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The run-off candidates in their words

JONESBORO — With advance voting in the Clayton County run-off elections continuing through Friday, the Clayton News Daily is re-running responses to candidates questionnaires to help readers make informed decisions in the Aug. 21 run-off elections.

There are five races where run-offs are taking place: Sheriff; county commission chairman; District 3 commissioner; District 44 State Senate and District 63 State Representative. These responses are intended to help voters decide for whom they want to cast ballots. The newspaper is not endorsing any candidates. In some cases, the responses have been edited for space.

One set of responses, from incumbent State Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro), has been added because her responses arrived shortly after the print deadline for the original publishing of the candidates answers. No response was ever received from former Sheriff Victor Hill.

Advance voting for the run-offs is under way and will continue until Friday at 7 p.m. at the Clayton County Elections and Registration Office, 121 South McDonough St., Jonesboro. Sample ballots and a Find My Elected Officials search engine can be found online at claytoncountyga.gov/departments/elections-and-registration.aspx/.

The candidates answers are:

-- Sheriff's race --

Victor Hill

Embattled candidate Victor Hill did not respond to questions submitted by the Clayton News Daily.

Kem Kimbrough (I), 40

Occupation: Clayton County sheriff

What do you deem the primary issues facing the sheriff's office?

The primary issues I see for the future of this agency lie in its technology and capital infrastructure. Most of the capital assets of the agency are approaching 12 years of age; replacement is going to prove very costly, and there seem to be no sources of funding available. On the other hand, the cost of failure for any of those assets is too terrible to bear. Our technology needs are similarly positioned; we need more technology to help us work more efficiently and effectively to meet our resource shortfalls, but again there seems to be no funding to acquire the technology that we need.

Specifically, how do you think the sheriff's office should operate?

The sheriff's office should concentrate on its three primary functions: serving warrants and process, securing the courts and maintaining the jail. But the sheriff is also charged by law with performing any other duty that necessarily appertains to the office which means that the sheriff should fill in the gaps where other agencies need their assistance. The people do not expect to hear ‘No, that's not my job’ from their sheriff. Instead, it is the responsibility of the sheriff to see to it that the people's needs are met, while coordinating with and giving due regard to the other agencies involved, whenever possible.

How important is it to you to work well with the other law enforcement agencies in the county?

I have put a good deal of effort into working well with the other law enforcement agencies in the county; from entering into agreements to deputize officers from various agencies to enable them to work more closely together, to planning joint operations amongst the departments to address county-wide issues, to holding a monthly meeting for the chiefs of all law enforcement agencies so that we can gather to discuss our challenges. I plan to continue in this spirit, should the citizens grant me a second term.

-- Chairman, Clayton County Board of Commissioners --

Eldrin Bell (I), 75

Occupation: County Commission Chairman

What do you think the Clayton County Board of Commissioners should do to improve its relationship with the city governments?

I had hoped that we could all sit down at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood and do what is fair for the people of Clayton County. I would be highly disappointed if it comes to a lawsuit. I am proud of the relationship that I have maintained with the leaders of our seven cities throughout my tenure in office.

How do you feel the county government can be more transparent and inclusive with the public?

I would be personally supportive of the citizens being placed on the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. In Clayton County our meetings are open to the press and the public, our budgets may be reviewed by anyone, and our laws and decisions are open to discussion, it is seen as transparent, I would like it to be beyond transparent, to be crystal clear!

Do you feel there is wasteful spending in the county's budget?

No, because its vitally important that we maintain the level of service to the citizens that we serve. We have taken pain-staking measures as we developed this year's budget and I have personally contacted the Carl Vinson Institute to examine our reorganization effects for next year.

Jeff Turner, 48

Occupation: Educator, ITT-Technical Institute

What do you think the Clayton County Board of Commissioners should do to improve its relationship with the city governments?

I believe that the board of commissioners should sit down at the table with the city officials and work out a compromise that's in the best interest of all the citizens of Clayton County. Not being able to work with our counterparts at the municipal level not only hurts our citizens but stifles our growth as a county.

