State, federal legislators connect with local government
by Jason Lowrey
Sep 29, 2012 | 1769 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce President Joe Frank Harris Jr., left, and Euharlee City Manager Trish Sullivan listen to Georgia Municipal Association Director of Governmental Affairs Tom Gehl, center, talk about the energy excise tax during Cartersville’s Hometown Connection event. JASON LOWREY/The Daily Tribune News
Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce President Joe Frank Harris Jr., left, and Euharlee City Manager Trish Sullivan listen to Georgia Municipal Association Director of Governmental Affairs Tom Gehl, center, talk about the energy excise tax during Cartersville’s Hometown Connection event. JASON LOWREY/The Daily Tribune News
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State and federal legislators, and candidates running for office, gathered at Cartersville City Hall Friday morning for a Hometown Connection meeting sponsored by Cartersville and the Georgia Municipal Association.

The meeting, held as a working lunch, was an opportunity for local officials — including Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini, Emerson Mayor Al Pallone and Euharlee City Manager Trish Sullivan — to discuss the effects of state and federal legislation on Bartow County.

Participating legislators included State Rep. Christian Coomer, State Sen. Barry Loudermilk and State Rep. Paul Battles. Rep. Phil Gingrey and Sen. Saxby Chambliss were unable to attend and sent representatives from their offices. Candidates Chuck Hufstetler, Lelia Benham and Trey Kelley attended the event as well.

This year’s Hometown Connection was the first hosted in approximately three years, Santini said.

“The GMA encourages all cities to do this on an annual basis, quite frankly, and we just felt that we’ve got so much going on with the city, and it’s always a good time to try to get with our local delegation, both our federal and our state folks, to let them know exactly what we are doing here and kind of express to them that we are an efficient, effective city that is looked on very well by our citizens,” he said.

During the working lunch every department head reported on their budget, departmental organization and their contributions to how the city operates.

Cartersville Fire Department Chief Scott Carter explained how most of his department’s work was focused on rescue operations, such as extracting victims from automotive wrecks, rather than fighting fires.

“You look at the impact of Interstate 75 on our community. Ten percent of my total call volume is going to occur directly because of I-75,” he said. “It’s amazing the number of people that will drive from Ohio just to wreck in Cartersville. I firmly believe the reason for that is word has already got up there about the great quality of protection they have in Cartersville.”

A discussion about an energy excise tax arose during Cartersville Electric System Director David Myers’ presentation. Coomer asked if the city had considered enacting the tax. Santini said the council was still discussing the tax and no decision had been made.

After the lunch and presentation, the city gave a bus tour of the new public security headquarters, Fire Station No. 4 on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, the Clarence Brown Conference Center and Georgia Highlands College.

GMA Director of Governmental Relations Tom Gehl said the Hometown Connections, whether they include lunches and tours or are just a meeting in a mayor’s office, are useful in keeping state and federal legislators informed about their constituents.

“Senators and house members are living in cities and, oftentimes, city officials take for granted the fact that they have a lot of things going on, and some assume that senators and representatives are familiar with all the great things going on in their community. Also, they assume that they are familiar with the costs and where the revenues come from and the costs that are incurred by the city,” he said. “But, unless they sit down and explain to the legislators what’s a challenge, what’s an opportunity for the city, what it costs, how they get their revenue, legislators don’t really understand the complexities of running a city government.”

Santini agreed, saying he was pleased with how many legislators and candidates attended the event in order to be better informed when making decisions.

“It shows the quality of the people we have representing us. Ultimately, it’s to better educate them, or refresh them in a number of cases, about what’s going on here at the local level where the rubber meets the road in regards to serving the people,” he said.