Alex Ward

Alex Ward (R)

BNJ: What makes you unique as a candidate for county commissioner? How will you stand out should you be voted into office?

Ward: As an attorney who specializes in contract law, not only is it my job to read, review, analyze, and comprehend contracts that are in front of me, but that process is something I enjoy. As a county commissioner, I have brought that same skill with me into office. When we receive the agenda packet for our upcoming commission meeting, I spend hours going through every page of the packet. As I am going through the packet, I mark-up notes, while referring to our county code, GIS maps, and any other relevant resources so that I can fully understand the topic or item that is to be addressed. Any questions or concerns I still have, I make the time to get with the department staff so that those concerns and questions can be addressed. It is this process built on my background as an attorney that makes me a unique candidate for county commissioner.

BNJ: What do you believe is the county's role in government?

Ward: Quite simply, our role as the Board of Commissioners is to set the policy, manage the budget, and enter into county contracts. From a more principled standpoint, I believe our role is to manage the growth that our county is experiencing so that we get an adequate balance of industrial development that can help diversify the tax base. In doing so, the tax base is not so reliant on residential property taxes, and it ensures the new growth matches the characteristics of the county and the surrounding areas within the county where that growth is to take place. I also believe we need to recognize that with the growth we have experienced, we need to in-crease the capacity of our essential government services, including public safety and infrastructure, but we have to do so in a fiscally responsible way.

BNJ: If there's an issue that comes before you and it's fully in compliance with all relevant codes and ordinances/comprehensive plan/future land use map/etc., But multiple members of the public speak out against it, how would you make your decision?

Ward: As a commissioner, I recognize that my role is to represent the interests of my constituents. To that end it is vital that we listen to their concerns when they speak at public hearings, especially when they are voicing their concerns with a proposed change. It is also important for us to remember that there are restrictions to the Board of Commissioners abilities to out-right reject requests that in every regard meet all relevant codes, ordinances, land use, etc. Generally speaking, landowners do and should have the right to develop their land in a manner that they deem appropriate, so long as it conforms to the future land use map, can be appropriately serviced by county services, and fits with surrounding land uses. If we fail to do that and just deny a request because it is not what we want, the county can be sued and that comes at a cost to the county taxpayers. What I seek to do as a commissioner is to get input from concerned constituents ahead of time. I watch the planning commission meetings to see if there is opposition to a request before it comes before the Board of Commissioners. I meet with neighboring property owners to understand the concerns they may have, and from there I look for ways that we can try to alleviate some of the concerns, whether through conditions that are required as part of the rezone approval or through discussions with the potential developer on possible design changes to make proposals more acceptable to the surrounding properties.

BNJ: What is your opinion on growth? What would be your approach to "smart growth?"

Ward: You cannot stop growth and trying to prevent landowners from developing their land is a recipe for getting sued and attorneys are not cheap. My approach is to make sure we adhere to our comprehensive land use map, which is supposed to be our road map to what type and density of development is appropriate in each area of the county. Additionally, I believe we need to remove certain provisions within the development code that allows for reduced setbacks and smaller lot sizes then would otherwise be allowed in our three current residential zoning densities. I believe this is important from both a public safety standpoint and from an aesthetics and quality of life standpoint. Additionally, our staff has done a great job requiring new construction to use materials that are less combustible for siding; however, working in conjunction with our fire department, I believe we should codify those requirements based on the setbacks from adjacent structures. This would reduce the risk of one structure fire turning into a multi-structure disaster.

BNJ: Would you be in support of a moratorium on building permits should the board decide it necessary? Why or why not?

Ward: I would not support a moratorium on building permits. Regardless of the reason or length of time that a moratorium is to be in place, it has the effect of chilling growth even once the moratorium is lifted. This is especially true among developers of large industrial projects. When developers and businesses are looking at where to build, and, specifically in the case of businesses, where to locate their operations, they want to find a place that has stability and that is welcoming to the development and growth. If we implement a moratorium, it has the potential to send the signal that there is instability and that we are not receptive to new growth. The better option is for us to continuously evaluate the growth that we are receiving, the new rezone and building permits being requested, and adjust our development code as necessary to steer future growth in a way that maintains the characteristics that many of us love about Barrow County and that can help us focus on balanced, quality growth.

BNJ: If you were given $15 million grant to spend as county commissioner, what would you spend it on?

Ward: Before addressing what I would do with a $15 million grant, let me address what I will not do. I will not use a grant towards expenditures that create long-term unfunded liabilities. While $15 million could go a long way towards staffing for several different departments, that money will eventually run out, and we will have to find a new funding source to meet those liabilities. What I would propose spending the grant money on are capital expenditures that ultimately make our county operate more efficiently. One item that I believe would be worthy of exploration for spending part of these funds, would be a county owned fuel depot that allows county vehicles to fill up without going to a retail gas station. This would allow the county to buy fuel in bulk for cheaper, and by including power backup, would allow emergency vehicles to still have access to fuel during natural disasters that cause widespread power outages. An-other item that would be a great use of the funds would be improvements at our county fire stations. We have at least one station that was originally built as a volunteer fire station and needs to be rebuilt, the land for which was already donated. The other fire stations have is-sues that need to be resolved so they can better support the men and women who serve our community.

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