I voted Monday. Yeah, I know. It was kind of early but my health has been bad. I wanted to make sure that my ballot had been cast in case something happened between now and Nov. 6.
I'm only half kidding.
I was proud of myself for voting so I put one of those little peaches on my sweater as I left the polling place. I was grocery shopping that afternoon and a gentleman in line at the grocery store asked me if I had to wait long to vote.
"Four years," I told him. "Four long years."
I wasn't kidding at all about that.
It was an interesting ballot, and there were a lot of local races -- a lot of really important local races. The local race that caught my attention first was the one for chairman of the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners and I was happy to cast "my one vote," as my friend Don Sellers used to say when we were doing church business together, for Jason Hill.
Jason has deep, deep roots in Rockdale County and manages the lumber business his grandfather started 60 years ago -- right about the time I was being born. Jason Hill is here to stay. He's a rambling wreck from Georgia Tech and a helluva great guy. He and his wife, Andrea, have chosen to raise their children in this community. He has served on the Conyers/Rockdale Planning Commission and served for many years on the Rockdale Board of Commissioners.
Jason Hill isn't going anywhere, and neither am I. Jason Hill wants a better community and so do I. Jason Hill is a fiscal conservative and wants our hard-earned money to be spent wisely, and so do I. Jason Hill pulls for Georgia Tech and whoever plays Georgia every Saturday. I want a better community and our money spent wisely, which supersedes any good-natured sports rivalry.
Let's talk about our money. It doesn't grow on trees, you know. Every dollar the government spends -- any government -- is taken from someone who has worked really hard to earn it. Any time any government entity -- from the U.S. Congress to the county Board of Commissioners -- spends a single dollar, that entity should make sure that the money is being used wisely, because the taxpayers are doing without so the government can spend that dollar.
Are you glad the current Board of Commissioners voted to spend thousands of dollars placing their portraits in county buildings? Yeah. Me, neither.
Here are a few other examples of changes in our spending habits over the past four or five years.
In 2007, the last year that Jason Hill served on the board, Rockdale County spent $330,108 on salaries and benefits for the office of Board of Commissioners. That number, in and of itself, doesn't really mean much. It is just a number. But in 2012 the number was $476,419. That's a 44 percent increase, y'all. Has your salary gone up 44 percent since 2007? A big part of that increase is due to the fact that the current board chairman hired an assistant. I wish I had an assistant. The school system has given me a lot more paperwork since 2007 -- and a lot less money. Times are tight, or didn't you know that? I wonder if the current board does.
Here's another line item on the budget. In 2007, the Rockdale Board of Commissioners spent $828 on travel. That's what I call taking care of the taxpayers' money -- $828 won't get you very far. The 2012 budget calls for $10,000 in travel expenses. $10,000! That's a 1,100 percent increase. A 1,100 percent increase in travel expenses -- in the same year that the county kicked the local clothes closet out of a building they had been using for years.
During these "difficult economic times" -- isn't that the phrase of the decade? -- the budget for our Board of Commissioners in Rockdale County has soared from $358,532 to $517,559. There's that magic number again -- 44 percent.
This is just my opinion, but mine is the only one I've got: Our county government needs to be spending less money, not more. Everybody else is.
Like I have said many times before, I am here in Rockdale County for the duration, unless I get a wild hair and buy a loft apartment and move to the Porterdale Mill. That loud shriek you just heard was my lovely wife, Lisa, reading over my shoulder. If you couldn't quite make out what she said, it was, "Over my dead body!"
See what I mean? I want a county that I am proud to call home. I want a county that is safe and one that takes care of her citizens -- all her citizens. I want a county government who spends our money wisely. I believe that Jason Hill will provide leadership that will result in that kind of county. I really do. In your hearts, you believe it, too.
Don't put off voting. It might come up a bad cloud on Election Day. Remember, the government belongs to the people and you will generally get the kind you deserve and I don't believe I have four more years to wait.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.