COVINGTON — As a former member of the Newton County Board of Education, Rickie Corley is accustomed to making difficult decisions, and he looks forward to bringing his skill set to the Newton County Board of Commissioners.
The Newton County native spent 12 years on the Board of Education – including two years as chairman and three years as vice chair — during a time of explosive growth in the community. He understands it’s not possible to always appease every constituent, but he said his decisions were driven by what he felt was best for the county.
“There were times we had to make decisions that weren’t popular with a lot of people,” Corley said. “But you have to gather information from constituents and other board members working together and do what’s best for the whole system. It’s not easy, and it’s something you have to be strong enough to do. I’m not afraid one bit to make the hard decisions.”
Corley is unopposed in the May 20 Republican Primary and will face the winner between incumbent Lanier Sims and former commissioner Earnest Simmons for the District 2 seat in November’s General Election. In Corley’s first county commission run in 2010, he lost to Sims.
Although his campaign is not yet running in high gear as he awaits the results of the Democratic Primary, Corley said he spends plenty of time in the community and has heard from his constituency about their primary concerns.
“Overall, what I’m hearing is that traffic congestion and crime are big concerns, along with customer services, taxes and protecting natural resources,” said Corley, whose family has owned and operated Corley’s Used Cars and Auto Service for some 50 years. “I feel the same way. We need to improve on customer service and we need to continue to deal with growth. (Growth is) kind of slow right now, but it’s coming back, and we need plans in place to deal with that. Economic development is also a key issue.”
His motivation to return to the political field is very simple, he says.
“My commitment to better government and the prosperity of Newton County is what convinced me to get in this race,” he said. “I’m a lifelong resident of the county and my wife and I have four children and nine grandchildren, who all live in Newton County. My parents lived here and so did their parents. The roots run deep for the Corley family in Newton County, and I want to do my part to bring government back to the people.
“(Commissioners) need to stay more in touch with the people and let them have more of a say in the decisions that are made. I’m in a position with my business that allows me to be out in the community and I’ve worked with people from all walks of life. People tell me what issues they’re interested in and what they’d like to see Newton County do. That’s what it will take to turn things around – all the people working together to move in a positive direction.”
Corley agrees that his years on the Board of Education have been helpful in the realm of name recognition and he feels that service provides positive reinforcement for his goals for county government.
“People connect me with spending 12 years on the school board,” he said, adding that he intends to “impress by spending less.” “Name recognition is part of any election. Having been on the board for 12 years will be a plus. There are differences between the county commission and the school board, but you represent the same people and you’re spending the same people’s tax dollars.
“The Board of Education is the county’s largest employer and also has the county’s largest budget, so you really have to know how to manage and budget the money. We always want to get the most out of our tax dollars. That’s something you learn serving on any board, but being on the Board of Education, you have a lot to deal with.”
When asked why he felt he was the right person for the commission seat, Corley said, “I feel District 2 is a strong force in the county and it needs a representative that is accountable, accessible and conservative, a person that will serve the people and not the government.
“I’ve got 12 years of experience on the Board of Education and I have business experience serving the people of the county. My only purpose is for better government and prosperity of the county, and I’ll be the voice of the people on the Board of Commissioners. … My goal is to make Newton County a better place to live, work and raise a family.”