial real estate business than residential. She notes the need is there for that kind of growth: offices, industrial, and residential housing.

“I do believe we need to come up with a plan,” she said. “I alone can’t do that, but I’m glad to be an asset to a team to prepare for growth that is coming here.”

She told the Commissioners when asked about time commitments that she wants to get out into the community and meet people whom she is not already familiar after a lifetime spent in Polk. Stephens added she had no issues with the other time commitments involved and wants to be a resource to be called upon for the betterment of Polk.

When she was asked about the landfill, Stephens began simply that “if I were to make a decision on that, my hope would be that we could truck it to another county.”

She also pointed toward the need for studies on what to do with trash, with the hopes that the resolution is best for all involved.

Stephens noted in her response toward the structure of local law enforcement that she believes there’s “too much animosity between the Sheriff’s department and the Polk County Police Department.”

“I think we should take a poll from Polk County citizens to see how they view these two departments and come up with an action plan for resolution for both departments,” Stephens said.

When asked about her top three priorities, her first was simple: get more involved with the Development Authority of Polk County in an effort to manage growth coming to the county. She also talked about the litter on the side of the roads and wants to be proactive about a project to tackle the issue.

Stephens finally mentioned a need for increased voter participation in Polk County and wants to tackle the issue head-on.

James Vines

James Vines

During his first specific question, Vines was asked by Floyd to expound upon how the former County Commission candidate has “Worked to provide opportunities for prosperity and growth for the Polk County community” based on the letter he provided to the county.

Vines told the Commissioners how he and his wife contribute back utilizing local contractors and business opportunities through their rental property business, donations they’ve given to local charities.

“I feel if I were to be selected to fill the position, I could bring this experience to the board, and help to work to make the broader opportunity base for the county,” Vines said. “To improve the lives of citizens, to make more job opportunities, and provide information and insight to the people in the county government and on the Board of Commissioners.”

Vines said he plans to “follow in the footsteps of Mr. Tillery” when he was asked about the time commitments Commissioners face, and said he planned if selected to serve on committees and boards and engage.

“I remember you quoted that you (Floyd) were a big picture individual, and that Mr. Tillery would like to get into the weeds,” he said. “Well I to get down there and get my hands dirty too.”

When asked about the landfill, Vines said he was aware from his past time spent at meetings about the previous issues with the landfill and the legal requirements they have for GFL to operate the Grady Road Landfill. He also noted a previous request to seek to stop vertical expansion of the landfill, and utilize a dirt and rock storage area, but the outcry of citizens called it into question and it wasn’t approved.

He also noted Haralson County’s attempt to open a landfill was met with objections from residents.

“I don’t know exactly where it would stand as far as expansion now, but they are correct in that we are going to have to plan for the future,” Vines said.

Vines voiced his full support for local law enforcement and its structure and wished to see more public safety investments being made in the community.

He also during the next question about his three top priorities was to simply state his goal would be to “continue the work that Mr. Tillery started, and see that the vision he had for the county is fulfilled.” He also wanted to look into additional transparency and work with the commissioner to look into the budget and implement plans and projects underway.

Check back for additional coverage from the County Commission’s decision on Thursday night, February 15.

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