Candidates for the three open Rome City Commission seats highlighted their qualifications and priorities during a meeting of the Floyd County Republican Women.
More than 40 people attended the lunch Tuesday to hear from the six candidates vying for the nonpartisan seats.
City voters will pick their top three in the Nov. 7 municipal election.
The terms of incumbents Jamie Doss, Sue Lee and Wendy Davis expire at the end of the year and they're all running for re-election.
Political newcomers Bill Kerestes, Monica Sheppard and Randy Quick also are seeking four-year terms — although Kerestes singled out each of his competitors for praise.
• "I'm not running against these people ... I'm running FOR something," Kerestes said.
The chairman of the South Rome Redevelopment Agency, Kerestes spoke of the importance of education in raising the economic potential of a community.
He expressed disappointment that funding for his proposed First Tee youth values program was not included in the SPLOST package.
And he recalled that, in 2015, a South Rome teen shot and killed a 23-yearold during a gambling dispute.
" Somewhere along the way, these two kids were lost," Kerestes said. "That's why I decided to run."
• Sheppard linked her previous work with the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia to a commitment to support local public safety personnel, which includes a raise.
As a beekeeper, a Chiaha Harvest Fair director and a freelance graphic designer, she said, she's also familiar with, and wants to protect, Rome's other assets. Its natural resources, arts community and small businesses, she said, are all key to making the city a place where residents' grown children can expect to thrive.
The way forward, Sheppard said, "is to be united as one community, working together to achieve our success and the success of others."
• Quick focused on his decades of experience in marketing Rome, starting as a radio broadcaster in 1975. His involvement in the community stepped up over the years, through positions on the Rome Floyd Chamber and the Floyd County Economic Development Authority.
He learned the workings of government through Leadership Rome, he said, and is proud of his role in forming the county schools' College and Career Academy. He also noted connections with economic development officials in Bartow and Polk counties.
"I have a passion for this community and I want to help create jobs that keep our children here," Quick said.
• Doss, who serves as the city's mayor, said Rome has momentum and he wants to continue to help guide "the best city in the world."
He told the story behind his slogan, Running for Rome, which started when his friend Gary Tillman — inspiration for the Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K and Healthwalk — pushed him to join the Berry College crosscountry team.
"I've learned as a Rome City commissioner that teamwork is the key to success," Doss explained.
Partnerships with the county commission, schools, churches and business leaders have positioned the city well, he said, praising "our outstanding team of employees" under City Manager Sammy Rich.
• Davis started with a reminder that fallen Polk County police detective Kristen Hearne was killed on a routine assignment — and that every peace officer takes that risk each day.
She talked of the people who make up the community and the importance of including them all in the governing process.
Her career as a political consultant has been based on connecting and informing the public, she said, and she was disappointed to see the city's 2011 election canceled for lack of competition. She plans to continue reaching out, through social media, livestreams and apps.
"I'm on a mission to get people involved in the city commission," Davis said.
• Lee broke her foot a few weeks ago and is confined to her home until it heals. But she sent campaign postcards with handwritten notes and a statement that was read by Cookie Wozniak.
She said that, as the child of former city manager Bruce Hamler, she grew up in government and has learned even more in her eight years in office.
"In other words, I know Rome," Lee said.
She said she's proud of working for the new PAWS animal shelter, the modernized levee gate and community development initiatives. She's ready to help now, she said, with plans for the GE property, the former Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital and the Fifth Avenue river district.
Expanding the use of the city's waterways and parks, along with "our amazing water and sewer system," also are on her list for the future.
Friends, family and law enforcement from across the country gathered Tuesday to celebrate the life of Det. Kristen Hearne, remembering her as a fallen hero and bright and shining light in the world around her.
Hundreds of vehicles escorted Hearne to Oak Grove Cemetery and laid her to rest following funeral services held at Victory Baptist Church to honor the Polk County Police detective, who died in the line of duty Friday after she was shot while providing back up for another officer on a suspicious vehicle call.
Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd provided a stirring and emotional message to the family and community about his fallen officer.
"Det. Cpl. Kristen Hearne gave her life. She will always be remembered as a hero," he said.
He provided a rundown of her career — with her service with the Floyd County Sheriff's Office from 2008 to 2012 — before joining the Polk County force and becoming a detective the next year in 2013. He described her as a woman of passion for the job of policing and a shining example of an officer who went above and beyond the call of duty for her brothers and sisters in law enforcement.
