COVINGTON - Mark Patrick, Democratic candidate for the District 1 county commission seat, said he just wants a chance to make a difference in county government.
An engineer by trade, Patrick said he has the education and background, along with personal experience dealing with government departments on a regular basis, to qualify him for the job.
"I believe I have a lot to offer with my education and background and personal abilities. I can make a little bit of a difference," he said. "I have the experience of dealing with government on a day-to-day basis, and I think I can make some things more palatable."
Patrick grew up in Henry County and moved to Newton County in 1985. He has a degree in civil engineering from Georgia Tech and owns Covington-based M.D. Patrick Engineering.
If elected, Patrick said he would like to encourage the board to revisit the minimum house size of 1,800 square feet set by commissioners several years ago.
The result has been more people buying larger houses that they can't afford, he said, adding that there should be a variety of housing size options. Larger homes are also less energy efficient, he said.
"I think we got a little carried away with 1,800 square feet. Although the objective was maybe good, I don't think the end result was too good," he said.
Below, Patrick weighs in on several other pressing local issues.
District 1 still has a lot of undeveloped land. Is preserving greenspace important to you? If so, how can that be done? Do you support transfer of development rights?
Patrick said preservation of greenspace is important and one way to accomplish that is by concentrating development in established development nodes. TDRs, which allow development rights from one parcel of land to be sold for use on another parcel, "has its place," Patrick said. But he added that he doesn't believe the government should determine the worth of the property.
What can government do to promote economic development?
"Government has every ability to entice industrial development," through tax benefits and credits, Patrick said, although he said government should not be involved in land development.
Impact fees may be the deciding factor for some industries and commercial developers on whether to locate in Newton, and Patrick said he believes the board should revisit that topic.
Do you believe Bear Creek Reservoir is the best option for meeting the future water needs of the residents of Newton County?
"Right now you can't go get gas ... now think about how bad that would be if you couldn't get water," Patrick said. The government simply can't risk not building the reservoir, he said.
"The reservoir is a necessity, not a luxury," he said.
Is there anything more the local government can do to address transportation problems?
Patrick said the county can do minor improvements to intersections and smaller projects on local roads and must "look for opportunities to keep good communication lines open with the Department of Transportation."
As an engineer, Patrick said he could use his skills to help the county identify roads that need improvements and to find possible solutions.
With less revenue coming in, how can the county continue to provide the same level of services to residents?
"I run my own business with as small a workforce as possible," Patrick said, adding that downsizing of the county workforce may be necessary.
Patrick said he would not support a tax increase.
"I think taxes are plenty high enough. My tax bill's pretty significant. I think we should try to make the government more efficient," he said.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: Mark Patrick
· Age: 48
· Party: Democrat
· Occupation: Engineer; owns a local business, M.D. Patrick Engineering
· Education: Degree in civil engineering from Georgia Tech; master's work in engineering
· Political and Community Experience: Served on the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority for 10 years; chairman of that board for five years; past member of Covington Rotary; ran for District 1 seat 12 years ago
· Family: Wife Martha; six children
· E-mail: email@example.com