COVINGTON - Tim Fleming, Republican candidate for the District 5 county commission seat, said he's running on three issues: Attracting economic/commercial development, meeting transportation needs and planning for the future.
Fleming said more needs to be done to attract quality commercial growth to relieve the burden on taxpayers and bring good jobs to the community.
Practicing fiscal responsibility and making sure the county continues to operate on a balanced budget is also a top priority, along with protecting water resources, he said.
Fleming said he sees the current economic crisis and slowed growth as an opportunity to take a step back and catch up on infrastructure improvements, which he said haven't kept up with the pace of growth.
"There are better days on the horizon. That shows true leadership, when you get through those tough times," he said.
What more can be done locally to solve the county's transportation problems?
With the federal and state budget crunch, the county will have to get more creative in getting transportation projects done, Fleming said.
"Instead of focusing on 15 or 16 projects at a time, we should narrow it down to two or three, get those done, and then move on," he said.
Continuing to foster a relationship with the Georgia Department of Transportation is also important, he said. Making an effort to find local funding and get started on projects can help with that, he said, noting that in the past, the DOT has come through with money after the county has taken steps to get projects off the ground.
"If we go up there with our hand out like every other county in the state of Georgia and say, 'Give me, give me, give me,' they're not so inclined to do that," said Fleming, who has experience working with the DOT to get local projects done through his work for various legislators.
With the expected budget crunch next year, how will the county continue to provide a high level of service to citizens?
"In my opinion the number one job of the Board of Commissioners is the budget, and making sure it's balanced," Fleming said.
Tough decisions will have to be made as the next budget cycle approaches, cuts may be necessary in some departments and some projects may need to be delayed, he said.
Fleming said he would not support any cuts in public safety and also does not favor raising property taxes.
"We need to be fiscally conservative with taxpayers' money. Taxpayers are getting hit enough now. We can't ask them for more money," he said.
Should commissioners get involved with promoting economic development? If so, what more can be done?
"The Board of Commissioners should do everything in its power to attract good economic development," Fleming said, adding that emphasis should be placed on quality endeavors that will provide good jobs. Commissioners must continue to assist the Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Department of Economic Development, as well as work with local municipalities to find creative ways to improve economic development, he said.
Some residents complain that residential development in recent years has been out of control. Is there anything more that should be done to regulate or slow development?
"We must plan for the future to help determine how we want to grow," Fleming said. More planning, adherence to the Future Land Use Map and continuing to strengthen development codes and ordinances is the key, he said.
Do you support the proposed hotel/civic center project?
"I do support the concept, but I am concerned about the timing, with the tough economic times we're in," Fleming said. The county has been generous with funds allocated for the project, Fleming said, adding that he would not want to see taxpayers bearing any additional financial burden, and he hopes the project will be self-sufficient.
"We may need to sit down and reevaluate with the city (of Covington) and the Chamber and have a gut check," he said. "I'm not saying don't do it, but it's the timing."
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: The Fleming File
Occupation: Government and regulatory affairs director for Klip Communications
Education: Graduate of George Walton Academy; bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Georgia; graduate of Georgia Academy of Economic Development
Community/political experience: Volunteer work for March of Dimes, the Red Cross and Life Skills Inc., an organization that helps special needs adults; worked for Congressman Mac Collins, Sen. Brian Kemp, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and former State Rep. Barbara Bunn
Family: Wife, Lacey
Web site: www.votetimfleming.com