Occupation: Works in the insurance division at The Norton Agency in Gainesville
Political experience: County commission District 4 representative since 2012
Occupation: Field service supervisor and dispatcher for Choice Facility Services and Construction in Gainesville
Political experience: First time running for elected office, member of Hall County GOP and has worked on local, state and national races
Hall County early voting
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays today through May 20
Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville
Saturday voting: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 14, Hall County Government Center; North Hall Community Center, 4175 Nopone Road, Gainesville; Spout Springs Library, 6488 Spout Springs Road, Flowery Branch
What to bring: Photo ID, either Georgia driver’s license (even if expired or suspended); valid state or federal government photo ID; valid U.S. passport with photo; valid government employee photo ID (city, county, state or federal); valid U.S. military photo ID; or tribal photo ID. Those without photo ID may obtain free voter ID card at Elections and Registrars Office or Department of Driver Services.
Primary election day: May 24, polls open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; check registration card or visit www.mvp.sos.ga.gov for precinct info
Key 2016 election dates
May 9: 9th District Town Hall Meeting, 6:30-8 p.m., Brenau Downtown Center auditorium, 301 Main St., Gainesville; broadcast live on WDUN AM550 and FM102.9, streamed on gainesvilletimes.com, AccessWDUN.com, WDUN.com and the AccessWDUN smartphone app; free to public.
May 24: Georgia state primary (for congressional and local offices); early voting weekdays through May 20, runoff date July 26
Oct. 11: Registration deadline for general election
Oct. 17: Early voting begins for general election
Nov. 8: Election Day
Incumbent Jeff Stowe will face Troy Phillips in the Hall County Commission District 4 Republican primary this month, with the winner facing Democratic challenger Angela Middleton in the November general election.
District 4 is unique in that it essentially covers the city of Gainesville.
It’s certainly the most urban of all four county districts. And that presents specific challenges.
“This district is different than the rest even though others encompass cities, too,” Phillips said.
Working with Gainesville officials is critical, Phillips said, and he hopes to improve a relationship between the two governments that has at times been fraught with recriminations.
For example, Hall and Gainesville have battled in recent years over residential and commercial land annexations.
Stowe said he understands how Gainesville’s needs differ from other communities in the county and that better collaboration is needed.
“We all realize we work better as a team than trying to work separately,” he said.
That’s why he is working to improve the Morningside Heights neighborhood, including helping to develop a plan for new parks and business growth in that community, Stowe said.
“The southside (of Gainesville, which includes many lower-income and minority neighborhoods) has long felt neglected,” he added. “I will spend a lot of time hoping to make that come to fruition.”
Stowe said he is running for re-election in the hopes of continuing “the successes of the last four years.”
Those include having a property tax rate that’s the lowest it’s been in Hall since 1987, and the eighth lowest in Georgia; raising reserve funds to a high of more than $23 million; and reducing the county’s debt by about $20 million, Stowe said.
For Phillips, the primary motivator for jumping into the race came earlier this year when Hall County fired three firefighters who were injured in a July 2014 training accident.
TJ Elliott, Will Griffin and Stephen Jackson suffered severe injuries when the bucket they were in atop a ladder truck fell 44 feet.
Phillips said he believed the firemen would have had better protections if the county commission had not disbanded the civil service board, which hears and decides appeals brought by terminated or demoted employees, in place of a single administrator.
“They were still under medical care when they were fired,” Phillips said, adding that he believed county officials let them down.
Phillips promised “to do everything I can to ensure all county workers, not just the firemen, that at least one person on that commission is going to fight for them.”
County officials said they encouraged the three injured firefighters to apply for other jobs in local government, but some of the firefighters said physical limitations would keep them from performing those jobs, as well.
Stowe said at the time that the firefighters would have been very qualified for many positions and were likely to get whatever they applied for.
The proposed Glades Reservoir in North Hall is another sticking point for Phillips.
Hall has invested about $16 million thus far and began halting payments to consultants recently as it temporarily suspended its permitting application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“What do we have to show for it?” Phillips asked rhetorically.
State officials have said they no longer eye Glades for drinking water supply, but rather to augment flow on the Chattahoochee River downstream of Lake Lanier.
Constructing the reservoir is estimated to cost $166 million.
Stowe said he is confident the county will be reimbursed for its investment by the state, or else recoup the money through mitigation rights on the land.
Glades could also be a negotiating tool for lower water rates with Gainesville if the county can secure adequate drinking supply levels for area residents from the state, Stowe said.
When it comes to what most differentiates the two candidates, neither hesitated to make their case.
“My military background,” Phillips, who served in the U.S. Navy, said.
Phillips said he still lives by his military credo: Honor. Courage. Commitment.
“If you’re not honorable, then you don’t need to be doing the job,” he said. “You have to have the courage to sometimes say ‘this is not right, we need to fix it.’ And once you say you’re going to do something, you need to stick to it.”
Stowe said he brings experience to the job, which sets him apart.
This is important as the county embarks this year on updating its comprehensive plan, which will assess current conditions and update plans for land use, housing, economic development, cultural preservation and protection of environmental resources.
“I think the main thing would be my experience, not just on the commission, but my leadership in civic organizations, too,” he said. “I’m out there trying to make a difference.”