Hill, Jenkins spar in Rockdale candidate forum

CONYERS -- Though it's early for fireworks for the 2012 political season, Brian Jenkins, Democratic candidate for Rockdale County chairman, lit the first match during last week's candidate forum by calling out Republican Jason Hill.

Jenkins was admonished by moderator Ed Tracey during the forum at the South Rockdale Civic Association for not following rules agreed to by the participating candidates. In his first comments, Jenkins questioned Hill's voting record when he held the Post 1 seat on the county Board of Commissioners. Jenkins said Hill voted to raise taxes in his last year in office in 2008.

"Jason said 'I have a record.' Well Jason, you're absolutely right, you do have a record. Before you left office you voted to raise taxes by $2 million. I mean, that's a fact," Jenkins said.

Tracey interrupted Jenkins. "These rules were set up because we negotiated them with you," he said. Tracey explained the event was a forum and not a debate. Jenkins' statement required a direct response from another candidate and that was not allowed.

Hill responded a few minutes later during his turn to speak.

"For the record, when I left office and the four years I was in office every one of you one had the same exact number on your home property tax bill and that was zero," Hill said. "We talk about tax burden in managing that. Because of the HOST tax, no one paid maintenance and operation tax to Rockdale County if you owned a home in Rockdale County."

The forum held on Oct. 18 included Republicans Hill and Ed Conway, candidates for county chairman, and Tom Harrison, candidate for the Post 1 BOC seat. Democrats participating were incumbent Post 1 Commissioner Oz Nesbitt and Jenkins, candidate for chairman.

The candidates each responded to topics they agreed to and those from the SRCA. Each also told the audience what their leadership style would be if elected in 2012:

Conway: "My management style throughout my career has been to bring people together and take diverse opinions and listen to both sides. As your county commission chairman I'll be a listener more than a talker, and you won't get somebody besides me if you want to talk to me. Within 24 hours, if it's humanly possible, I'll be back in touch with you."

Jenkins: "My style is simple. My mother told me 'I have no interest in hearing about a complaint. Just get it done. Period. It isn't about excuses, it's about getting it done.' I'm not running for CEO. The taxpayers of Rockdale County are the CEOs. I'm running for chairman. If my department heads can't get it done, then we will have to put someone in there who can because you pay for that. That's what you pay for."

Hill: "This is an election about somebody who can transcend the differences that we have in this community whether you've young or old or whether you've been here a year or been here for 40 years. There are more things that we want that are alike than there are we like and are different at the end of the day. Everybody wants a great community to live in and what that is going to take is leadership that can surround themselves with people that are not going to let partisan politics play in how we manage our government."

Nesbitt: "It's going to take the right kind of leadership that understands the spirit of welcome and having that and displaying that spirit of welcome to every resident who lives and resides in Rockdale County. It's also about understanding and embracing the changes that this is going through and has gone through over the past four years. Whether we want to accept it or not, it is a new Rockdale County. It is not the same place you remember from 10 years ago, 20 years ago, and some of that may be bittersweet depending on how you look at it. It is about leadership and having the right leadership in place to bring people collectively together...."

Harrison: "One thing we've had too much of and one thing we've not had enough of in the last three years (is) that we've had too much politics and have not had enough community. There is a way to get both of those corrected, and I think with the proper direction and proper guidance and proper leadership that can be obtained."