The two Republican candidates for County Commission Chairman spoke at a Troup County Republican Party event on Tuesday.
Candidates Frank Kirby and Patrick Crews spoke to a packed room at the Mike Daniel Recreation Center. They gave an introductory statement and brief overview of their bid for the office.
Kirby was first to speak.
“My family together has over 260 years living in Troup County,” Kirby said.
He started working for Troup County in 1976 as a jailer, and worked in the sheriff’s office for 37 years. He worked his way up to chief deputy, which he served as for five years, and was responsible for a multi-million dollar budget, and “running the largest office responsible to Troup County government.”
Kirby, now retired, said he had a great time doing it, and misses being around people. He said he again wants to serve the people of Troup County.
He said one of the main things people have told him they are concerned about is sanitation and health due to the reduced convenience center hours. People are concerned about trash sitting in their vehicles and yards, because they are unable to carry it off.
“Part of what I’d like to do is re-open those convenience centers seven days a week, Monday through Saturday and Sunday afternoon,” Kirby said. “That way people in the county can go to those convenience centers and deposit their trash like they should be able to do, like they should’ve been able to do the whole time.”
Kirby said the county saved $111,000 by reducing convenience center hours, and said he should have no trouble finding $111,000 in the county’s $30 million budget to expand their hours. He also wanted to explore why the city of LaGrange charges more to water customers who are residents outside city limits.
“It’s not fair to the residents of Troup County to pay 50 percent more for their water than residents of LaGrange do,” he said.
Kirby said the only way to draw more businesses to the area is to draw more people. Whitesville and Hamilton roads leading to LaGrange from Interstate 85 need to be improved.
“When you come off the Interstate at (Ga. Highway) 219, when you come up Whitesville Road, people tell me they have to stop at that traffic light on Whitesville Road there at the projects and they’re scared they’re going to get shot,” Kirby said. “So, you know, we need to improve those roads coming to LaGrange.”
He said that improvements in the Hillside neighborhood are good, but more work needs to be done along Whitesville and Hamilton roads to make them more attractive. He noted real estate agents often tell potential buyers to come off I-85 from Lafayette Parkway, but residents will eventually discover Whitesville and Hamilton roads.
Kirby pledged to be a full-time chairman and available to anyone to call 24 hours a day.
Kirby added that he liked to fish, and has traveled to many lakes stocked with an F-1 strain large-mouth bass. He said West Point Lake has failed to be used to its full potential and stocking it with game fish could help draw more fishing tournaments and tourism to the area. He noted at last year’s Bassmaster event, a fisherman publicly mocked West Point Lake’s perceived lack of large-mouth bass.
Kirby pledged to spend on essential government functions like the sheriff’s office, fire department, roads and sanitation. He also pledged to stop frivolous spending going on in the county.
Crews then took the pulpit.
His family moved to Troup County in 1985 and he has raised his family here. He became involved in the community “because I feel a strong commitment to give back to the community that helped raise my family.”
Crews said the experiences and connections he made will be invaluable as chairman. He enjoys interacting with people and noted that the role of the chairman is to listen to and work with residents “to find out what is most important to them and their families.”
“Based on the job description for this position, the chairman must be able to work with the other commissioners to bring about change,” Crews said. “In our county government, the chairman’s role is to set the agenda and is only required to vote in cases of a tie. Therefore it is important for him to work with his fellow commissioners to bring about change.”
Crews said he has lived in the unincorporated area of Troup County for 25 years. Growing up, he lived on a small farm and said he has a great appreciation for the rural lifestyle.
He planned to be involved in local agriculture after graduating with agricultural economics degree from the University of Georgia, and after a couple of years with the UGA extension office ended up working at community banks. When Crews first arrived in town, he was amazed at the generosity of the Callaway Foundation and found a spirit of philanthropy in LaGrange, unlike anything in his hometown.
Crews also noted that the lake is a natural resource the community needs to utilize.
“We are very fortunate to have a lake the size of West Point in our back yard,” Crews said. “My relatives always comment about our lake, our wonderful lake, and I talk to folks all the time that know about our lake.”
Crews noted the area had a rich history in textile manufacturing, and many people talk about the old mill villages and baseball teams with pride. He believes the automotive industry is breathing new life into the community, noting that he knows several people who have found work with Kia and suppliers that has expanded their opportunities.
He said children need to be better prepared and educated to work in local industry, and said the planned opening of the College and Career Academy in fall is a big step in that process.
With his experience with the Chamber of Commerce, he realizes retail recruitment is a high priority. LaGrange is in competition with Columbus, Newnan and Auburn, Ala., for attracting businesses.
“Another challenge for us is preserving the beautiful rural areas of the county, and again embrace the smart growth that is needed to pass along to our future generations,” Crews said. “I want to serve as a force in helping Troup County prosper, while preserving our quality of life.”
Crews said the county has been shaped by great leaders past and present, and told the group that their vote is important in the process for the future of Troup County.
Crews and Kirby will face off in the May 20 primary for the Republican spot on the November general election. The winner will face Democratic candidate Jerome Alford.