Candidates banter on District 1 issues
The discussion at Monday’s District 1 candidate forum in Woodbine focused on issues facing the county government and school system.
Opposed candidates for Camden County Board of Commissioners and Camden County Board of Education said they were fairly satisfied with the job that the respective governing boards were doing, but felt there was some room for improvement. They also voiced a desire to be part of positive growth and change in the community and school system.
District 1 board of commissioners candidates Lannie Brant and Charles Clark and board of education candidates Jason Chance and Terry Mack Sr. answered about 20 questions posed by moderator Jill Helton, who is editor and publisher of the Tribune & Georgian.
A video of the forum in its entirety can be found at http://tribune-georgian.com/news/district-1-candidate-forum.
The newspaper jointly sponsored the event with the Camden County Get Out the Vote team, a grassroots voting advocacy group.
District 1 commissioner candidates Randy Gunter did not attend and Donald Glover, who was seated in the audience, opted not to participate. Glover is running as a Democrat in the race and will not face opposition until the November general election.
District 5 commissioner candidates Ben Casey and Ruben Gomez and school board candidates Farran Fullilove and Mark Giddens also observed from the audience.
A District 5 forum also has been planned for 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 16, at Kingsland City Hall.
Board of commissioners
Charles Clark, father of incumbent District 2 commissioner Chuck Clark, served on the Camden County Board of Commissioners from 1991-1994. He said a lot has changed since he became a certified county commissioner years ago, when management was based around emergencies instead of planning.
“What we learned in Atlanta (at training) didn’t apply at home. Now, it applies, I believe … it’s more business now,” he said.
Although he has not attended any recent board meetings, Clark said he keeps up with county business by reading the Tribune & Georgian.
“I feel like I could handle whatever is going on with the commission,” he said. “You won’t know until you get on board. You may have an idea how things work, but the inner workings are a whole lot different than what you see on the outside.”
Lannie Brant has worked for Camden County for the past 31 years, 29 of those as solid waste director. He says he will retire this year.
“I know the county government. I know how it functions. I have attended 75 to 80 percent of all commission meetings in the last 31 years, which kind of gives you a good insight of what’s going on,” said Brant. “I do know a lot of the inner workings of the commission.”
Clark said his main concern in District 1 is the same as it was when he previously served.
“It’s the same old story — roads. Over the years, (north end road paving projects) just keep getting pushed back and things on the south end continue to get done. And taxes,” he said. “There is a lot of property that is higher priced on this end of the county versus to the south end. … That needs to be rectified.”
Brant said he also agreed that roads were an issue, but said he felt the lack of an industrial base should be a priority.
“There is no industrial tax base anymore. It used to be roughly 12 percent in the ‘90s. It is down to 2 percent now, so I say that we’ve definitely got to make changes,” he said.
Clark also pointed to the lack of results in industrial development, saying that he did not particularly like authorities because they were comprised of non-elected officials who were not as accountable to the people.
Both candidates said they supported the commercial spaceport the county is trying to develop, but would not obligate taxpayers to millions of dollars in revenue bonds without a referendum on the issue.
Brant and Clark also said they would support the spaceport project, even if that meant some level of risk to Cumberland Island.
Board of education
School board candidates Jason Chance and Terry Mack Sr. have attended few meetings of the Camden County Board of Education, but say they are ready and willing to learn the ins and outs of the job.
Mack said he has many friends working within the system and they keep him abreast of issues needing attention. He agreed with comments made earlier in the forum by Clark.
“ … There’s just so much you are going to know on the outside. Because with any meeting that’s worthwhile having, you can’t have the public in everything you talk about. And when you have public participation, it’s OK to talk, but when you put them out, they’re talking about stuff we ain’t never going to hear …,” said Mack, who hopes to encourage changes once he is part of that group.
Chance said he had the desire to learn whatever necessary to be effective in the job and would draw upon his past experience as a teacher and mentor to young people. He added that his decision to run was driven by his love and respect for kids.
Both Chance and Mack have worked for years with youth recreation programs and dealing with at-risk children in those settings.
Both candidates said they would support the construction of schools in the north end, including a second high school, if growth warranted it.
“Since I have been going to school in Camden County, we have been sitting three to a seat, sometimes four to a seat. When a bus driver is out, our bus had to pick up the other route on the way,” Chance said. “It takes a toll on the kids coming back 45 minutes from school every day.”
Reacting to a recent survey of state teachers that found high levels of dissatisfaction, both candidates said teachers deserve much more recognition than they are getting.
“Teachers need to be recognized more throughout the community. They do a lot for our kids. … They are there to support our kids and they need to be recognized,” Chance said.
The two talked extensively about the challenges that teachers face and the family issues that spill over into our classrooms.
“First of all, I think we need to pay teachers more. And another thing I have observed personally … our school system for the most part is not focused on education. There are so many distractions that we have to deal with that the teachers really don’t have the opportunity to do what they are qualified to do,” Mack said.