Several local candidates, even those who are running unopposed this year, attended a political forum Tuesday night sponsored by the Colbert Lions Club.
Both candidates for magistrate judge, Greg Sartain and David Patton, were on hand. One of them will be elected May 20 to replace long-time judge Harry Rice, who is retiring at the end of the year.
Sartain addressed the audience first, saying this is his first run for public office, but said he feels he is qualified for the job.
“I have always worked with the public,” Sartain said, pointing out that he is currently a salesman. “I know how to take people one at a time. Everyone deserves a fair shake.”
Sartain said he had one real promise to make to the citizens. “One thing I’ve heard over and over is that when someone is elected they all of a sudden don’t have time for their constituents, and well I intend to remain available to everyone,” he said.
Patton said he has been working hard to earn the job of magistrate judge, and he pointed out that he has campaigned at the fair, parades, festivals and by going door to door.
“I have spent the majority of my adult life in public service,” Patton said, explaining that he began by joining the Colbert Fire Department after high school.
He said he has served as Colbert police chief and as a deputy under the past three sheriffs and hopes to continue to serve the public as magistrate judge.
“I pledge to you that as magistrate judge I’ll be fair and impartial,” he said. “The law is black and white, but I believe you must always listen to the circumstances and realize people are people.”
He also said his work in law enforcement has given him an understanding of the court system and how the laws are applied.
BOC District 5 commissioner Jim Escoe, who will face opposition from challenger democrat Clyde Verhine in November, said he feels like the kids in school who are about to get their report card.
“I guess I’m about to get one too, from the voters,” he said. He said he feels as though he has just been getting started through his three-and-a-half years of service at the commission table.
“I would appreciate everyone in my district giving me another chance to serve,” Escoe said.
Challenger Verhine said this is his first time running for public office and said he feels the board of commissioners “do a lot of talking” but don’t take a lot of action.
He said he feels the current BOC mostly reacts and that the board should strive to be more proactive to situations.
He said a troubled education system and infrastructure are chief concerns of his.
He said infrastructure is key to bringing in more jobs.
Verhine said he moved to the county in 1980 and worked at General Times for 28 years, starting as a machinist and ending as a manufacturing manager. He said he learned a lot of things there that would be useful to him in the job as a commissioner.
“I really love this county,” Verhine said.
District 4 commissioner Mike Youngblood, who is running unopposed in November, pointed out some things that he is most proud of during his tenure on the BOC.
“The county is debt-free and we have a real good board in place now,” he said. “This board works well together overall.”
He said he was pleased he had no opposition this time around and pledged to continue to serve the county over the next four years.
Angie McGinnis, rival for the District 2 seat on the board of education against current board member Arlen Johnson, which will also be decided on May 20, said this is also her first time running for public office, though she has worked with the public in her career as an office manager in a pediatrician’s office and in her community, serving as a First Responder, member of the Comer Lions Club and on the Ila Elementary School governance committee.
McGinnis said she’s seen teachers under stress with all the new requirements placed on them.
She also said it takes a team to educate the children, which includes school bus drivers, lunchroom workers, office personnel, parapros and others.
“We sometimes forget about the people low on the totem pole, but they’re important too,” she said.
McGinnis said she would be available to the public at all times and would be visible at board meetings, school activities and other public events.
“Parents need to see who is representing and supporting them,” she said. “And taxpayers should know what goes on at board meetings.”
She said it is important to nourish children both physically and mentally.
“We have a great school board now, but we can do better,” McGinnis said.
She also said the school system needs to increase security measures, pointing to recent school shootings in the news.
BOE incumbent Arlen Johnson was not able to attend the meeting due to a school board meeting.
State representative Frank Ginn also spoke at the forum. Ginn does not face any opposition for the next term.
“This is a unique opportunity for me, this time I’m running against a blank line,” Ginn said. He provided his cell phone number to the audience, 706-680-4466, and encouraged any of his constituents to contact him at any time with their questions and concerns. He said he is currently chairman of the economic development and tourism committee, which he has found to be an easy job due to the support of Gov. Nathan Deal, who he said “gets it.”
He said it is a great honor to serve in the senate and with local representatives Tom McCall and Alan Powell, who he said are a great support system for him with their many years’ of experience.