COVINGTON -- Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Morgan will seek re-election.
Morgan said she's not finished all she hopes to accomplish as chairman, and with the recent announcement that Baxter International will invest $1 billion and create 1,500 jobs in the area, now it's more important than ever to have someone with experience in the seat.
"There are going to be several hard decisions and a lot of work required to take the county forward to prepare us for what's to come," Morgan said. The goal is to make the process for Baxter seamless and efficient without "giving away the store," Morgan said.
"With an industry that large the community can become subservient to that industry," she said, but added that the focus on accommodating Baxter must just as equally be on retaining existing industries and attracting new ones.
With the current unemployment rate of 6,000 residents, even if all 1,500 jobs to be generated by Baxter went to Newton citizens, there would still be 4,500 unemployed -- that's why it's so important to keep recruiting additional industries and other businesses, she said.
Morgan said the BOC's role is to make sure infrastructure and ordinances are up to par to encourage both private and public investment in Newton and to provide Baxter and its employees with what they need. It's also the board's role to support the Chamber of Commerce in recruitment and to set the standards for what types of businesses should come to the county, she said.
"We have a great 2050 Plan but it is worthless if we don't implement it," she said. Morgan said she already has relationships with existing industry representatives and is aware of the particular challenges the county will face as additional growth comes in the wake of Baxter.
"We don't have three years for somebody to catch up, to learn to grow," she said.
Looking back over her first term in office, Morgan said she's most proud of the construction of Denny Dobbs Park, Porter Memorial Library and the expansion of SKC, addition of new industries and creation of nearly 500 jobs. Also, Morgan said she is pleased to have been able to obtain $30 million in state and federal funds for road projects. The fund balance was increased by $1.9 million due to state and federal monies used for road projects that otherwise would have had to be locally funded, she said.
Morgan was outspoken about her opposition to the majority of the board's vote to transition some of her duties to a newly formed county manager position. But she said the process has been running smoothly.
"The county needs two people. We're large enough now we need two people focusing on county government. The county manager was not the issue I had. The issue I had was that the voters were not allowed to have a say-so and the position is not responsible to the voters," Morgan said.
If re-elected, Morgan said she will not propose a change to that set up.
She said voters need to elect a chairman who is "not thin-skinned."
"It's got to be somebody that can stay strong and stay focused ... They need someone who is confident and strong enough to stand up for what's right. Not just that we may be legally able to do it, but is it right. I think I've proven that I can do that," she said.
Morgan moved to Newton County in 1968 and attended local public schools and Oxford College. She owned an asphalt paving company and then worked for Decatur Federal and First Union banks. She worked as a commercial real estate officer for a large bank prior to being elected chair. She has three daughters and five grandchildren.
Morgan has numerous certifications from the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia Economic Development Authority and the Georgia Academy for Leadership.
She serves as the county appointee to the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Industrial Development Authority and is a member of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia Advisory Council.
Qualifying for the July 30 primary takes place this week.