COVINGTON - Democratic candidate Emmett Denby is promising to offer "a change for the better" if he's elected chairman of the Board of Commissioners.
Denby picked the phrase as his campaign slogan because he said he's troubled by what he's seen of the current administration.
"I believe the citizens of Newton County want a leader who is open and honest and accountable. Public servants should treat their office as a public trust and use their power and resources for improvement of the general public good and not to obtain personal benefit," Denby said. "There's a real problem with accountability in this county. The people of Newton County are smart and know the commissioners are lying to them.
"If you've ever been to a commission meeting, the public feels betrayed because they're not listened to and heard. They didn't come there to be disrespected and see this kind of arrogance. The commissioners have been in office for so long that they run the county like they own it and they don't have to listen to the citizens, and I think people are finally ready to change that."
Denby owns property that will be condemned if the Bear Creek Reservoir is built, and has been an outspoken opponent of the project. When asked if he planned to try and kill the project if elected, Denby said he'd have no vote in the matter as chairman.
"I would defer to the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA - they are the professionals," he said.
Denby said the county is "seriously overbuilt with subdivisions," an example of poor leadership by commissioners.
"When you find yourself in the hole, the least you can do is stop digging," he said. "Commissioners give permits to subdivisions to improve the tax base, but when these homes are foreclosed on, they damage the tax base. They say they'll control the growth, then they give permits to huge subdivisions."
Entry level neighborhoods are now becoming rental properties, which leads to an increase in crime and a decrease in quality of life, he said.
"We don't need builders and developers on the county commission. There's two running for chair. They created this problem and now they want to be chair of the county commission," Denby said, referring to Democratic candidate Hubert White and Republican candidate Ed Hutter.
Denby said that while the county may not have money to pave every county road, he believes there is money to improve intersections.
"I would make every effort to improve the intersections around the county," he said.
Denby also promised to keep an open government, with all meetings and records accessible.
"There are too many secrets. If a land deal, a reservoir deal, a paving deal, has to be kept secret, there has to be something wrong going on with that deal," Denby said, adding that he would make all meetings and records open to the public. "The public has a right to know exactly what their taxes are and how they are being spent."
Denby was born in Tifton and moved around during childhood due to his father's military career. After high school, he joined the Marine Corps and served two tours in Vietnam. He retired as a First Sergeant from the Marines after 20 years of service, and went on to attend Darton College and Georgia Southwestern State University, where he earned degrees in education. He also has a graduate degree in counseling and communications from Georgia State University. After college, he taught school for 12 years and is currently retired.
Denby has lived in Newton County for 25 years.
He is a past volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and has worked with troubled youth in the Volunteers in Probation program.
He and his wife Rhonda have two children, Naomi, 13, and Chance, 10.
Denby previously ran for chairman in 2004.
He faces Hubert White and Kathryn Morgan in the July 15 Democratic primary.
Varner, Ed Hutter and Susette Monk are running on the Republican ticket.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.