COVINGTON — Newton County Commissioner Lanier Sims is well aware of the similarities between his 2010 campaign for the commission and his 2014 run for re-election to the District 2 seat.
Sims, 38, will be opposed by Earnest Simmons in the May 20 Democratic Primary, and if he’s successful, he’ll square off against Republican Rickie Corley in November. Four years ago, it was Simmons who was the incumbent and Sims the challenger, and when Sims prevailed in the primary, he defeated Corley in November’s General Election.
And the Newton County native, who owns and operates DualDeko, a marketing and design firm in Covington, said he’s not doing anything new this time around with regard to campaigning.
“We kind of anticipated both of them, to be honest,” Sims said of his challengers. “It hasn’t changed anything we’re thinking about in the Sims household. It’s pretty much the same thing – get out to the citizens. At the end of the day, I’m elected at the pleasure of the citizens. It’s really about them and whether they buy into a vision for the district. My vision is their vision.”
A 1993 graduate of Newton County High School (“Back when there was only one high school in the county,” he joked) and a U.S. Navy veteran, Sims acknowledges that there have been many impressive accomplishments in the community during his tenure on the commission, but also asserts that not everything is perfect in Newton County.
On the plus side, Sims points to the successful recruitment of health care titan Baxter International to the Stanton Springs development. Expected to be operating by 2018, the $1 billion manufacturing plant will create hundreds of local jobs.
“From an economic development side, it has to be Baxter,” he said. “To be a part of the team that helped see it come to fruition is special. It’s the biggest thing, I think, to come to this state since KIA. It’s going to really redefine Newton County and really put us on the map.”
Sims also spoke of the heartwarming community effort to construct a Miracle League baseball field for all children – regardless of physical ability – to utilize at City Pond Park.
“Watching the community get behind that initiative and build a facility was really something,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. So many people stepped up to the plate. I’m looking forward to the summer, when the facility opens.”
But along with the positive must come the negative. Sims says he hears plenty about the commission’s tax increase in 2013 and the bills the county pays to county attorney Tommy Craig.
“The only way I could get on board was if we had a good plan,” Sims said of the tax increase. “It hurt because I know people are struggling. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions.”
On the subject of Craig, Sims pointed out that when he was elected, he was a rookie among several veteran commissioners. Two years later, Sims became one of the graybeards when three new commissioners joined the board. There are times, he said, when new commissioners on their learning curve have questions and issues that can only be dealt with by the county attorney, but he encourages finding ways to trim the county’s legal obligations.
“We can do a better job in managing those costs, by getting staff more involved to help lower those costs,” he said. “Tommy shouldn’t always be our first step. We need to try to figure some things out before we go to him …. Tommy does a great job for us. I don’t know how much money he’s saved the county through the years he’s been there. He’s a wealth of knowledge for a new commissioner coming in.”
Pointing out that he’s not a politician, Sims says his latest campaign is going well and he’s doing the same things he did on his first run for election four years ago.
“My campaign is really simple,” he said. “I just get out to the people. I go door to door. We don’t have any big fundraisers or that type of stuff. I try to do the complete opposite of traditional politics. That’s the way I’ve always lived my life and I’m not trying to be any different as an elected official. I’m a down-to-earth, common-sense person.”