The two Republican candidates for Troup County Commission Chairman answered questions during a forum by the Troup County Republican Women on Tuesday.
County Commission chairman candidate Patrick Crews and Frank Kirby answered questions submitted and asked at the Tuesday meeting for a crowd at Highland Country Club. The following are the questions and candidates’ responses in the order they were asked and answered.
What will you use to keep the public informed of decisions of County Commissioners?
Kirby said that he would make his cell phone and home numbers available for people to call him. He also said that part of government was transparency and letting people know what is going on. He said local media could use “more direction on what’s happening in government.”
Crews said that communication has changed over the years, and that leaders need to look into new mediums for communications. He said another community used an online survey to gather residents’ input and thoughts on the county for direction on what areas to address.
How will you reduce waste of tax dollars?
Crews said that it’s difficult job to look at a budget, find what residents want and then figure how to pay for it. He said officials can look at the budget process and how it can be done differently, like prioritizing what residents want as the top budget items to devote more manpower to and working down from there.
Kirby said Troup County does waste tax money and there are ways the county can reduce costs without cutting salaries. He wants to look at redirecting how funds are spent, noting salaries for law enforcement and fire department personnel are less than surrounding areas and city of LaGrange police and fire, which lures county firefighters and law enforcement away.
How can the county use inmates more effectively and efficiently?
Kirby said Troup County does a great job with using inmates, but suggested using them to clean up around the lake, and said another community used inmates to plant willows around the lake side. He said willows help with breeding more fish and beautification to attract more visitors to the lake.
Crews said he worked with inmates during a project for road cleanups, and learned a lot of the rules to go by for inmate labor. He said that he believed they should all be on the road picking up if they are able, but should utilize inmate labor as much as possible.
What is the most significant role you’ve held in your career?
Crews said his most significant career role was as a market president for a bank, supervising about 40 to 45 employees. He worked on business development, and oversaw about $100 million in assets. He added that his banking experience taught him a lot about watching a budget and how to make a profit.
Kirby said his most significant role was as chief deputy, where he was responsible for the largest budget in Troup County. He oversaw 115 employees for six years, “and it was a very pleasing experience.”
What is your most successful volunteer role?
Kirby said his most successful volunteer role was with the Georgia Sheriff’s Youth Home, which he worked with for 38 years, spending “endless hours” with the kids.
Crews said he was most satisfied with an initiative he helped start to provide about 1,500 under-insured working people with free dental care since 2007.
What mark do you want to leave as County Commission Chairman?
Crews said he wants to give back to the community where he lives and leave it a better shape than when he began.
Kirby said Troup County is issuing significantly fewer building permits than surrounding areas and wants to be able to bring people and development back to the county.
Do you agree that a compromise is sometimes the only way to reach an effective decision?
Kirby agreed, saying in his job with the sheriff’s office, sometimes reaching a compromise was the only effective solution.
Crews said as part of his role in local banks, compromise and negotiation often played major parts. He said even though they have a negative connotation, he said a former commissioner told him that one of the first things a commissioner has to do is “learn to count to three,” because it takes three commissioners to support a motion, which may mean compromise.
Why do you want to be County Commission chairman?
Crews said he wants to give back to the community, and enjoys working with and interacting with people.
Kirby said working with people was part of his life for 38 years and missed working with people since he retired from the sheriff’s office. He was used to getting calls at 3 a.m. from an angry person, and said since he is retired, he can dedicate his full time to the office.
How will you deal with homelessness in the community?
Crews said that one of things that is disappointing to him is that 20 percent of people in Troup County live in poverty. He said that connecting the right people and groups with resources to those in need is the best solution he could make.
Kirby said that the support of churches in the community could, together, help alleviate the problems in Troup County.
What do you think are the top three issues facing the county right now?
Kirby said the county is losing businesses and people, and he would like to grow the county. He also said county public safety needs help, and getting everyone in the county on board and going in the same direction will be a big issue.
Crews said economic development is important and retail in LaGrange will bring more jobs to the community that it is losing to Auburn, Columbus and Newnan. He said poverty issues relates to crime and education, and the upcoming college and career academy is a step in the right direction along with continuing to work on the lake to capitalize on tourism.
What would you do to help downtown LaGrange?
Kirby said downtown LaGrange is heading in the right direction, but there should be more restaurants and events. He said that most downtowns host a lot of events to bring tourists.
Crews said LaGrange has a good downtown, but agreed with Kirby that events downtown are very important. He noted that his hometown of Dublin, which is smaller than LaGrange, has a Saint Patrick’s Day festival that brings thousands of visitors and wasn’t sure why LaGrange didn’t host a similar event.
How would you use West Point Lake to promote economic opportunities?
Kirby said he spends a lot of time on lakes and fishing across Alabama and Georgia. He said a certain strain of largemouth bass, the F-1, grows quickly and larger than others. Towns that have stocked their lakes with the fish have seen a boom in fishing and tourism.
“If we can get that done in our lake, you will not believe what it can do for Troup County,” Kirby said.
Crews said the county needs to work on improving the water level. He has worked with the West Point Lake Advisory Committee that last few years and promotion has drawn tournaments like the Bassmaster and other tournaments to the area, but continuing to fight for a stable water level would provide more stability in tourism.
“I think bringing tourists in, the number given to us this morning at the Chamber (of Commerce) breakfast, I think, was 3.5 million visitors come to Troup County and it saves each of us about $760 on our property tax because of tourism,” Crews said.
How do you feel about mandatory garbage pickup in the unincorporated county?
Crews said that he was not in favor of mandatory pickup, and no residents that he spoke to were supportive of the measure. He noted that litter was a problem in the county, but there are other ways to tackle that problem.
Kirby said residents tell him that they want the convenience centers open seven days per week again and wants to commit special-purpose, local-option sales tax funds to upkeep of the centers and equipment. He said that a lot of people in the rural areas live down long driveways, sometimes half-mile dirt roads, and pulling a pickup bin to the road is impractical.
Kirby said he has a vision for the county and will do everything in his power to help the county.
“I love Troup County and I would like to see Troup County grow in the future, and I have a vision and a dream for doing that for Troup County,” Kirby said. “I will give it my heart and my whole 100-percent attention. I will be available day and night.”
Crews said he loves Troup County and has enjoyed living in the county and raising his family here, and has created connections with people here that can help him lead and work on issues.
“For me the part leadership that is important is, again, listening to the citizens and find out what they’re very interested in,” Crews said. “I’ve been involved in many different areas of our community for a long time. I’ve heard what different groups feel … that’s why I go back to a survey to listen to the citizens … to find out what we can provide to them.”