Early voting for the Nov. 6 general elections begins Monday, Oct. 15, at the Madison County Board of Registrars Office.

Ballots can be cast from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, from Oct. 15 to Nov. 2 at the Board of Elections and Registration office at 94 Spring Lake Drive in Danielsville.

Saturday voting will also be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 27, at the elections office.

For more information, call the elections office at 706-795-6335 or email tdean@madisonco.us

Here’s a look at candidates for the county BOC District 5 seat, Georgia Senate District 47 post and the Ninth District Congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Madison County Board of Commissioners — District 5

Derek Doster (R)

•Please give a summary of your background — your education, your work experience and your ties to the Madison County community:

I am a 1994 graduate of Southern College of Technology (now, Kennesaw State University, College of Engineering) with a BS in civil engineering technology.

I am a registered professional engineer in the state of Georgia, with over 25 years of experience in the program/project management, civil engineering, and construction fields. I work or have worked with state and local governments, industrial, commercial and residential clients. Since 2000, I have worked as a program/project manager and engineer with Jacobs, an architectural, engineering, construction, operations and maintenance professional consulting firm providing program/project management and engineering services for both public and private clients. For the past 13 years, I have been assigned to the Athens-Clarke County SPLOST management team overseeing numerous local government capital projects.

My wife, Rhonda, and I have lived in the Colbert area for over 20 years; we have two sons, Gabriel and Colt. Rhonda has taught in the Madison County School System at Comer Elementary School for 28 years. Throughout the years, we have been active with and/or are still involved in many community functions and organizations such as: Scouting, 4-H, youth recreation sports, Madison County Middle/High School tennis boosters and the Gideons. We are active members of Moon’s Grove Baptist Church where I also serve as a deacon and treasurer.

I also currently serve on the Madison County Industrial Development and Building Authority and am a member of the Madison County Rotary Club.

•Can you name one area that you feel is underfunded in the county budget versus one area where you might consider cuts? Is there anything you can propose that might save money?

In my opinion, infrastructure capital is a desperate area that needs additional funding. Road conditions and water/sewer capacities are what I see and others that I have talked to have concerns about.

I have not identified a specific area of the budget that I would currently target for cuts; however, I do feel we need to continuously review all departments to reveal any non-captured efficiencies and any programs that are outdated or irrelevant.

•Please discuss your feelings about how Madison County can maintain its agriculture base while also boosting commercial development.

Agriculture, of course, is a main component of Madison County and should be for many years to come. And if we want to maintain an agrarian community base, we have to encourage and seek out agrarian based businesses to locate here. This includes industrial and commercial industries that our local community resources can supply too and not just be customers receiving from. However, it takes planning and a commitment of resources to work the plan.

•If you are elected, what is one proposal you would put before the county commission for consideration? Why?

We need to hire an economic development staff. We need to actively recruit businesses by staff that have the proper skill set to seek, recruit, negotiate and sell Madison County and our services. These type of industrial and commercial businesses are critical in expanding tax digest revenues with the minimal services provided by the local government.

•What are two issues that concern you most about the Madison County government? And what actions would you propose to address them?

As stated before, I think infrastructure capital and investment is most concerning and the lack of targeted recruitment of complementary industrial/commercial businesses for our community.

I’d recommend a proposal for setting up an economic development team and a proposal to have regularly scheduled infrastructure planning and implementation strategies with the county/IDA/local municipalities to work towards short term and long terms goals.

Clyde Verhine (D) — BOC District 5 candidate

Please give a summary of your background - your education, your work experience and your ties to the Madison County community.

I am Georgia born, grew up and attended high school in Cherokee County (located in North Georgia), and came to Athens in 1968 to attend the University of Georgia. My wife, who was born and raised in Madison County, is a health care professional working at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center. In 1973, I went to work for General Time (better known as Westclox) in Athens. In 1980, my wife and I bought our first home which was in Colbert and we have lived in Madison County ever since. Our three daughters attended and graduated from Madison County public schools. Our grandchildren are now attending Madison County public schools. After General Time closed, I took a position as the Materials Manager at the Overhead Door Corporation manufacturing facility in Athens. When Overhead Door moved the manufacturing operations to Florida, my wife and I decided to remain in Madison County rather than relocate. My wife and I have been and are volunteer helpers in 4-H, Girl Scouts, and many other school and community activities. I have served for the last two and a half years as a member of the Madison County Board of Elections and Registration but had to resign from that position in order to run for public office.

