Please give a summary of your background – your education, your work experience and your ties to the Madison County community. I was born and raised in Athens. In sixth grade I had rheumatic fever which resulted in a heart murmur. Back then the treatment was long bed rest. By the time I could go back to school I was in classes with people years younger than myself. Imagine being the only high school freshman with a driver’s license (actually, that wasn’t bad).
I wanted to study architecture but could not get the classes I needed in high school (I was always told they had already been filled). Discouraged, and against my parents’ wishes, I dropped out of school. I went to work in the camera department at Crow’s Drug Store. When the manager retired I was promoted to that job.
During that time I married Brenda Dixon and we were married 53 years before her death in 2014.
Someone who had money to invest approached me about opening a camera store. I opened and managed The Camera Shop in Athens for years and it was very successful.
I have always been an entrepreneur at heart and Brenda and I opened The Wagon Wheel teen center on weekends. This grew and I started thinking about a bigger location. Putting my love of architecture to work (even though I had not been able to study that subject) I designed and built J&J Center on Commerce Road. Jerry Farmer was my partner and J&J was also very successful.
From my childhood I had loved “big trucks” and I decided to go to school and learn how to drive them. This resulted in my main career, over 35 years as a driver in which I logged two million miles without an accident.
My dad bought land in Colbert around 1970, and he and I designed and built houses for him and my mother, and for me and my family. Brenda and I moved here in 1972 and raised our family here. Our three children and three of our grandchildren attended Madison County schools.
As a sideline I opened a trophy shop in Colbert. After I retired from driving the big rigs, it became a full-time business. I have a number of customers from outside the county, thus bringing money to Madison County from elsewhere.
Some may wonder why I have answered this question in such detail. I am a product of all my life experiences. Some may scoff because I do not have a college degree. I am proud to say that my common sense and lifetime of experience are more useful many times than a degree.
I have attended the classes needed to become a certified county commissioner, and I study carefully the information that the state sends to help us do our job better. The people of Madison County have had over 40 years to get to know me, and nearly eight years to observe me on the county commission. They know that I am unafraid to stand up for what I think is in the best interest of all of us. This I have always done, this I will always do.
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?
People might not realize that of all taxes collected in Madison County, the board of commissioners has oversight on only about 20 percent but we get all the blame when taxes have to go up. (See Editor's Note at the end of this text)
Every department would probably say they are underfunded and could use more. I don’t see right offhand where we could cut spending without cutting services.
I do wish I had a magical fix for how to reduce the money tax payers have to pay for law enforcement. We have to pay for the sheriff’s department to try to prevent crimes, but when a crime is committed we have to spend money to investigate and hopefully make an arrest. Then the jail experiences come into play.
After housing the arrested party we have to spend lots of money trying them in court. We may have to furnish them with a defense attorney paid for by the taxpayers. If convicted, it’s back to jail for them and we have to house, feed, and supply free medical coverage. We see some of the same people being arrested and convicted over and over.
The commissioners are required by law to adequately fund this department but we have no authority over them.
Please discuss your feelings about how Madison County can maintain its agriculture base while also boosting commercial development.
This question, if not answered just right, can be political suicide to a person seeking election or re-election in Madison County. I am descended from a long line of farmers in Oglethorpe County and I’m very proud of our agricultural community. Fortunately, I think they have a lot of help from tax breaks and subsidies afforded them from federal, state and local governing bodies. Agriculture is more fortunate, in fact, than an ordinary business in at least one way. They can buy crop insurance at a reasonable rate and it safeguards them financially if they have a bad year. Other businesses having a bad year are facing disaster.
Of course everyone knows that we need manufacturing businesses that pay full tax loads. We have, but could use more, retail businesses that pay property tax as well as collect sales taxes. To get these two types of taxpayers we are going to have to take a chance and put some infrastructure in commercial areas. Hopefully our communities will return to buying locally and keeping our dollars circulating in our county.
If you are elected, what is one proposal you would put before the county commission for consideration? Why?
For years I have asked for the county to install (and use) a time clock system. I don’t necessarily mistrust any of the county employees. I just think it would be a way to insure accountability and would simplify the bookkeeping.
What are two issues that concern you most about the Madison County government? And what actions would you propose to address them?
It is important to me that county business always be conducted in compliance with Georgia Law and in such a way that the citizens can know what is going on. Georgia Law requires that in executive sessions only land acquisition, personnel matters, and pending litigation can be discussed. Georgia Law also requires that special called meetings can cover only one subject, and only if that subject cannot possibly wait till the next regular meeting. Failure to follow these laws becomes an ethics violation. This is important.
Before being elected, I attended almost all regular meetings for years and made it a point to be at all special called meetings. I saw where a lot of the meetings didn’t always conform to those laws. I have made it my goal to see that all county business will be conducted as required by law and not behind closed doors, except for the three topics allowed in executive sessions.
My second concern is that lately allowing the public to speak at our meetings has been limited and almost eliminated. I will always take whatever time needed for the public to have input on matters affecting the county and themselves. I do this daily and most certainly at our two monthly meetings.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Here is how tax commissioner Lamar Dalton breaks down the division of tax revenues in Madison County as follows:
“After error and releases and other adjustments, the total levied for the BOC, BOE, and IDA was $19,743,413.48. Divide the (county government’s) adjusted collection of $8,450,177.24 by the total digest for 43 percent (of total collections). The (school system’s) collections of $10,217,841.32 will be 54 percent (of total collections), and the IDA rolls in at three percent. The 2.5-mill increase (by the BOC) brought the BOC much closer (to the school collections) than most people realize.” — Lamar Dalton