COVINGTON - Nancy Schulz, the Democratic candidate for the District 3 county commission seat, has focused her campaign on balanced economic growth, safer neighborhoods, adherence to the comprehensive plan and water resource management.
"We have all the right ingredients to become the jewel of Georgia. But just like any great meal, you can have great ingredients, and if you don't have the cooks to prepare it, it doesn't work," Schulz said of the need for good leadership.
As a business owner in the third district, Schulz said she is familiar with the balancing act of providing services and products with reduced revenues, a situation the local government will be facing with the economic downturn.
A nurse practitioner for the Newton County Health Department, Schulz said her experience working with a wide cross-section of people from diverse backgrounds has helped her understand the needs of residents, and she believes she is equipped to make good business decisions on how to meet those needs.
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?
"We're at a point in our history where we have to look very carefully at how to prepare for our future. We have to leave a legacy for our children and make certain the development and businesses we attract here fuel economic development," Schulz said, adding that she believes the civic center project will do that.
However, Schulz said the county must be vigilant about the cost of the project and use as many private dollars as possible.
She does not support moving the location of the civic center, saying it's critical that the facility be located in the downtown. "We have to look at where we're going as a society in terms of gas prices and consolidating services. ... We need to reduce our footprint. There's a critical mass that already uses downtown, and if we put it away from downtown, we'll be spreading ourselves too thin."
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?
Schulz proposes building better alliances with the Georgia Department of Transportation to get more state money.
There are state grants available to help fund a local bus or other public transportation system, she said.
"We've got to get over the mindset here that mass transit means MARTA," she said. Schulz favors looking at something similar to train systems in place in North Carolina and California, which only run during peak traffic hours. Such a system would mostly serve people needing a way to and from work and might be a deterrent for undesirables coming into the community, she said.
Schulz also supports installing more bike lanes and following ideas laid out in the comprehensive plan about ways to connect areas with different densities.
With less revenues coming in and operating expenses increasing, how can the county continue to provide the same level of service to citizens?
Commissioners must first decide what services are essential and then ask, "Can we do it a better way for less money?" Schulz said.
According to Schulz, the top concern of people in the district is safety, and that's one service area that can't be cut.
What can be done to improve public safety and reduce crime in the district?
Empty subdivisions in the western end of the county are a breeding ground for crime; following the comprehensive plan and developing only where specified would address that problem, Schulz said.
She also supports putting more law enforcement on the streets, routinely making rounds throughout the district. Schulz said she's not in favor of building a precinct.
"We don't need a building for people to sit there. They need to be out on the street," she said.
Schulz also wants to see more parks and recreation spots available to provide activities for children in the district, which she said would serve the dual purpose of crime prevention and preservation of greenspace.
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?
When Schulz's husband, Dick, served as chairman of the Planning Commission, she said she watched the commission routinely recommend denial of rezoning petitions only to have the Board of Commissioners approve them. The explanation, she said, was, "We will get sued," if the petitions are denied.
"If we're going to have a Planning and Zoning department and a Planning and Zoning Commission charged with the task of making recommendations, in my opinion it's important to at least acknowledge those recommendations have merit. We have a comprehensive plan, and we have to have courage to follow that plan," she said.
Schulz acknowledged that while every plan needs tweaking, once amendments have been studied and approved, it's time to stop making changes and implement the plan.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.