The three men battling for the District 3 seat on the County Board of Commissioners gathered for a debate Monday night that was cordial and informative for Peachtree City voters. The debate, hosted at McIntosh High School and sponsored by the Fayette County Republican Party, was held to help District 3 voters decide who will replace the outgoing Steve Brown. With no Democratic candidates for the seat, whichever of the three wins the May 22 primary will also win the seat in the November 6 general election.
Two familiar faces in former Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix and former Peachtree City Councilman Eric Inker are on the ballot, along with newcomer Edge Gibbons. What the debate showed was three candidates who agree on many core issues, and each eager to show they are the man for the job. All boast military backgrounds, with experience in the Air Force, the Army, and Naval Intelligence. The lessons they learned in service inform their decision to run for local office.
Imker said the reasons he is running are simple, recounting his answer to the three reasons he was running back when he was elected to city council.
“The budget, the budget, the budget. My answer turned me into a successful candidate,” he said.
Haddix boasted of his experience, both in government and in running his own businesses.
“I’ve got a lot of experience. Honestly, I’ve got the most experience of anybody up here,” said Haddix. “That’s not derogatory towards my opponents, it’s just stating a simple fact.”
Gibbons outlined what he thinks the county needs to tackle and how he would fit in at the BOC. He called a lack of strategic thinking in what we want Fayette County to be, economic development, and teamwork the three biggest issues facing the county.
“My mantra while in office is going to be listen, learn, and lead,” he said. “I will listen to the people of Fayette County, learn from them, and lead them while I do it, exactly as I did while I was in the Army and the past nine years of corporate experience and working with defense contractors.”
Traffic, economic development, animal welfare, and cooperation among commissioners were the hot topics of the day.
For traffic, the solution to the crowded 54 corridor will come with cooperation from surrounding counties, specifically Coweta.
“I don’t think there is an easy solution for access to the interstate,” said Gibbons, calling for a corridor to eliminate some of the traffic off of 54. “We need to look at a regional solution that includes surrounding counties.”
Haddix sets his sights on extending and widening Fischer Road in Coweta all the way to Interstate 85. Imker is eyeing turning Tyrone Road into a state highway and connecting it into Coweta.
On economic growth, Imker focused on maintaining industrial zonings and resisting the urge to turn them into residential or retail.
“Make sure any land that’s zoned industrial stays that way,” he said, noting that residential and retail are not nearly as beneficial for the county in the longterm.
Haddix’s stance is a clear one.
“The key is jobs, plain and simple,” he said, adding that bringing in high-paying jobs would positively effect other quality of life concerns with fewer people needing to commute to Atlanta for work.
Gibbons wants to reach out to larger and medium-sized business in Fayette and see what services they procure from outside Fayette and try to link them with local companies.
Each agreed that the animal shelter has been largely ignored and is in need of some attention.
“We’ve got a budget of about $100 million,” said Imker. “We need to be able to provide the money so that no animal gets euthanized.”
Haddix pointed towards misplaced spending.
“It bugs me that they could put a couple million dollars into a bridge (near the hospital) that isn’t helpful, but they can’t put anything toward the animal shelter,” lamented Haddix. “That’s ridiculous.”
Gibbons noted that roughly $124,000 is budgeted for shelter improvements, but that it represents just a stopgap measure, and the building will need to be modernized and improved. He is eager to see the county do more to help the volunteers that get so many of the animals adopted.
“A successful animal shelter is a job for the community,” he said. “We need to make sure that we give them a facility and a staff that continues to support (the volunteers).”
They talked of maintaining the interests of their district while being part of a cohesive Board of Commissioners.
“In the case of commission, you all are our boss. You all expect us to work together,” said Gibbons, noting that he will fight for what he believes in, but that he will fall in line if the majority votes against him. “Because that’s the right thing to do, and that’s what you expect of us.”
Haddix said he would not fracture the balance on the dais if it doesn’t go his way.
“There are five different districts, five different sets of voters, and five different sets of goals. I’m not there to fight with them,” said Haddix. “I will do my research and present my arguments. If it doesn’t sway them, so be it.”
Imker said he has already worked with both the commissioners and County Administrator Steve Rapson and is looking forward to sharing ideas that benefit his district.
“I need to be the champion of District 3 when I go to the commission,” he said, ensuring that he will consider every decision as it effects Peachtree City. “I’m going to vote for those decisions to be favorable to Peachtree City.”
The tone throughout was cordial between the competitors, with a mutual respect for their willingness to serve their district.
“I’m not a career politician, but I appreciate all three of us stepping up and making sure this wasn’t an uncontested election,” said Imker.
Early voting is underway, with the primary set for Tuesday, May 22.