I spent my working career in corporate manufacturing facilities where I held a variety of positions with a wide range of responsibilities. Through study and determination, along with a strong work ethic, I was able to move from factory worker into a management position. I have had hands on management experience and direct manager responsibility in manufacturing, materials management, purchasing, industrial engineering, quality assurance, training, product development, consumer service, and other corporate functions. During my working career, I learned how to gather facts, analyze data, manage multi-million dollar budgets, make decisions and justifications for capital expenditures, and to properly manage human resources. These are all skills needed to be an effective commissioner.

Can you name one area you feel is underfunded in the county budget vs. one area where you might consider cuts? Is there anything you can propose that might save money?

One area I feel is underfunded is for training, equipment, and other resources for our volunteer fire departments. Our fire departments do an outstanding job and are a crucial service needed in Madison County.

Increased support for these departments can help improve their ISO ratings which would help to lower insurance rates for Madison County homes and businesses.

There is no one area I could recommend for cuts since additional cuts will probably mean further reduction of services, I would rather focus on increasing revenues. To save money I would investigate and make recommendations for combining responsibilities, resources, and supplies, as well as eliminating duplication of efforts across the multiple departments.

Please discuss your feeling about how Madison County can maintain its agriculture base while also boosting commercial development.

To maintain its agriculture base, it is important that the county follow the land use plan, especially when zoning variances are requested. This will protect large agricultural areas and allow for non-farm commercial development in areas already considered to be high occupancy. The county must ensure that infrastructure improvements needed to attract business companies are made in the right locations. The county must also weigh the impact of large non-resident commercial farms on our many smaller local farms and on the county environment.

If you are elected, what is one proposal you would put before the county commission for consideration? Why?

Because of the ease of getting absentee ballots, the early voting periods, and the fact that around 50 percent of the citizens of Madison County now use early voting, I would propose that the board of commissioners work with the board of elections to consolidate the current 12 voting locations into five locations (one location in each district). This would reduce costs to the county by reducing the amount needed to pay rental fees for the polling places; reduce the amount of equipment needed with the associated costs of upkeep, programming, and replacement of equipment; and since it is required by Georgia law that each polling place have a minimum of three poll workers, it would reduce the number of poll workers needed and the associated costs of the required training and pay for poll workers.

What are two issues that concern you most about the Madison County government? And what actions would you propose to address them?

Growth is coming to Madison County. One only has to look at the rapid development on Hwy. 29 in Clarke County only a couple of miles from the Madison County line. I am concerned that Madison County government has been too reactive rather than proactive in planning for the growth that is rapidly coming to our county and I am concerned that if we do not act with a specific plan in place our desire to maintain our rural character will be in danger. I would insist that the land use plan be followed and that the growth takes place only in acceptable areas.

A second concern is with the process for the selection and appointment of citizens to positions on the various boards, commissions, and committees that are approved by the board of commissioners. Some of the actions of these boards and commissions like the IDA, planning and zoning, board of assessors and others have a direct impact on the future of the county. To address this, I would propose for approval, a documented process listing the requirements, expectations, and procedure for selecting candidates. If the position receives compensation, that amount should be disclosed. In the interest of transparency, methods to ensure that citizens can easily access information about open positions and the selection results would also be included in the proposal.

Georgia State Senate — District 47

Dawn Johnson (D)

Challenger

•Please give a summary of your background — your education, your work experience and whatever ties you have to the Madison County community:

I have spent my career in community service. As deputy sheriff for several years, I worked to keep my community safe and protect and serve its citizens. After obtaining my Master’s degree in writing, I left law enforcement and became the third generation of family to work in nonprofits that serve people with developmental disabilities. For the last 16 years, I have worked in disability services and I’ve been a legislative advocate for Medicaid. I am the director of a program that helps adults with disabilities find jobs or start their own business. I work with the business community to improve diversity hiring practices and educate them on the benefits of hiring employees with a disability. I serve as the Vice President of the Georgia’s Chapter of the Association of People Supporting Employment First. In 2017, I was appointed by the Governor to the Georgia State Rehabilitation Council where I represent Georgians with cognitive disabilities. I have lived in Winder, Georgia since 2004 with my husband, Joe, and my two children, Andrew and Abigail.

