About 60 voters took the opportunity Monday night to make a side-by-side comparison of the candidates who will line the ballot Nov. 4 in this year's special elections.
The five candidates for the empty Columbia County Board of Commissioners' District 4 seat and the two men vying for the vacant Grovetown City Council position met at Grovetown Middle School for the first of three public forums this week sponsored by the county's Republican Party.
Mike Frazier, vice president of Job Shop and Augusta Staffing, said his platform for city council includes getting more businesses to locate to Grovetown.
Retired Atlanta Gas Light Co. worker Tony Arnold said Grovetown's water and sewer services were key issues.
For the commissioner's race, all five candidates appeared Monday. The district they hope to represent extends through most of the county south of Interstate 20 and includes the cities of Grovetown and Harlem, and Appling, Leah and Winfield.
Lee Anderson, a farmer and businessman, said his relationships within the county and outside political circles could prove valuable during the upcoming round of military base closures. "The major concern I have for the people of this area, for the Grovetown area, is the closing of Fort Gordon," he said.
Emergency-room nurse John Bentley said the county should operate with fiscal responsibility. "I feel government should be run like a business and not an agency with coffers of bottomless pits of money," he said.
George James, a maintenance buyer for Murray Biscuit Co., said growth could begin reaching to the rural portions of Appling and Leah. "You've got to have infrastructure in place first before areas can grow," he said.
Sam Jones, an ordained minister and licensed marriage and family therapist, described District 4 as disconnected and "the stepchild to Columbia County."
"We need to accelerate in this district road paving," he said. "I don't think we need bicycle trails in Jones Creek when we have people in our district on dirt roads."
Retired schoolteacher Rosa Lee Owens also said she supports more road paving and the county's 1-cent sales tax and tourism in Grovetown.
"I would like to be a part of the decision-making process because there's so much to be done," she said.
The next two forums this week will be 7 p.m. Thursday at Harlem Middle School and 9 a.m. Saturday at North Columbia Elementary School.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.