Leader of Ministers Union runs for BOC

COVINGTON - Willie J. Smith has a lot of practice bringing people together, and he believes those experiences, gleaned from his 22 years as president of the Newton County Ministers Union, will benefit the county if he's elected District 1 commissioner.

"I feel my greatest gift is finding common ground that men and women can work on," said Smith, who's running as a Democrat.

Smith said he was encouraged to run for county commission by many people in the community.

"There needs to be some changes, and I'm a man about change. I'm not just about serving a few, but serving the whole district," he said.

Smith said he believes the increase in minimum square footage of homes to 1,800 square feet needs to be revisited by the board.

"It's hard for startup couples to build if we're talking about 1,800 square feet versus 1,500 square feet," he said, adding that the higher square footage requirement may be pushing people to buy homes outside the county but commute here for work.

While Smith said he supports the Bear Creek Reservoir project, "We need to take a closer look at how much we've spent and how much it's going to take to finish it," before moving forward, he said.

Smith said he supports providing additional homestead exemptions for seniors. He also said he would like to see a community center/library in the western part of the county, adding that the county's plans for a branch library in the Oak Hill area would meet that goal, and he wants to make sure that project becomes a reality.

A Newton native, Smith attended R.L. Cousins High School and worked for C&D Technology for 37 years.

During his tenure as president of the Ministers Union, the organization has headed up Habitat for Humanity, the Community Food Pantry, the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund, the Fowler Street Winterization Project and various other projects.

Smith also serves on the advisory board for the Newton County Detention Center and for Rainbow Covenant Ministries. He is the pastor of Word of Praise Baptist Church in McDonough.

Smith and his wife Gwen have been married for 39 years and have three children, Connie, Jeffery and Dion.

Smith faces Mark Patrick in the Democratic Primary.

Incumbent Mort Ewing and Ann Wilson are running on the Republican ticket.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.