For several years, I was assigned to work in Madison County and I spent my time in Comer, Colbert and Danielsville working with people in mental health and developmental disabilities services. I enjoyed getting to know the unique small businesses of each town. Since announcing my candidacy for state senate, I have come to know many Madison County citizens and spent time in their homes learning the issues that are important to them.

•Can you give an overview of two of the most important issues for you and what you will do to address them if elected?

The high cost of healthcare and families struggling to make ends meet were the two big issues that prompted me to run. Georgia has been great for businesses, but it’s time for Georgia to be great for its citizens. We’ve stopped investing in our state and its people. Georgia is in the midst of a health care crisis. Rural hospitals are closing, we have a shortage of doctors, health care costs rise each year while wages have remained stagnant. Expanding Medicaid, making health insurance affordable, and health care assessible will benefit everyone. Georgia has a higher rate of maternal deaths than any other state. Georgians have a life span four years shorter than the average American. Madison County adults are less healthy than the state average and Georgia is doing little to change that.

Investing in infrastructure like rural broadband Internet will create jobs and give every part of the district 21st century utilities. Georgia spends fewer dollars on infrastructure than almost any other state. We have one of the fastest-growing populations in the country, but our infrastructure isn’t keeping pace. We can put Georgians to work in good-paying jobs to bring modern infrastructure to our district. We live in the “flyover” counties of the state: the rural and suburban areas that don’t get the funding, attention, or industry of the Atlanta area. We need representatives who will fight to change that. Georgia ranks at the bottom of all the good lists and at the top of several bad ones. Why do we keep sending the same people to the Capitol when they produce failing results? I want to fight for living wages and affordable health care. I don’t want people to move to another state so they can find a better life. This is our home and I’m ready to fight for it.

•Please offer your thoughts on Madison County. Where is it strong? Where is it weak? And what will you specifically do for the citizens of the county? For instance, do you see areas where you might seek funding to help this county, or where you might work to prevent state-level cuts that might hurt the county?

People live in Madison County because they want to be closer to nature and have fewer distractions. The quiet life in the country also means fewer conveniences and less accessibility. I would work to increase funding for infrastructure, better health care options, and to study public transportation options. A car repair can be a financial catastrophe for low-income families in rural areas. When I talk to employers, transportation is often the biggest challenge they have in finding and maintaining employees. Businesses are ready to come to the table with the state and work together to find solutions. Something as simple as a bus that runs to Athens or an app that makes carpooling easier could make a world of difference for a family that earns minimum wage. I will always fight cuts to health care, education, and programs that support the most vulnerable members of our community. I believe Georgia does better when Georgians do better.

•Do you feel any legislative actions are needed regarding education? And what message do you want to relay to students, parents and teachers?

Years ago, Georgia developed a formula to determine how much funding schools needed and then proceeded to underfund schools. Education is the backbone of our society. It is the key to opportunity and innovation. Stronger schools make for robust economies and attract businesses, but most importantly it gives our children the chance to be anything. I want Georgia schools to be the envy of all other states. I want our students to have access to the best technology, newest information, and an equitable education that makes them competitive anywhere in the country. I want our teachers to have more autonomy in the classroom, give them the supplies they need to do their jobs, and pay them a living wage. Teachers work hard enough without having to work a second job to pay their bills. I want parents to feel their children are safe when they leave for school and that their child is getting the individualized educational supports they need. Our legislature can find the money to give tax breaks to corporations, but they can’t seem to find money when it comes to better school funding. I will fight to change that.

Frank Ginn (R)

Incumbent, District 47 Georgia Senate

•Please give a summary of your background — your education, your work experience and whatever ties you have to the Madison County community:

I am a 1985 graduate of UGA as an agricultural engineer. I went to work for Jackson EMC that year starting in Gwinnett County but then spent five years working in the Neese District Office. I transferred to Jefferson to become the director of member services. I left there to learn more about other utilities (natural gas, water and sewer) and became the first city manager for the City of Royston in 1992. During that time, Robin Tardy and I married and we built our home in 1993 in the Harrison community of Madison County on my fifth generation farm. (She taught for five years at Madison County High School. After our children, Catherine and Stephen, were born, she came home.) I commuted to the much larger city of Sugar Hill for a few years as their city manager until Franklin County recruited me to be the first county manager. After 10 years there, I decided to run for the senate. Shortly after I made that decision, we experienced the tragic accidental death of our son. Our community rallied behind me to re-enter the race. As an engineer, I love to solve problems for people and I have been honored to serve the past eight years.

