The Citizen recently asked Democratic candidates for chairman of the Rockdale Board of Commissioners two questions in advance of the July 31 Democratic Primary Election. Following are the questions and the candidates' responses.-- Incumbent Chairman Richard Oden, 61, is seeking reelection to a second term. In addition to serving as commission chairman, Oden is president/CEO at Alexander At'Ta Associates Inc., a human resource skills development firm.

Oden is a graduate of Kent State University in Ohio where he earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial relations.

He and his wife Josett have five children and six grandchildren.

Citizen: What is the biggest challenge facing Rockdale County and what would be your first step toward addressing that challenge?

Oden: "There are multiple challenges facing the county and our residents, with the biggest being our 10.5 percent unemployment rate. Although we are a workforce-ready community, 10.5 percent or more of our workforce is not ready for current or emerging employment opportunities. This segment of our population may lack the necessary education, skills and talent to align well with current and emerging jobs.

"I have already begun the first step in addressing our undesirable unemployment rate by collaborating with Georgia Piedmont Technical College (GPTC) and other partners to ensure our citizens have access to the best workforce-centered curriculum, training programs and helpful resources.

"Recently, GPTC and my administration announced a "Call to Action" for Rockdale's displaced, underemployed and unemployed residents to take a closer look at their situation and conduct a personal assessment of their current skills. Are their skills relevant? Are they prepared to meet the current and future emerging job market needs? GPTC, other partners and my administration as a team have already implemented a practical plan that strongly encourages county residents to prepare for emerging opportunities by redirecting their careers, improving their job skills through continued adult education and enrolling in a technical program that fits their individual needs. This bold, real-time approach will jumpstart our workforce by preparing people for when jobs such as in the HVAC, electrical, plumbing and welding fields come into clear focus on our horizon. Then, there will be opportunities in life science, bio-medical, bio-science, bio-technology and other cutting-edge industries. Plus, let us remember Baxter is coming to our region. Are we ready?

Citizen: Other than increasing taxes, what would you do to generate more county revenues?

"I will keep building upon what I and my administration have already begun. For instance, we will continue to create an economic prosperity environment by marketing to companies the county's 1,600 acres of Tier 1 Opportunity Zone (OZ) land in Rockdale Industrial and Sigman and Lester road corridors. In turn, this new economic infusion will result in revenue generation for the county. This OZ offers any business that employs and retains a minimum of two employees a tax incentive of $3,500 per employee, per year. Commercial, retail and tourism commerce can help increase county revenue.

"Furthermore, my administration will continue to ensure our code enforcement is fair to all citizens. We also are becoming more business friendly with our ordinances, while at the same time keeping our business and neighborhood aesthetic inviting and attractive.

"Also, I will continue our road maintenance program to provide a pleasing visual image along our streets, retain existing enterprises, while conducting outreach to recruit new companies. I will continue improving our parks and recreation system to enhance the quality of life for all our citizens. Of course, a place that is easy for families to relax and enjoy is one of the top factors many companies consider when looking for somewhere to build or re-locate.

"All of these strategic activities I firmly believe will make us an even more attractive place for businesses, people and cultural and tourist attractions to consider when looking to make a permanent investment in a community."

• Brian Jenkins is challenging Oden for the Board of Commissioners chairman seat. Jenkins, 52, is from New Haven, Ct., and is married to Dr. Patricia Jenkins. They have three daughters and three grandchildren. He has lived in Rockdale County eight years.

Jenkins attended Gateway Community College and is a business owner. He previously served as an alderman for the city of New Haven and held various leadership positions with the Democratic Party in New Haven.

Citizen: What is the biggest challenge facing Rockdale County and what would be your first step toward addressing that challenge?

Jenkins: "I wish to first thank the Rockdale Citizen newspaper for asking the questions. Although I can appreciate question one in its fullness, I'd be remiss if I did not make mention of many other challenges currently facing our county that are equally as important: No on T-SPLOST, infrastructure improvements, Rockdale County Fire and Rescue, an inadequate sewer capacity, countywide beautification and many others not mentioned. Unfortunately, I can only expound upon one, which addresses the quality of life regarding our youth in Rockdale. If we, as a county, ignore the plight of our youth (the fastest growing demographic in the county), we will experience a severe level of moral decay that breeds gang involvement, increased teen pregnancy, increased school dropout rates, high crime, plummeting property values and poor school test scores. It is my belief that the county, law enforcement, church community, business community, the school system and especially the parents should collaborate to develop a partnership and be pro-active, rather than address potential negative behavior from a re-active position. For example, recreation year round that will appeal to 'at-risk' youth while fostering academic achievement must be the salient benchmark. This approach will begin to develop positive behavior, thus create a positive quality of life for Rockdale County.

"To ignore the plight of our youth, in my opinion, will most assuredly lead to the peril of our county."

Citizen: Other than increasing taxes, what would you do to generate more county revenues?

Jenkins: "Cutting taxes! Here's how we begin.

"There has been very little if any programmatic review of non-critical spending. Each year almost all departments try to fund the programs they have funded the year before regardless of efficacy, often just with an adjustment upward. 'Cost Plus Budgeting' has to stop. As chairman, I will institute a three-layer system for departmental budgeting. Layer One will be the critical core responsibilities of this county -- things that have to be funded at 100 percent within each department. Layer Two will be activities, programs and initiatives that are not critical for our wellbeing, but are worthy of continued funding because of specific, accountable results they provide to specific groups of Rockdale's population. The emphasis will always be on results, goals and impact. Layer Three is everything else. Anything that does not meet 'critical' or 'near critical' standards will be cut.

"This approach, as well as other endeavors, will allow us to shrink government, detect wasteful spending and enable us to market the county to both prospective homebuyers and new businesses."

Comments

henrystamm 1 year, 8 months ago

I am so glad I do not live in Rockdale County. Keep them there.

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Satan69 1 year, 8 months ago

And ship Stephanie Lindsey over there across the county line with them.  It is now out that she mispresented the actual plaintiff in her John Doe case to the courts in Newton County.  Who wants a judge on the bench who will not be honest with the COURTS?  

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Sundance 1 year, 8 months ago

What? Be careful. She sues folks that put unverified info in here. Oh. you already know!

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