Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross announced Friday that he will run again this year to keep his seat, but he will have competition.
At least three others already have either filed paperwork or announced they will challenge for the chairman position: John David Hayes, an insurance claims representative; Alvin Gene Starks, a former chairman of the county's Republican Party; and Andy Kingery, a retired Evans banker who unsuccessfully ran against Cross in his first bid for chairman in 2002.
The candidates will face off in the July 18 Republican primary.
On Thursday, Hayes made his announcement to run for chairman at the steps of the Evans Judicial Center.
Hayes said that he is opposed to the idea of consolidation in Columbia County and that if elected he also would reach out to the county's two cities, Grovetown and Harlem.
Hayes said he feels the county should have "value-added" growth.
"We shouldn't just build homes to increase the tax base,'' he said.
He also said he is in favor of having a financial park built in the county much like the industrial park in Grovetown.
"We are losing our children to other cities around Georgia,'' he said.
On Friday, Cross, speaking before an Evans Government Center auditorium packed with supporters, said he is proud of some of the accomplishments of the county commission during his three-year tenure.
"We tackled some issues that had been on the shelves for many years,'' he said, referring to the county's fire service structure and the push toward consolidating government.
Although consolidation didn't make its way through the state Legislature and to a ballot this year, Cross said he doesn't think residents have heard the last of the idea.
"I don't think it will go away,'' he said. Residents should have the chance to vote on whether they favor consolidation, he said.
Cross' supporters Friday were plentiful, including Sheriff Clay Whittle, who spoke at the announcement.
"The race is to catch Ron Cross,'' the sheriff said. "The man listens, and he comes to a compromise for what's best for the county.''
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