(Hired in the fall of 2018 to serve as the executive director of the Madison County Industrial Development and Building Authority.)

•Can you give an overview of two of the most important issues for you and what you will do to address them if elected?

The two most important issues I deal with as your senator are your quality of life and how to protect your freedom. We have made great strides over the past eight years. Recruiting industry, enhancing our college and career academies, and strengthening our technical colleges helped lead to a reduction in our unemployment from almost 11 percent to less than five percent. Just this year, we were able to, for the first time ever, fully fund our public schools based on the Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula. We also expanded the tax credits from $58 million for our private school scholarships to $100 million. Another first for Georgia, I was able to vote for and pass a reduction in the state income tax. I voted to speed the adoption process, protect the unborn and enhance your Second Amendment rights. I say all this to let you know politics is a team sport and we have had great leadership to make these improvements. I will keep these most important priorities in mind as I serve as your senator.

•Please offer your thoughts on Madison County. Where is it strong? Where is it weak? And what will you specifically do for the citizens of the county? For instance, do you see areas where you might seek funding to help this county, or where you might work to prevent state-level cuts that might hurt the county?

Madison County is a great place to live, work and raise a family. My hat is off to our educators for the great advancement that has been made in our graduation rate and opportunities for career development. Our agriculture roots are strong. We have the potential to enhance our youth development with more programs and facilities. One area we can improve on is to diversify our tax base and seek more commercial and industrial base. A rising star in this area is the new biofuel-powered generating plant on Hwy. 72. The blend of forest products and industry is a perfect fit for our community. They will provide jobs, add the equivalent of 1,500 new homes to enhance the tax base, and allow for the expansion of the countywide water system.

•Do you feel any legislative actions are needed regarding education? And what message do you want to relay to students, parents and teachers?

Finally, I want to address the opportunities we have in our Madison County education system. I know we can never reach our full potential unless we all pull together and in the same direction. I applaud our local leaders who are trying to reach every last child to bring them to their full potential. Occasionally, we need to make tweaks to our laws to assist the process. One such recent improvement was to enhance funding for school security. A few bad actors jeopardize the potential of all our students. I will continue to work with our local leaders to protect our children from this discourse and turbulence.

It has been my honor to serve as your state senator and I hope you will continue to allow me to serve you in Atlanta so that we can continue to improve your life here at home.

Doug Collins seeks re-election as 9th District U.S. Congressman

By Ron Bridgeman

ron@mainstreetnews.com

Rep. Doug Collins said last week that coming home to Gainesville is “almost like campaigning” and that helps him maintain “the district perspective.”

But he also looked ahead a bit at the House of Representatives structure and said he would like to be chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He said he believes he might get that position if the Republicans retain control of that body. He did not talk about the general view that the Democrats may take the House back.

Collins is facing Democrat Josh McCall, also of Gainesville in the Nov. 6 election.

Collins is on the House Rules and Judiciary committees. He has been on the Rules Committee, one of the power groups in the House, since his second term.

“I spent my first year up there learning the rules,” he said.

He said the Judiciary Committee is attractive because of its “vast expanse” of authority. He said it includes “what I see as the new economy,” Collins said. If that occurs, he likely would not remain on the Rules Committee.

The committee also deals with subjects such as the FISA courts, which deals in secret hearings, the regulatory environment and immigration.

Collins talked a lot about immigration and is candid about its importance to the district, especially Gainesville, with the heavy poultry presence.

He said part of the solution could be a provision that allows people to “come in and work and (they) can go home.”

He talks regularly about solutions to immigration problems and mentions border security and those illegal people already here.

“We don’t have enough Greyhound buses to just send everybody back home,” Collins said.

He speaks about finding common ground and getting to solutions, but that is mostly within the Republican party. He noted that two bills were proposed in the House this summer and the Republicans could not pass either because they could not get a majority to agree.

