The Times is presenting candidates’ positions on local issues in print editions through the end of April ahead of the May 24 primary. Early voting begins May 2. For more coverage, visit gainesvilletimes.com/election2022.
Times Talks | Forum with candidates for Hall County Board of Commissioners District 3Candidates for the Hall County Board of Commissioners District 3 seat representing north and east Hall join Times Editor Shannon Casas and reporter Conner Evans for a debate ahead of the May election.
What to know about this race: This seat was left open when Shelly Echols, who has served on the Hall County Board of Commissioners since 2019, decided to run instead for state Senate District 49. David Gibbs ran for Hall County Board of Commissioners District 2 in 2020 against Billy Powell, gaining 34% of the vote, and Kent Henderson previously ran for tax commissioner in 2012, eventually losing in a runoff election to Darla Eden, who won 53% of the vote. Jack Noa and Gregg Poole have not run for office before.
How to vote: District 3 covers most of North Hall and East Hall. It is the largest county district by size and the most rural. Only those in the district vote, and the district shifted some following the 2020 census. Check your districts at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. Voters select either a Republican or Democrat ballot in the primary.
Meet the Candidates
Residence: North Hall
Occupation: Small business owner of a flooring company
Political experience: Ran in 2020 for Hall County Board of Commissioners
Family: Married with two daughters, one son
Residence: North Hall
Occupation: Owner of Henderson Homes
Political experience: Ran for tax commissioner in 2012, served appointed term on the Hall County Planning Commission
Family: Married with two daughters
Residence: North Hall
Occupation: retired, alpaca farm owner and fiber mill operator
Political experience: none
Family: Married with three grown children
Occupation: Owner of electrical contracting company
Political experience: None
Family: Married with one son
Candidates on growth and development
Hall County has seen a huge increase in development in recent years, growing its population by 13% since 2010. How would candidates try to manage both commercial and residential growth going forward and try to weigh the needs of both existing residents and new developers?
Gibbs: “Everyone has their own concerns and that’s what we need to listen to,” Gibbs said.
New homes are often too expensive for people to afford, Gibbs said, and that includes some recently developed apartments in Gainesville.
“How do we build homes that people can afford? Because people can’t afford a $500,000 home.” he said.
Builders can’t control the cost of the material and labor, which is part of what’s driving up the cost of homes. “I don’t agree with quarter-acre lot sizes,” Gibbs said. “Especially in North Hall County if something gets passed it should be at least an acre.”
Henderson: “I have been on the other side,” Henderson said. “I served on the planning commission, so I have seen the government side and of course I’ve seen the private side. I think that’s what makes me unique out of the other candidates.”
Growth is coming whether people want it or not, and the area needs it, Henderson said.
“You don’t want to infringe on somebody else’s ability to live there and you don’t want to infringe on someone who wants to sell their property, so it’s a balancing act,” he said.
Noa: “The growth pattern is going to happen,” Noa said. “Look at the people in Lula, they have to come all the way down to New Holland to shop. Some of the comments we’ve heard is we need some grocery stores up there. Well, that’s not what comes first. The people come first.”
Creating more housing for workers in the area will be important, he said, especially with the new Kubota facility complete. “I’m not necessarily concerned about affordable housing as I am concerned about housing in areas like 365.”
Poole: “I think we should limit some of the low-income housing in Tadmore and revisit some of the things that’s been done to try to build that community back up, because it’s rough down there,” Poole said.
The Ga. 365 corridor should have more restrictions on what’s allowed to be developed there, he said.
“Be the voice for the voiceless, that’s what they would want me to be,” Poole said. “Stand up for those who don’t have a voice.”
Candidates on transportation and infrastructure
Though District 3 is more rural than other areas of the county such as Gainesville and South Hall, more industry, residential development and traffic is coming to the area. The Northeast Georgia Inland Port is expected to be operational in 2024, connecting Hall County directly to the port of Savannah with an intermodal freight rail service, which could put many more trucks on the road. How would candidates try to plan for the future when thinking about traffic and transportation needs?
Gibbs: “The transportation is a big thing for me, because how are you going to get people in and out? How about our school systems?” Gibbs said.
Hall County shouldn’t grow as fast as Gwinnett County did, he said, and the county must think ahead. He would like to study transportation issues more once he is on the Board of Commissioners, he said.
“You have to plan ahead instead of doing these three and four hundred home subdivisions,” Gibbs said. “I mean where are you going to put kids to school?”
Henderson: “In our district, our traffic concerns is going to (along State Route) 365, that whole corridor over there,” Henderson said. “We’ve got to be able to have someone who’s going to work with our state legislators and understand what we’re talking about with our growth and understand water, sewer, storm drains and traffic.”
The widening of Spout Springs Road is helpful but only a start, he said.
“That’s what we’ve got to keep doing is keep looking out hard and making sure our roads are up to par even before some of this stuff’s coming development-wise,” Henderson said.
Noa: Properly dealing with truck traffic generated from the inland port will be crucial, Noa said, though not all residents understand where the trucks will be diverted to. In his view, most of the traffic will go up 365 and on north rather than south toward places like Flowery Branch.
“I think you’ve got the right people on the planning board and the Hall County commission (to plan for it),” Noa said.
Public transportation is another issue for the county, Noa said, because it may be more needed as industries grow along the 365 corridor.
Poole: “Number one, as stupid as this sounds, if you have grocery stores … it would cut down on transportation,” Poole said. “We wouldn’t be driving down to downtown Gainesville to buy our groceries, we would be in our little zone.”
The inland port will bring more traffic, which the county should monitor, he said.
“I think we ought to get creative with our taxes and put that money back into our infrastructure and things of that nature,” Poole said. Roads should be dealt with before traffic gets too intense, he said.
Candidates on District 3
What else would you like to see happen in North and East Hall in particular? What other needs are underserved or under-discussed?
Gibbs: “They want someone to listen to their needs and feel like they’re appreciated and involved,” Gibbs said of his constituents. “We do need a little more community involvement, and the commissioners need to have a little compassion with these people and listen to what their concerns are.”
People don’t get trash service from the county, and most in his district don’t get sewer service, Gibbs said. Gibbs worked in the Gainesville Fire Department for 28 years, and he wants to see firefighters properly supported as well, he said.
Henderson: “I heard one (resident) mention that he wants a grocery store, but that’s a double-edged sword as well,” Henderson said. “Publix don’t come and locate where there’s no houses.”
He would rather bring commercial and industrial development along Ga. 365 first in order to better fund schools and designate growth to a particular corridor, he said.
“If you want that grocery store, there’s some growing pains that come along with that,” he said. “That’s why I’m campaigning on selective quality growth.”
Noa: Noa would like to see farmers protected, especially since District 3 is more rural than the rest of the county.
“The farmers, the ones I talk to, are concerned about losing their land to developers,” Noa said, because some planned residential subdivisions are near agricultural land. “Now you’ve got residential areas encroaching on the farmland.”
Farmers should get some property tax breaks from the county, he said, as well as certain families in need.
And the Healan’s Head’s Mill Park will be great for the area, Noa said.
Poole: Poole said he would want to provide more services to areas like Tadmore, including a greater police presence. And residents have expressed concerns to him about the level of staffing at the county and making sure employees are retained at a high level.
“(One resident wants) more patrol cars in the area to police the district,” Poole said. “He wants more county marshals out in these neighborhoods enforcing county codes to clean the neighborhoods up.”