How do you feel the county government can be more transparent and inclusive with the public?

I agree with many of our citizens, by having public comments at the beginning of the meetings will give the citizens an opportunity to voice their issues and concerns on matters that directly affect them before a vote is cast. Someone may provide some insight on an issue which could cause a commissioner to change his/her vote.

Do you feel there is wasteful spending in the county's budget?

I personally feel that there's not any waste in the county's 2012 budget. The state requires that the county pass a balanced budget, which we have; however, with that being said the one area that I would have increased funding for would have been for our courts and public safety departments. I feel that we need to strengthen our law enforcement efforts to ensure that our citizens are safe and feel safe where they live, work and play.

-- BOC, District 3 --

Wole Ralph (I), 34

Occupation: County Commissioner

What do you think the Clayton County Board of Commissioners should do to improve its relationship with the city governments?

Unlike the mayors or city councilpersons, my role as a county commissioner is to represent the interests of all of the people of Clayton County. The process for resolving issues related to the service delivery agreement is described in and guided by state law. The presence of lawyers in the process is not an indicator of problems in the relationships we have with the cities. It more rightly reflects the technical nature of the process and the need to make sure we comply with the law.

How do you feel the county government can be more transparent and inclusive with the public?

I do not see any relationship between the two. Very seldom do the people who address the Board reference issues which have been discussed during the meeting. By having it [public comment in commission meetings] at the end, we provide more time and opportunity for the citizens to address their concerns to the Board. I am proud of the fact that our county has been recognized for having one of the most transparent websites.

Do you feel there is wasteful spending in the county's budget?

What some may consider wasteful, others see as essential. Two-thirds of the general fund budget is spent on services mandated by the state. That leaves a relatively small amount of money for recreation, senior services, libraries and other general government functions. Frankly, I dont see expenditures in these areas as wasteful. I believe that expenditures in these non-essential areas are necessary to attract people to this county [to] grow our tax base. I am proud of our financial stewardship during what has been difficult economic times.

Shana M. Rooks, 37

Occupation: Attorney

What do you think the Clayton County Board of Commissioners should do to improve its relationship with the city governments?

The Service Delivery Strategy process gives local governments and authorities the opportunity to reach agreements on the delivery of services in an effective and cost-efficient manner. It is supposed to reduce duplicative services particularly to the municipalities who naturally would be eligible for county resources as well. There must be open communication with the municipalities about their need for the public services so as not to duplicate services. It appears there is not sufficient communication by the majority of the board with the municipalities and that will only change when the make-up of the board has changed.

How do you feel the county government can be more transparent and inclusive with the public?

Given the age of technology, there is no reason why we shouldn't televise the commission meetings. Citizens should be able to stream the meetings from their computers as well. Furthermore, the budget should be made available on line prior to the vote on the budget. To require citizens to go to the public library to view the budget that is 207 pages in length is unreasonable. Commission must allow the citizens to raise any objection to proposed resolutions prior to a vote on the same. The Commission cannot make its decisions in a vacuum and many times, it seems the decisions are made in that form.

Do you feel there is wasteful spending in the county's budget?

In the past, Commissioners have taken trips to Hawaii, Amsterdam and New York and various other locations without a clear purpose that directly benefits the county while public safety has been cut every year for the past three years. The budget lists $3,433,750 for professional services without outlining what those services are to be for FY 2013.

-- State Senate, District 44 --

Gail Buckner, 61

Occupation: Communications marketing.

Why did you decide to run?

I decided to run because all citizens in Senate District 44 deserve to have a senator that is in touch with the community and treats them with respect.

What are three main issues in your district that should be addressed and how will you address these issues if elected?

The three main issues in Senate District 44 are jobs creation, transportation and education. All three issues impact each other. To attract more businesses, we must show these business owners that citizens can get to work without sitting in stalled traffic.

