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Jeffares resigns post for Senate try

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Rick Jeffares has stepped down from his District II Henry County Board of Commissioners seat, and his replacement has been chosen from the local media.

Jeffares qualified Friday to run for the District 17 Senate Seat. He announced his resignation from the commission Tuesday, effective immediately.

The commission appointed a temporary replacement to serve in his absence, until a permanent commissioner can be elected, said Henry County Commission Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis.

"Monroe Roark was appointed to that position today," Mathis said Tuesday. "It was important to the board to select someone who would not be running for the seat, in order to create a level playing field for all candidates seeking the office."

Roark, 43, is a freelance media consultant seen on SCB-TV Channel 15.

Roark said he was expecting the commission's decision, but not this quickly.

"I knew it was a possibility, but I didn't know for sure," he said. "I didn't know it was going to happen this fast. I thought it would be something where it would be a week or two."

A special election will be held to fill Jeffares' seat during the November general election, according to Janet Shellnutt, Henry County elections and registration director. Qualification for the non-partisan race will be held June 28 through July 2, said Shellnutt.

"He [Jeffares] will certainly be missed, as we all have a great working relationship," said Mathis. "I am sure the voters of District II will make an equally good choice in the upcoming special election."

Roark confirmed that he will not run for the seat in the special election. He said he felt he was tapped to replace Jeffares because of his knowledge of county affairs. "I stay pretty well informed, because I have to," said Roark.

Roark said he began following county commission meetings, closely, in 1993, and began freelancing in 2006. His past community service includes membership in the Henry County Rotary Club, and being on the United Way of Henry County advisory board in the 1990s.

A Stockbridge resident, Roark grew up in Memphis, Tenn., and has lived in Henry County since age 20. He and his wife, Kelly, have two children, ages 11 and 4.

Jeffares said he decided to make a bid for the State Senate seat after speaking to Rep. John Lunsford (R-McDonough), and learning that Lunsford would officially withdraw his qualification for the seat. He wrote a letter to the county commission explaining his decision.

"For the past two years, I have served alongside you as we have worked towards our shared vision of making Henry County a great community to live," he wrote. "I have thoroughly enjoyed working with each of you and look forward to continuing to work with you in the future. However, I will no longer be doing so as your fellow commissioner."

Jeffares, 46, took office in January 2009. His term expires in December 2012.

If elected to the senate seat, he said he hopes to address the issues of a balanced state budget without raising taxes, and state-wide transportation improvements.

Looking back on his tenure as a county commissioner, he said an accomplishment he is proud of is the county negotiating cost-effective deals on Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) projects. "With the economy being slow, we have gotten some really great pricing," he said. "SPLOST projects in the past have always come in over budget. We saved a lot of money ... We felt like our money had definitely been well-spent."

Jeffares also said he is pleased with the work the county did in setting a balanced budget for fiscal year 2011.