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'Outsider Lutz reflects on Hall commission term
Wins, losses and lessons learned for outgoing South Hall commissioner
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Coming next Sunday

A look at Lutz’s turbulent four years on the Hall County Board of Commissioners and what’s next.

“I think I was seen as an outsider,” said former Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz. “And I really ran as an outsider.”

For good or bad, Lutz was widely viewed as a lightning rod in county politics.

In a sit-down interview with The Times last week, Lutz discussed his accomplishments, regrets and lessons learned from his four years in office.

Kathy Cooper was sworn in to Lutz’s District 1 seat, representing South Hall, earlier this month. Lutz did not run for re-election to his seat, instead seeking the Republican nomination for the Public Service Commission, won by incumbent Lauren “Bubba” McDonald.

With a few exceptions, Lutz said there was little left on his legislative agenda that warranted a run for another term.

“I believed in getting in with an agenda,” Lutz said, adding that, for the most part, he’s satisfied with what he was able to get done.

Helping to improve the county’s financial position is among Lutz’s proudest achievements, he said. Since coming onto the board of commissioners, the county’s reserves have grown, employee furloughs have been scrapped and retirement contributions have been restored, for example.

“That kind of accomplishment was a four-year accomplishment,” Lutz said.

On a more personal level, Lutz said he is most proud of helping to establish the Hall County State Court Veterans Court earlier this year, helping give veterans and their families the tools and resources they need to get on a “path to wellness, recovery and rehabilitation.”

Lutz admits he didn’t get everything done he had set out to do. Perhaps his biggest regret is not getting an opportunity to address consolidating Hall County and city of Gainesville governments.

“That was something that when I came into office I was really hoping I could get on the ballot,” he said.

Though county officials have roundly supported the idea, Lutz said he was still unable to get the support necessary with pushing forward on a nonbinding resolution to make it happen. The timing never was quite right, particularly given city officials’ opposition to the plan.

“I think that was the majority of the hindrance that we had,” Lutz said. “The city and the county, we do sometimes a delicate dance.”

Though Lutz had been a Flowery Branch city councilman prior to joining the board, his expectations of the job were surpassed in many ways.

“I had a very good idea of what I was getting into,” he said, but the volume of work was revealing.

Lutz added the time commitment of the post was something he might have underestimated.

In addition, one of the biggest lessons he learned is that some residents have misconceptions about the actual role of the commissioners, Lutz said.

“A lot of people saw what we did as probably bigger than what we actually had control over,” he added, pointing out that debate over taxes are most prevalent at the board of commissioners meetings even while local municipalities and school boards take a major share of the pie.