"She had a big heart that allowed her to show compassion when she needed to show compassion, and the stern exterior of a warrior, and could be stern," Dodd said. "She had tremendous respect for the badge and what it stood for: honor, integrity, courage and devotion."
He added he hoped all his fellow officers in law enforcement would look to her as an example of what a police officer can be if dedicated to the job. Dodd also called on unity among police agencies, and a continued focus on safety for those serving in the line of duty.
A powerful moment came as Hearne's mother, Patricia Brewer, brought her grandson Isaac up to the stage.
She told the gathering how much her daughter loved Isaac, and how much of a miracle he was to the Hearne family.
Brewer said, too, that she was still struggling with the loss of her daughter, but would continue to remain strong and keep her daughter's memory alive for her grandson.
Flags flew at half staff across the state in honor of Hearne, done so by executive order of Governor Nathan Deal, who said all Georgians honored her service and remembered her heroism through his declaration, which was presented by Governor's Office of Highway Safety Director Harris Blackwood.
Deal's message included condolences, and called for those who grieve her loss to remember the joy she brought to everyone's life and her "lifelong dedication to law enforcement."
Additionally, the governor's message, delivered by Blackwood, called on all Georgians to come together and honor those who serve in public safety.
"As governor, it grieves me to lose such a great member of our police forces," Deal's statement said. "The freedoms and opportunities we are blessed to enjoy are a direct result of the courage and dedicated service and sacrifice made by the men and women of law enforcement."
Blackwood also mentioned that among Hearne's many qualifications as a police officer, one was her ability to install and certify child safety seats.
"She was set to attend a class this week to be recertified," Blackwood said.
Cedartown Police Chief Jamie Newsome, who also provided a message to the gathering, called for Polk County Police Officers to not hold in their grief, but come together as a department and remember their fallen comrade together.
He also told the family he understood why they would never get over the loss of Det. Hearne, and hoped they would draw on all the support that Polk County has given them in the days following the loss of a wife, mother, daughter and friend.
"Let the community love you as you love each other," Newsome said.
'She had a big heart that allowed her to show compassion when she needed to show compassion, and the stern exterior of a warrior, and could be stern. She had tremendous respect for the badge and what it stood for: honor, integrity, courage and devotion.'
Polk County Police Chief
Voters have a week left to register if they plan to cast a ballot in the Nov. 7 general election.
A countywide vote is scheduled on a proposed $63.8 million special purpose, local option sales tax package, as well as a proposed education local option sales tax package for Rome and Floyd County schools.
Residents within the city limits also have some offices to fill. Rome voters will choose three city commissioners and all seven school board members.
Cave Spring has two contested council seat races.
Floyd County Elections Supervisor Willie Green said Monday he's not seeing a lot of movement of in-person voter registrations, although the number of people on the rolls is slowly rising.
"As of today, we have 48,257 active voters," he said.
That's an increase of 78 from the 48,179 reported by the Georgia secretary of state's office as of Sept. 1, and up by 1,376 from the agency's Aug. 1 report.
The increase comes as activists are raising concerns about a voter purge, but Green said it does not appear to have affected Floyd County.
In odd election years, he said, the secretary of state's office mails National Change of Address notices to voters who may have moved. Failure to respond gets them placed on the inactive list — or purged if they haven't voted in the past two federal elections.
"They let us know how many NCOA notices they sent in our county and we had relatively few," Green said.
Voters on the inactive list can still vote if they show up at the polls. Individuals can check their status, register or make changes to their name or address on the Georgia My Voter website.
The deadline is Oct. 10 for the Nov. 9 election.
In-person registration can be done at the elections office in the County Administration Building, 12 E. Fourth Ave., or any Division of Driver Services office. Mail-in applications are available at libraries, public schools and a host of state aid offices.
Advance voting starts Oct. 16 in two locations — the County Administration Building and Garden Lakes Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, 2200 Redmond Circle.
For the last week of early voting, Oct. 30 to Nov. 3, the Rome Civic Center on Jackson Hill also will be open.
The universal polling locations will be open through the week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Floyd County Elections Board also has added Oct. 29 to the state-mandated Saturday voting date of Oct. 28. Polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on those days.
"No excuse," Green said. "We've got to break some records."
Read this story online for a link to the Georgia My Voter website.
Today's artwork is by Briseyda DeSantiago, a third-grader at Model Elementary School.