Shelly Echols has handily knocked off incumbent Scott Gibbs for the Hall County Board of Commissioners seat in District 3.
With all of the district’s 10 precincts reporting, Echols came in with 71.9 percent of the vote in the Republican primary — a blowout for the first-time, but well-connected, candidate from Alto.
Gibbs received had about 28.1 percent of the vote. Echols had more than 2,500 votes to Gibbs’ 1,010, a victory she said was a “referendum to the establishment.”
“The people are tired of the way things are going and tired of the way that things have been done,” Echols told The Times as late results rolled in. “And they’re ready for something different to happen.”
Gibbs did not return a request for comment.
Hall County Board of Commissioners seat in District 3
Shelly Echols: 71.9 percent
Scott Gibbs: 28.1 percent
There is no Democratic candidate for the District 3 commission seat, meaning Echols will take the seat in January.
The rural race pit a lifelong North Hall resident, Gibbs, against the born-and-raised East Hall woman, Echols, who is married to Jaemor Farms’ Drew Echols.
In public appearances around the county, Gibbs and Echols stayed polite when debating, but the pair had deep disagreements about Gibbs’ record in office and the future of the county.
Echols had a scathing take on Gibbs’ handling of Hall County Fire Services’ plan to to relocate four ambulances out of rural Hall County for the benefit of more urban areas. It was the ambulance issue that got her into the race in the first place.
She also suggested Gibbs was misrepresenting his record on the issue — Gibbs said he wasn’t directly involved with the policy shift and didn’t support it at the time — after taking heat from the public.
In talks with The Times and in public events, Echols said Hall County employees are having serious morale problems, that they feel deceived by commissioners and that property owners are frustrated by climbing property value assessments combined with the commission’s 2017 property tax increase.
Gibbs, meanwhile, emphasized his record on infrastructure projects like the Ga. 365 sewer expansion and said his background in the grading and utility business made him the most qualified candidate to manage what most expect will be a huge amount of growth in the county for the next four years.
Echols also pitched herself as a lifelong conservative. Along with knocking the commission for its 2017 tax increase, Echols said the county had thrown away millions of dollars on the Glades Reservoir project and has criticized the Hall County Tax Assessor’s Office for dramatic year-over-year property assessment spikes.
With an enormous win under her belt, Echols said her first priority going into office is to improve Hall County morale.
“My No. 1 mission is to take care of the county employees, especially the emergency responders, and making sure they’re being taken care of and (they’re) appreciated, and that we’re doing what we need to do to keep them here,” Echols said. “That’s kind of been the central message to my campaign — to do what’s right. I think people are ready for that.
“Let’s just do what’s right and take care of those employees.”