Crews, Foster talk about how they’ll move Troup Co. forward if elected

Published 11:12 pm Monday, April 30, 2018

Patrick Crews and Tripp Foster discussed their platforms in the race for Troup County Commission Chairman during Monday night’s forum, which was hosted by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce.

In front of a packed room at Del’avant Event Center, both candidates were given a chance to speak for two minutes on eight different questions. The topics included the millage rate, the county’s budget, public transportation, job growth and the school system. Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz, who was serving as the moderator for Monday’s forum, also brought up the correctional institute closure, which has left the three cities in Troup County trying to find new ways to manage litter and cut grass.

“We were faced with a way to compensate our employees what they needed to be paid, but yet at the same time to figure out a way in our budget that we could pay for it,” Crews said.

“There are only 22 correctional institutes operating in the state of Georgia now. The reason there is so few is the state has chosen not to fund the counties adequately for what it costs to house those prisoners. We had to make a very hard and tough decision, so we closed the CI, and we worked very hard to make sure all those people were offered jobs in the county. Our priority was to make sure our employees were taken care of.”

Crews said prisoners were very expensive and the county is looking for cheaper ways to handle those same duties. Foster said the key to working with the cities — which was part of the question — was to get all of the leaders in the same room.  He also talked about taxes.

“Taxes are not the only way to get money, but it is a way,” Foster said. “Please don’t let anyone walk out of here saying that I’m for raising taxes because I’m not for raising taxes, but you must know this. There’s a fiscally conservative way that things must be done and sometimes there’s a last resort that must be raising taxes. I don’t think taxes in itself is evil. I think it’s a lack of good stewardship of the tax money where people have a problem. I think there are other ways to fund, such as cutting non-essential government services and to fund the essential government services.”

Here’s a look at other topics discussed Monday:

Race relations in

Troup County

The candidates were asked about the Racial Trustbuilding Initiative in Troup County and what they felt the state of race relations is in Troup County. Crews said early in his term that he was asked about funding it.

“We asked to look at it further along in our budget cycle, and that request was never made back to us to do that,” Crews said. “I think if we look around this room today, and everybody that is gathered here tonight, it is very important that we have a good relationship with everyone in Troup County.”

Foster said race relations are a “work in progress,” and he gets that idea from the newspaper and commission meetings.

“I think the commission should play a supportive role, but as far as fiscal donations to an initiative, I think the public should be made more aware of exactly what all components are involved in that initiative before funds are given from our tax money,” Foster said. “I’m not against helping that initiative but I think more information needs to be put out before I can boldly say we want to support this with the taxpayer’s money.” 

Finding qualified workers

Considering the current job growth in Troup County, the candidates were asked how they would help companies find qualified workers to fill the 6,000 new jobs projected to be created in the next five years.

“We must as a community stay involved. We must be looking for programs and find ways to train our existing workforce,” Crews said. “We have THINC Academy. We have got our colleges, our technical colleges. I think there are a lot of things [that we need to do] to make sure that workforce is here when the jobs all do get here.”

Foster said THINC Academy was one of the best educational opportunities ever to come into the county, and he credited government leaders for their efforts in helping prepare workers for the technical jobs coming into Troup County. 

“The Kia plant is evidence of that. When they came into town, they needed a big workforce, and they couldn’t find it all in LaGrange at that time. They had to start going into Alabama and there were a lot of hurt feelings of some residents,” Foster said.

“The bottom line is it wasn’t personal. It was business. There were a lot of people prepared to do that kind of technical work, so the leaders in this community got together, and they put these classes and schools together and supported these institutions, and they make it happen. Kia has a lot of local employees now because of that effort.”

Early voting started on Monday and will take place Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Early voting will also be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 12.

The LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce will also host a forum for candidates for Georgia state senator and Georgia House of Representatives district 133 on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Del’avant.