COVINGTON - Republican Keith Mitcham is running for the District 3 county commission seat on a platform of quality growth.
"District 3 is at a pivotal point. We need to keep our greenspace and keep quality subdivisions coming in," Mitcham said, adding that he believes county commissioners have already laid the groundwork to encourage good growth and regulate development, and the task is now to enforce the regulations already in place.
A sixth generation farmer, Mitcham said he wants to protect the county's "hometown atmosphere" and make sure Newton doesn't turn into an extension of Rockdale County.
Do you support the proposed hotel/civic center project as it currently stands? Do you think any part of the project should be revisited and, if so, what?
Mitcham said he supports the project, but added, "My biggest concern is the timing of it," referring to the economic downturn. Mitcham said he believes the project should be evaluated to make sure the current site will provide adequate parking. He said his hope would be that the civic center would be as self-sufficient as possible and not require an additional contribution from county coffers.
With state funding drastically cut or altogether eliminated for many road projects, can anything more be done on the local level to address transportation issues?
Mitcham said local money should go toward county projects rather than spending it on state roads. He said local officials must work with the Georgia Department of Transportation to keep Newton projects at the top of their list.
"No elected official or candidate has the golden key to the answer, but we need to maintain open-mindedness to seek alternative solutions," he said.
With less revenues coming in and operating expenses increasing, how can the county continue to provide the same level of service to citizens?
Mitcham said the county must find ways to run all departments more efficiently, relying on department heads to come up with creative ways to do that. Mitcham said he doesn't believe a millage rate increase is necessary to maintain service levels and keep the county running on a balanced budget. Delaying some projects, such as recreation projects, may be necessary, however, he said.
What can be done to improve public safety and reduce crime in the district?
"I do feel the concerns of the constituents of District 3. Like many of them, I have been the victim of a home burglary and I feel the need for some change in the sheriff's office," Mitcham said.
Mitcham said he supports the concept of opening a precinct in the district, but added that due to the expected budget crunch, that may have to wait a while.
Commissioners can indirectly improve public safety by focusing on attracting quality growth and good jobs that will, in turn, have a "trickle effect," resulting in less crime, he said.
District 3 has bore the brunt of what some consider to be out-of-control development in recent years. What, if anything, can the county do to regulate development and ensure quality growth?
Mitcham said the "out-of-control" growth mostly occurred in the '90s before current development standards were in place. Now, the county is on the right track, and it's up to commissioners to uphold the development ordinances already on the books, he said.
Mitcham said he supports the 1,800-square-foot minimum house size established by commissioners and also supports impact fees to take the burden of paying for growth off taxpayers.
He also wants to encourage preservation of greenspace in subdivisions and other developments.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.