Collins said getting agreement is “not going to be easy.” He said he might start, if he were chairman, with “smaller bills that we can find agreement on.”

He maintained that the biggest problem, and one seldom mentioned, is legal immigration. He said the U.S. has more than one million people a year coming into the country.

He said two pieces of legislation that got House approval recently are “massive wins.” Those deal with opioid drugs and “modernization” of the copyright laws for music.

Local issues that Collins said get regular attention are those involving the Corps of Engineers because lakes Lanier and Hartwell are partially in his district, and broadband service.

He cited the Gigabyte Opportunity Act, which he introduced, as one way to help. The act would offer tax incentives to companies investing in broadband infrastructure in state-designated areas of need.

Collins noted he has “open war” with Windstream, which serves several counties in his district. He has complained regularly about its service.

In other local issues, Collins pointed to a decision that transferred Camp Merrill near Dahlonega to the Army, rather than leasing the property from the National Forest Service. That eliminated duplication of services and regulations, thus saving money, he said.

Collins said the Congress improved this year, passing budget bills that cover about 75 percent of the budget. He called that “pretty good” compared to past years when an omnibus bill, covering all federal spending, was passed.

Collins summed up his “district perspective” by saying he views himself as the “biggest economic development cheerleader for the Ninth District.”

The former minister and lawyer has a master of divinity degree from the New Orleans Theological Seminary and a law degree from the John Marshall Law School in Atlanta.

He served in the state House of Representatives and is a chaplain, with a rank of lieutenant colonel, in the Air Force Reserve. He was senior pastor at Chicopee Baptist Church in Gainesville for 11 years.

McCall seeks Ninth District congressional seat

By Ron Bridgeman

ron@mainstreetnews.com

Josh McCall, Democratic candidate for the Ninth Congressional District, calls himself a “progressive Christian” on his website.

The little-known candidate said in a recent interview the “biggest challenge I face in this district is talking to my own side.” He means he sometimes has trouble finding the organized Democrats in the Republican-heavy district.

But he quickly reels off the number of “non-Republican” voters in the district – 239,000, he said, “but they’ve never had a choice.”

McCall, a Sunday school teacher, also preaches about the “parable of the mustard seed.”

“I’m trying to plant seeds of hope and faith in one another,” he said.

McCall is running against incumbent Rep. Doug Collins. Both men are from Gainesville – that is about their only common characteristic.

McCall is an unabashed progressive and he said the election of Donald Trump and his comments about immigrants spurred him to action.

“If some other Republican won, I probably wouldn’t be running for Congress,” he said.

He noted that Speaker Paul Ryan characterized a statement by President Trump as the “definition of racism.” But, McCall added, Ryan “doesn’t mind working with him.”

He said he was “mad mostly at the Democrats” for not being more active, making more of an effort.

“I can’t control the Republican Party,” he said, “but I might be able to influence the Democrat Party.”

He said he began by going to a Democrat meeting in Hall County and being assigned the task of finding candidates for office started his thinking about running.

When he decided to run, McCall said, “I decided to form a platform around ‘love your neighbor.’ So quaint, so simple.”

Health care is the top issue he hears about from people, he said.

McCall repeats his mantra: “No one should die because they are poor, and no one should be poor because they are dying.”

He said health care is a right and should be available for everyone.

“Health care cannot be a commodity sold to the highest bidder,” he said. “All of our neighbors deserve affordable and effective health care.”

McCall admitted to doubts as a first-time candidate, but also said his campaign has more than 200 volunteers who “came out of nowhere and like me, going from zero to a 100.”

McCall, a teacher, said he would support abolishing standardized testing in schools and changing the prison system.

“I think justice is most often found in mercy,” he said

He taught for three years at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville. He also has taught at Gainesville High School, in Gwinnett County and at the University of North Georgia.

McCall has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from the University of North Georgia and a master’s in classical language from the University of Georgia.

He said he has taken a year off from teaching to run for Congress. Around the campaigning, he helps his wife in her law practice.

He and his wife, Jennifer, have three daughters, 21-year-old Mia Koch, 15-year-old Kate McCall and 5-year-old Abby McCall.

McCall grew up in Franklin County and has lived in Gainesville since 2002.

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