To attract more businesses, we also must demonstrate that we can provide a skilled workforce. To improve our opportunities for jobs creation, transportation and education, I will work to restore full funding of the QBE formula for our schools, reduce classroom size and personally I will challenge our students to embrace the great opportunities that they have to get a world-class education. I will continue to personally support Partners In Education, and I will work to secure more support from the business community to provide internships and other resources. I will work with the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Georgia Department of Transportation and local elected officials to help correct those issues that are impacting transportation. I have worked with the U.S. Department of Labor and will continue with this relationship to help provide more job opportunities for our citizens. Do an Internet search of Gail Buckner creating jobs to learn more about my efforts.

How do you feel that your local government could better serve your community?

I feel local government can better serve our community if all elected officials will work together to help solve those issues that are detrimental to the welfare of our community. My hat is off to those local elected officials that regularly work to help move Clayton County forward, and they continue to stay positive even when faced with dealing with others that don't share this same approach. Those that put petty politics ahead of working together are not serving our community to the best of their abilities. I helped institute a Clayton County Leadership Round Table so that all elected officials can meet and share ideas, and I will continue to help organize this important opportunity for elected officials to network. Communicating with each other is a great thing.

Gail Davenport (I), 63

Occupation: Real Estate Agent

Why did you decide to run?

I decide to seek re-election to the GA State Senate because I have served the citizens well and want to continue advocating on their behalf important issues like public education and transportation, economic sustainability, home mortgage relief and foreclosure prevention and veteran affairs.

What are three main issues in your district that should be addressed and how will you address these issues if elected?

Job Creation - Create job creation legislation. I believe that job creation will sustain our community. Creating jobs for citizens will help close the gap for home mortgage relief and foreclosure prevention. Job creation will also be a means to help homeowners pay their property taxes as to provide resources to help fund our schools.

Education - Advocate for resources so that Clayton County and DeKalb County will both have excellent school systems. Develop programs to reduce the high drop out rate for students and increase their achievement levels.

Transportation - Support Transportation initiatives.

How do you feel that your local government could better serve your community?

Local government can better serve our community by adhering to the needs of every citizen. If local governmental agencies work together that would also better serve the community.

-- State Representative, District 63 --

T.J. Copeland, 31

Occupation: Teacher.

Why did you decide to run?

This district is my home. I went to elementary, middle, and high school here. I truly feel that it helped me to become the person that I am today. I have spent the last 11 years of my life being as involved as I can be to aid in my community.

What are three main issues in your district that should be addressed and how will you address these issues if elected?

My three main issues are education, HOPE scholarship and job growth. As a teacher, I have first hand knowledge of what it takes to better the education system in the state of Georgia. With this experience, I will work hard to pass legislation that impacts our youth for the better. When we have improved our education system, corporations will want to move their businesses here. In addition, I will work to return vocational education back to the high schools. This will help Georgia to create a stronger workforce, which will draw companies back to Georgia.

How do you feel that your local government could better serve your community? I feel that it is imperative that our local government become involved in our communities. This will allow them to have an understanding of what our community truly needs.

Ronnie Mabra, 34

Occupation: Attorney

Why did you decide to run?

I want to use my influence as a legislator to create jobs, guarantee educational opportunities and protect our neighborhoods during my time at the state capitol.

What are three main issues in your district that should be addressed and how will you address these issues if elected?

The three main issues in my district are creating jobs, guaranteeing educational opportunities and promoting safe and healthy neighborhoods. If elected, I would help attract new companies and keep tax dollars in our community. I think it's important that tax breaks do what they are supposed to do, and that is provide incentives and help create jobs. I will also be a voice for our children and ensure that they receive all the funding they need for a quality education. It is vital that our children are able to maximize this great opportunity. In addition, I will be an advocate for fair sentencing and community policing, and will work to give children creative outlets like sports and arts to keep them out of trouble.

How do you feel that your local government could better serve your community?

It is about communicating what is going on in the community. Transparency is vital to sharing and serving this community.

— Compiled by Darryl Maxie, Kathy Jefcoats and Curt Yeomans