Barry Fleming is ready to take the next step.
Thursday, the 36-year-old Harlem resident and current Columbia County Commission Chairman announced plans to run for the Georgia House of Representatives. He'll run for Bill Jackson's seat, District 79 under the redistricted seats.
"I still want to serve the residents of Columbia County," he said. "I think this will allow me to do that to best of my abilities."
The campaign means he'll have to leave the county commission - vacating his seat a little more than half-way through his four-year term - when he officially qualifies in mid-June.
His state house platform focuses on three areas. First, he wants to reform the state's pardon and parole system in light of the recent Alexander Williams decision. His plan would be to give the governor the power to commute a sentence - taking the power from an unelected body.
"I think if Gov. Barnes would have had to have made that decision he would not have done it and we would be rid of one heinous killer," he said. "Right now we really don't have a check and balance system."
Also, he wants to allow Harlem and Grovetown to receive special economic development incentives based on the state's tier structure. Under that structure, Columbia County is in the fourth tier - reserved for more affluent counties. But that means Harlem and Grovetown - regardless of their demographics - are also tier four and can't offer the same incentives of a title one city or county.
"I'd like for them to be able to apply on their own merits," he said. "Then they'd be able to apply as a tier two city and they would be able to get better incentives for attracting businesses and also qualify for more state grants."
Finally, Mr. Fleming wants to change the state's sales tax provisions to allow counties to use penny tax dollars for water and sewer projects, stormwater work and other infrastructure improvements.
Right now if you are city,m you can use your sales tax dollars that the voters approve, to do water projects, sewer projects and stormwater drainage projects," he said. "But if you are a county, you can't. That needs to be changed."
Mr. Fleming nearly ran for the seat two years ago, when Mr. Jackson was considering not running. But Mr. Jackson decided to stay in the legislature for the redistricting battle and Mr. Fleming decided to run for re-election.
Mr. Fleming first joined the county commission in late 1999 - just weeks after then-District 3 commissioner Lee Brooks resigned because of a job move. He was elected chairman of the county commission in January 2001 and re-elected to that position earlier this year.
Mr. Fleming is a partner in the Fulcher, Hagler, Reed, Hanks & Harper law firm and lives in Harlem with his wife, Paige.
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