Mike Abernathy, Mike Bearden, Tracy Lewis, Steve Taylor and Tony Tidwell, all running on the Republican ticket, will be vying for the county’s top job in the July 31 primary to replace outgoing sole Commissioner Clarence Brown.
Each of the five candidates took their turn responding to questions spanning topics of economic, infrastructure and social concerns. Out of the gate, candidates were asked to name their priority with each offering a similar response — jobs.
The economic woes of Bartow County, the state of Georgia and the nation garnered much of the night’s attention as answers continually reverted to the issues of taxes, county services and cost cutting. Many of the questions returned similar answers from each candidate.
Early in the evening, candidates agreed on the importance of finding an experienced replacement to fill the shoes of retiring County Administrator Steve Bradley. Candidates will look at casting a broad net with state and national searches.
Other areas of common ground were found in workforce training with candidates looking to broaden use and awareness of technical schools as well as voicing their hope for the county’s proposed career academy housed at the former Cass High School building. Candidates also agreed on issues to be put before voters, including the possibility of a board of commissioners.
The first topic to separate a candidate from the others was on the issue of Sunday alcohol sales in the county. Although every candidate voiced their personal opposition to the matter, they each noted their willingness to allow voters the choice through a referendum with the exception of Abernathy. Abernathy, a local pastor, staunchly opposed the sale of alcohol on Sunday out of reverence and observation of the Sabbath — adding that if it were allowed, he would suggest additional taxes on those items to benefit schools or other needs.
Another area candidates were not uniform in response came from a question regarding mandatory drug testing for county employees. Bearden, Taylor and Tidwell agreed on the importance of drug testing prior to hiring, after work-place accidents and at the discretion of department heads but see no need or cause for mandatory testing across the board on current employees. Abernathy and Lewis were in favor of random drug screens for current employees to cut costs on workers compensation insurance.
The issue of consolidation of services drew a similar response from all candidates as the question raised the possibility of privatizing services. Each candidate opposed the idea if avoidable but all agreed it could come become necessary if revenues continued to fall — Lewis gave the hospital as an example of a private business which was once operated at a cost to Bartow County.
Other areas covered Tuesday included the 411 connector, sewage expansion, recreational needs, economic development and imminent domain.
The debate in full, sponsored by NewsTalk AM 1270 — WYXC, will be available in audio format online in coming days. For more information, search for NewsTalk AM 1270 — WYXC on www.facebook.com.
A second debate is scheduled for at Adairsville High School on June 5, from 7 to 9 p.m.
See Thursday’s edition of The Daily Tribune News for further coverage of Tuesday’s debate.