Monday evening The Thomaston Times, along with WTGA Fun 101FM, held a radio debate for local candidates seeking the offices of Upson County Sheriff, Clerk of Superior Court and Chairman of the Board of Commissioners. Each group of candidates was asked questions pertaining to their plans for the department if they are successful in the election.
Upson County Sheriff
The first set of questions went to the two vying for the position of Sheriff. Dan Kilgore (R) and Jeff Little (D) are both veteran law enforcement agents with 31 years and 19 years of service, respectively.
The first question they were asked related to how they would help the school system and community to deal with increasing teen violence and crimes.
Kilgore stated he wants to continue the work with the School Resource Officers, but also wants to provide programs to educate the local youth and the implementation of a citizen’s police academy for both youth and adults so they will be better informed about law enforcement.
Little agreed that the Resource Officers are very important, but also feels they need to do more assemblies and career days to speak with the students about drug abuse and sexual abuse.
The subject of additional road deputies came up and how each candidate would propose funding.
Kilgore believes they are needed, but knows they will have to be added as budgetary restraints allow. He plans to have a streamlined and effective budget management and sees a possibility of combining some existing positions to allow for more on patrol.
Little also feels there is a need for more road deputies and his desire is to add one deputy, preferably a female to each shift, a total of four. He would also like to add one female investigator to help deal with sexual assault or rape cases.
The next subject dealt with drug abuse and how each would fight the problem.
Kilgore stated the answer is through both education and enforcement. With more drug offenders as probationers, a way to help them be successful has to be derived. He also plans to train the deputies to recognize drug offenders they may come across on duty.
Little also believes in education for the public on the abuse of drugs. He wants to promote awareness of the programs currently available at the counseling center for those who need help. The main thing he would like to do is work with the Drug Task Force and have them focus more on Upson County.
The final question dealt with their priorities for the next four years if they are elected.
If elected, Kilgore listed his priorities as effective law enforcement and fair treatment to all citizens. He also wants to provide education to citizens, work within the budgetary guidelines and make a Sheriff’s Office that everyone can be proud of.
Little’s main priority is to make sure that Upson County and its’ citizens are safe. He wants to work with the school system and DTF to help clear up the drug problem in the community.
Clerk of Superior Court
The next office up during the debate was Clerk of Superior Court, which has Teresa Harper (Incumbent-R) and Russ Bridges (D) on the ballot. Bridges was ill and unable to attend the debate.
Harper explained that during her term in office she has been effective in protecting and preserving the county’s records while meeting the demands of unfunded mandates from state legislation without creating an extra burden to the tax payers. She has also implemented many services, such as an expanded deed research record room so they are easier to research, a wide format scanner to assist surveyors without any added expense and an excellent trained staff who provides courteous, knowledgeable service.
If re-elected she wants to make sure that the Clerk’s Office can provide the citizens the services that are required without causing any extra burden to tax payers. Many mandates from the state legislation are unfunded and it is important to her that her office stay up to date on those to make sure the county is protected and citizens do not have to pay extra for those services.
Upson County Commission Chair
The final candidates to participate in the debate are up for the position of Chairman of the Board of Commissioners. Current Chairman Maurice Raines (Incumbent-D) and Rusty Blackston (R) are seeking election. The first topic to be discussed was the possibility of consolidating the Upson County and City of Thomaston governments.
Raines stated he is not opposed to it if it is what the people of this community want to do and he feels the people should have a say in what they want for their government.
Blackston noted that with the small population of this community it would be a good thing in the future, but may be hard to sell to some of the public. He thinks it is something that will have to be worked out between the local governments, but that it is still a few years down the road.
The next question asked about the future of the Emergency Medical Services and if they thought the county would fund it 100 percent.
Raines feels that the ambulance service is the backbone for looking after the citizens in this community and getting them to the care facilities they need. He does support the ambulance service and has over the last four years by honoring the contract to give them an increase each year even in tough economic times. However, as with each budgetary item, it is something that will need to be looked at and discussed each year.
Blackston feels Upson County Ambulance Service is one of the best in the state and they have been gracious in keeping the cost down. The county is only providing a portion of the cost and he feels it would be a great task to undertake to fund completely.
Increasing jobs is a priority all across the nation and Upson County is no different. Each candidate was asked to give their strategy for attracting more to the area.
Raines feels the way to be effective is to have a relationship with state government officials like he does now, which he stated has put Upson County on the map for economic development.
Blackston also thinks we will need to stay in touch with the Georgia Economic Development, but that we will have to find a way to offer financial assistance to potential industries in order to compete with other areas.
The future of firefighting in the county has been a hot topic for quite some time now and both were asked if they would rather stay with volunteer fire departments (VFD) or move to a paid county fire department.
Raines stated he fully supports the VFD, and that a county-wide fire service would cost the county upwards of $2 million. He wants to make sure the VFD are funded and able to do their job and is proud that the county is able to help do so.
Blackston noted he also fully supports all six VFD, which is why he pushed to have the money in the SPLOST for them. He would like to work with each VFD, but the county cannot hand over tax payer money without accounting for it. Working together to build stations or lease equipment for the VFD is something he would like to do and a paid person would be on hand at the stations at all times, creating a win-win for everyone.
The final question dealt with their priorities for the next four years.
If re-elected, Raines pledges to work hard to bring jobs into the area through both new and existing industry. He also will continue to work with state government to increase the odds for Upson County and improve the quality of life for citizens.
Blackston stated his main priority is also bringing jobs back to the community and the only way that can happen is by having cooperation between the local governments because we will not be able to attract industries without doing so. He also wants to improve recreation because that is one of the main things companies look at before choosing a location.
To listen to a replay of the debate in its entirety, tune into Fun 101FM at 6 a.m. Sunday morning. Early voting ends today at 4:30 p.m.