Occupation: Vice president in the insurance division of The Norton Agency real estate firm
Political experience: One term on county commission
Democrat Angela Thomas Middleton
Occupation: Retired educator and athletics coach
Political experience: Hall County Democratic Party affiliation
Hall County Democratic Party candidate debate and forum
Participants: Incumbent Hall County District 4 Commissioner Jeff Stowe and challenger Angela Middleton
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Fair Street Neighborhood Center, 715 Fair St., Gainesville
Democrat Angela Thomas Middleton will challenge incumbent Republican Jeff Stowe for the District 4 seat on the Hall County Board of Commissioners this election season, and battle lines are being drawn around the south side of Gainesville.
Early voting begins Monday and Stowe, in his first re-election bid, is looking to stamp his campaign promises on the electorate.
“I have a track record now,” Stowe said, adding that his opponent is not subject to the same scrutiny he faces.
That scrutiny has largely centered in older neighborhoods south of Jesse Jewell Parkway in a race that pits a businessman against a retired educator, both raised in Gainesville.
“I will always be able to see what’s going on in this community,” Middleton said. “I watched it grow and develop.”
But she’s also seen it lag behind other areas of the city when it comes to economic development and community investment, Middleton said.
Middleton is clear that she will represent “not just one minority group,” but the interests of the south side are something that concern Stowe, too.
A proposed park behind the Harrison Square public housing complex is seen as a long time coming by all, but recent news that the county is looking to acquire land and begin seeking funds for it seemed more than coincidental to Middleton.
“The park is needed and has been needed,” Middleton said. “I just find it interesting that it becomes an election issue.”
Middleton said community input will be critical in developing the park and using it as a catalyst for improving affordable housing and establishing new businesses in the area.
Stowe said he promised to solidify a firm plan to develop a park in the area when first running for office four years ago and that he’s stayed true to that commitment.
“I can’t do anything I promise without two other votes,” Stowe said. “It’s about working with your fellow commissioners.”
He believes this is one of his greatest strengths and what will help see the park to completion.
“It’s going to take working with my fellow commissioners to make that happen,” Stowe said. “We all have needs in our districts.”
Stowe has served on boards and volunteered with local nonprofits and community development agencies since before his time as a county commissioner, and he said these relationships are also beneficial to generating financial and material support for parks, community centers and housing on the south side.
As Middleton has pressed her case in the closing weeks of the campaign, the “encouraging words” and “positive response” at barbecue fundraisers and other public events have spurred her on.
She said she wants to see water and sewer expansion throughout the county to support growing businesses, and she hopes to support partnerships with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and other agencies to promote workforce development.
“I believe that I was called to teach and I answered that call,” Middleton said, adding that her life’s purpose is to now serve her home district and bring people together. “That’s what I stand for.”
Stowe said his campaign promises in 2012, which also included lowering property taxes and balancing the budget, have been met and that he will stand on these principles as he engages voters at fundraisers, charity events and football games leading up to Nov. 8.
“Just continue to be who I am,” Stowe said.