A poorly attended forum to hear from Columbia County Commission candidates on Wednesday focused mostly on taxes and finances.
Only the incumbents showed up at the forum sponsored by the Columbia County Young Republicans to speak to about 30 attendees.
Commission Chairman Ron Cross and District 4 Commissioner Scott Dean were the only candidates to attend, though chairman candidate Brett McGuire sent a representative, Beverly King. District 4 candidate David Payne did not attend.
King referred to McGuire as a "financial genius" who pledges to cut taxes.
Though Columbia County has fared better than most places during the recession, King said many area residents still are struggling with unemployment and foreclosures.
As a former plant manager for Lily Tulip Cup Corp., McGuire saved 300 jobs by cutting expenses during tough times and will bring the same business acumen to the chairmanship, King said .
"We don't need politicians running our county," she said. "We need business leaders."
McGuire could not attend the forum because of a prior campaign commitment, she said.
Cross said property tax rates have gone down in the county during his two terms of office.
Wednesday morning, Cross and Dean, members of the Management and Financial Services Committee, voted to lower the millage by a quarter mill.
Though times are tough, Cross said, the county has continued to prosper. He noted sales tax revenues from April and May "exceed any April and May ever in Columbia County."
A growth in sales tax revenues combined with greater government efficiency led to a tax cut, he said.
"We have never been in better shape," Cross said. "We are the envy of counties throughout Georgia."
The millage cut proposed Wednesday is the third such rollback Dean has overseen during his time in public office, he said.
Dean said he also achieved two other property tax cuts as mayor of Harlem.
Dean said the success of his commission tenure partly is due to close personal ties with county school board member Mike Sleeper, District 2 Commissioner Trey Allen, Chief Magistrate Bobby Christine and state Rep. Ben Harbin that have helped inspire a spirit of cooperation to improve government.
The candidates, all of whom are Republicans, will face off in the July 20 primary. No Democratic opponents filed to run in either election.
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