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Morgan to enter BOC chair race

COVINGTON - If she's elected chair of the Board of Commissioners, Kathy Morgan hopes to get the county moving again.

Morgan, who is running as a Democrat, said she's seen a slowdown in the progress and innovative thinking that characterized Newton County in the '90s.

"During the last eight years, we've become passive. By our inaction, we've allowed growth ... to dictate what actions we take. We've become a reactive government instead of a proactive government," she said.

Morgan said her main goal is to create a self-sustaining community, where people can live, work and play.

The first step toward achieving that goal is creating a more balanced tax digest that includes diverse types of housing and commercial development, including retail, industry and small business, she said, adding that it's important to bring in the kind of commercial growth that can provide hundreds of jobs to the community.

Morgan said a "strong, decisive" leader is needed to bring about economic development and balanced growth.

"We can take our county back and become a proactive county again. We're going to have to pinch pennies and find innovative ways to accomplish these things. We need to find a frugal and mindful way to spend our dollars so as to get maximum return," she said.

As for improving the traffic situation, Morgan admitted the county is limited because many of the most troublesome roads belong to the state and the county must work with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

"I wish I could tell you I have an answer for the $800 million worth of road improvements that need to be done, but we can't do it without the state. But there are other things we can do as a community as far as being frugal with our dollars and getting the best return," she said.

Installing right-hand turn lanes at intersections to help with traffic flow, finding ways to connect secondary roads to keep traffic off main roadways and exploring a public transportation system are options, she said.

Another top concern is water resources, and Morgan said she'd like to see the completion of the Bear Creek Reservoir, a project spearheaded by her late husband, Davis Morgan, who served as county commission chairman from 1992 to 2000.

"I'm not running because I was Davis' wife, but that experience did give me an insight and a glimpse of possibility of where we could take Newton County, and that was a phenomenal high," she said of following in her husband's footsteps. "My training on my job and the experiences I've had in my life will allow me to continue that forward vision."

Morgan said she would also like to see more passive and active recreation spots spread throughout the county.

She said she supports allowing alcohol to be sold by the drink in the unincorporated county, but only in commercial areas and under the regulation of a "very strong, tight ordinance."

"I'm not in favor of a beer joint or bar in the middle of nowhere," she said, but added that many restaurants won't consider locating in a community if alcohol sales aren't allowed.

Finally, if elected, Morgan promised to be open to all citizens.

"It doesn't matter to me what walk in life a person is or what stage in life, age or socioeconomic background, if you live in Newton County, I think you deserve my respect and the administration's respect," she said.

Morgan, 53, moved to Newton County in 1968 and attended local public schools and Oxford College.

She owned an asphalt paving company and then worked for Decatur Federal and First Union banks.

Morgan works as a commercial real estate officer for the fourth largest bank in the nation, finding and marketing commercial real estate opportunities and economic development for customers throughout the state.

She serves on the board of directors for The Learning Center and Smart Growth Newton County, is a member of the Newton County Historical Society and attends First United Methodist Church.

Morgan has three daughters, Abigail Morgan Coggin, Melissa Morgan Parker and Savannah Morgan Hembree.

Morgan faces Emmett Denby and Hubert White in the July 15 primary.

Incumbent Aaron Varner, Ed Hutter and Susette Monk are running on the Republican ticket.

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