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Cooper, Cochran vie for South Hall seat
Taxes, growth are key issues for GOP candidates seeking Lutzs post
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Ken Cochran

Age: 64

Family: Wife and three children

Occupation: Owner of Cochran’s Marine Service

Political experience: Served on the executive board of the Hall County Republican Party for 13 years and serves on the Gainesville-Hall County Metropolitan Planning Organization Citizens Advisory Committee

Education: DeKalb College


Question: What are yoor goals if elected?

Answer: First and foremost, my goal is transparency in our government. I want efficient governing through sound budgeting and to address issues that come up in a timely matter. For years we have been losing many of our historical sites. I would like to work with developers to incorporate these sites as working projects within the framework of their developments. This can be done. There is state and federal money available that can be tapped without coming from Hall County taxpayers. One of the most important issues now all over the county is sewer and roads. Without sewer and good roads, growth will not happen. Two major updates will be happening this year — the long-range transportation plan and the land use plan will be updated. If elected, I will work with the commission to make sure that South Hall is treated fairly.

Q: How do you plan to address growth and development issues in South Hall?

A: I remember how growth was in the late ’90s and early 2000s. We cannot make the same mistakes that were made then. Most of the schools in South Hall had trailers everywhere because the school system was not ready for the growth along with the county, but the commission continued to approve most everything. The county and the school systems need to work closer together. We will need to make sure that the preservation of essential services through the coming growth is strictly enforced. It is important that the citizens of South Hall attend the hearings this year on the update of the land use plan. I would like to have quarterly town hall meetings with the citizens of South Hall. More information from the citizens will allow me to make better decisions. After all, I will be working for the citizens.

Kathy Cooper

Age: 51

Family: Husband and three children

Occupation: President of Cooper Family Enterprises

Political experience: Campaign for Hall County Board of Commissioners in 2006

Education: North Hall High School graduate


Q: What are your goals if elected?

A: It starts with good stewardship. I want to leave Hall County a better place. That begins with the values I cherish — openness, honesty and integrity. I will restore citizen trust in the governmental process. I will work to ensure the Board of Commissioners operates transparently and with sound fiscal policy. We’ll foster good relationships with our city partners. We’ll have staff that feel supported and are responsive to taxpayer needs. Above all, I want the county to move forward positively and to do what’s right for my community. My family has been in Hall a long time and will continue to be. Like any parent, I want the county to be as good to my children as it has been to me.

Q: How do you plan to address growth and development issues in South Hall?

A: Managing growth has to be a balancing act. We’ve got to promote economic development without creating the congestion problems of metro counties. The key to that is focusing development around municipalities, Thurmon Tanner Parkway, and our heath care, recreational and educational assets. We can build on the qualified job force at the University of North Georgia and Lanier Technical College and keep our bright young people home. We need to be responsible with residential development, especially in rural parts of the county. It’s important to save agricultural land and greenspace. We also need to finish the build-out of commercial and residential properties that were started before the recession and have been sitting vacant ever since. It doesn’t make good financial sense to abandon that infrastructure. Development was moving at breakneck speed before the recession. I’m optimistic that we’ve learned our lessons, and South Hall can grow sustainably.

When Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz decided not to seek re-election to his District 1 seat representing South Hall, he reached out to a few potential candidates and urged them to enter the race.

“Even had I decided to run, I wanted somebody to run against me because that was the only way new ideas would be able to come out in a race,” said Lutz, who decided instead to seek the Republican nomination for the District 4 seat on the state Public Service Commission.

Two of the people Lutz said he reached out to were Kathy Cooper and Ken Cochran, though both insist they made decisions to run on their own.

Because they face no Democratic or independent challenger in the general election this fall, the May 20 Republican primary, for which early voting is underway, will determine the next commissioner.

But getting there is the hard part, particularly in a non-presidential election year when voter turnout typically drops off. Both candidates said they have had difficulty reaching and engaging potential voters.

“It’s just that there’s not as much interest right now,” Cooper said.

Moreover, Cochran said, the shortened campaign season — the Georgia General Assembly moved up the primary date this year to match the federal election calendar — has left less time to knock on doors, shake hands, kiss babies and meet with community groups.

“That’s been the hardest challenge,” Cochran said.

Though both candidates have been involved in local politics for many years — Cooper ran unsuccessfully for the county commission in 2006 and Cochran has been a leader in the Hall County Republican Party for more than a decade — elected office presents challenges neither has faced.

Cooper, 51, is a lifelong farmer. As president of Cooper Family Enterprises, she runs a diversified family farm in Chestnut Mountain.

Cooper is hoping to bring some diversity to the Board of Commissioners. She said adding a woman’s voice, experience and perspective to a board filled by white men is badly needed.

But Cooper also said she wasn’t running exclusively on gender politics. Her bona fides for office, she said, extend to her service in community organizations, her familiarity with the issues facing South Hall and her commitment to conservative ideals.

Cochran, 64, is the owner of Cochran’s Marine Service. He has served on the executive board of the local GOP for 13 years and also is a member of the Gainesville-Hall County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Cochran is a familiar face at county commission meetings and local political events. He is hoping to piggyback on his reputation while jumping on the populist tendencies of tea party-fueled conservative politics.

“I feel like I’m more of a people candidate,” Cochran said.

Cochran said the pillars of his campaign include government transparency, improving workplace conditions for county personnel and implementing a long-term transportation plan to deal with growth in the county.

Cooper, meanwhile, said she is committed to not increasing taxes.

“It’s something you hope you can fulfill as a Republican,” she said.

Cochran also intends to keep his pledge to avoid tax increases.

Both Cooper and Cochran acknowledged that their stance on issues regarding growth and development in South Hall are likely to turn the election in their favor.

Cooper said her background in farming and real estate gives her a perspective unique from Cochran’s.

“Our life experiences are different,” she said.

Cochran is betting that his service to the community and long-time residency in South Hall will move voters to his corner. He said managing South Hall growth requires schools and governments to work together, and he intends to ensure that services remain efficient for residents as growth emerges.

The candidates said they would be running hard in the final weeks leading up to May 20, meeting with as many constituents as possible and attending speaking engagements.

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