New Hall County Commissioner Jeff Stowe said he wants to be the voice of his district.
Stowe was elected last year, defeating former Commissioner Ashley Bell for the District 4 seat that is largely made up of the city of Gainesville and some unincorporated county areas. A longtime member of various civic boards, Stowe said he ran for commissioner to “do something different.” His friends describe him as deeply passionate, big-hearted and the consummate family man.
“At the end of the day, we are all residents of Hall County,” Stowe said.
One thing Stowe said he would like to see is less infighting between the county and the cities it encompasses.
Before his decision to run for office, he said he felt that the voices of District 4 weren’t being heard.
“It’s when you get coucilmen and commissioners together, that there seems to be some issues,” Stowe said. “That’s probably my No. 1 goal is to get that communication opened up.”
Gary Funk, one of the people Stowe sought advice from before his campaign, said the commissioner has got a lot of drive and wants to create a better community for his kids.
“He pours himself into whatever is laid before him,” Funk said. “Everything he does, he does with great passion.”
Stowe said he believes economic development is important and he wants the Hall County Board of Commissioners to reconsider whether they should build their own water treatment plant to service the Gateway Industrial Centre because of the time it would take to construct.
Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said there have been a couple of prospects interested in the site that are looking to relocate on a faster timetable or may need more capacity.
“The industrial park we’re building is in demand,” Evans said.
Stowe, a Gainesville High School graduate is a small businessman and owner of Home Electronics, a rent-to-own electronic store. He has served on many boards, including some leadership roles, with organizations including the American Red Cross, Gainesville Jaycees, United Way of Hall County, American Heart Walk and the Gainesville Athletic Board.
Stowe’s biggest attribute is his heart, said former neighbor and friend Scot McGarity.
“I think he knows what he’s doing,” he said. “He’s strong enough to make a decision and live with it.”
Stowe said he has been listening to and working with the residents of the Newtown area of Gainesville about the challenges facing the neighborhood. Issues he’s heard about from residents include infrastructure needs, such as street lights and sidewalks, and complaints of odors and noise from the industrial enterprises nearby.
“I think it’s just staying in touch and having an open door policy,” Stowe said. “I’ve got several people out in that community that already have my cellphone and they’re calling me on a constant basis.”
Newtown residents also want a park to be constructed, but Stowe said that may have to wait until there’s another round of special purpose local option sales taxes because of budget constraints.
Stowe also weighed in on the city of Gainesville’s plan to annex 115 “island” properties in the county. He said he doesn’t want residents to be forced to move into the city and properties shouldn’t be cherry picked.
“I chose to live in the city,” Stowe said. “And that’s my biggest problem with the annexation. These people don’t have a choice.”
Stowe said he doesn’t have any specific items he wants to accomplish during his term, but he plans to listen to the people in his district and work on issues they think are important.
He hopes to tackle debt and deal with less SPLOST revenue than expected without raising taxes, he said. He spoke optimistically about revenues rising and restructuring the debt.
“The county, overall, is in really good shape,” Stowe said.