Mitchell Scoggins won the Georgia House Distict 14 special election Tuesday, beating three other Republican candidates to avoid a runoff.
"I'm a happy camper about that," Scoggins said from a celebration party with supporters at the Clarence Brown Conference Center in Cartersville.
The district covers the western half of Bartow County and five eastern precincts of Floyd County: Barkers, Chulio, Etowah, Howell and part of North Rome.
Scoggins won 2,048 of the 3,179 ballots cast to win with 64.54 percent of the vote. The turnout rate was 9.42 percent of the 33,760 eligible voters.
Ken Coomer came in second, with 893 votes, followed by Nickie Leighly with 155 and Nathan Wilson with 77. All four candidates are from Bartow County.
Scoggins, a retired probate court judge, said he has a large family backing him and strong connections in the county made through his years on the bench.
"I did a lot of things to, hopefully, help people and they came out to support me," he said.
Coomer was the favorite in Floyd County, netting 262 of the total 464 votes — 56.47 percent of the 8,979 eligible voters. He is the father of longtime District 14 representative Christian Coomer, who was unopposed for re-election but withdrew to accept an appointment to the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Scoggins won 138 votes in Floyd, 29.74 percent. Leighly took 46 votes and Wilson took 18 votes. Turnout was 5.20 percent.
That didn't faze the lawmaker-elect, who will join Floyd County's three other delegates when the Georgia General Assembly convenes Jan. 14.
"I want to let the people of Floyd County know I will not forget about them," Scoggins said. "Anything I can do to help, let me know."
Scoggins, of Rydal, won 70.51 percent of the vote in his home county — 1,910 of the 2,712 ballots cast. Turnout in Bartow was 10.94 percent of the 24,781 eligible voters.
The Bartow County probate judge for 28 years, Scoggins campaigned as a pro-life conservative who supports the Second Amendment and freedom of religion.
He and his wife, Donna, a retired Bartow County teacher, have two sons and daughters-in-law and two granddaughters. They marked their 40th anniversary in May.
Read this story online for a link to the Secretary of State's My Voter Page to see who your representatives are. The site also provides links to update your voter information.
Floyd County and Rome City school boards met in a joint board meeting Tuesday morning at the FCS main office on Riverside Parkway to share comments and concerns with recently reelected legislative officials.
Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, and Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, fielded questions from both school boards and addressed school safety; how the career, technical, and agricultural education programs will be managed; as well as staffing shortages.
"Until the governor is sworn in, announcements can change," Dempsey said, referring to any promises that may have been made or announced in the time since Brian Kemp was elected governor of Georgia.
She added, however, after having discussions with him she feels he will prioritize education.
The first question came from Alvin Jackson from Rome City Schools to Lumsden regarding school safety. Lumsden, who has served on the House Study Committee on School Security, said one of the big things to come out of that committee was the mental health component of securing schools.
Louis Byars, superintendent of RCS, asked the representatives to vote against handing control of the CTAE programs, which would include the Floyd County Schools College and Career Academy, to the Technical College System of Georgia, a discussion that was tabled during the session of the Georgia General Assembly.
Jeff Wilson, superintendent of FCS, echoed this request saying that the TCSG determining the curriculum would not be as effective as the school board making those decisions. Dempsey reminded everyone there will be a new education chairman appointed when Kemp takes office and board members need to build relationships with the newcomers.
"If there is something we need to know don't hold back," Dempsey said.
The Georgia General Assembly will meet on Jan. 14 to hold its 40-day session where state lawmakers will discuss issues and pass laws which could affect local school systems.
Parking spaces along the Fifth Avenue bridge and a community park in place of the tennis courts are two elements of a proposed development plan for Rome's new River District.
"We looked at how you create a district that's walkable," said Adam Williamson, a principal planner and landscape architect with TSW. "Anybody can do a more suburban district: (put in) a Burger King and it's there. This will be an extension of your downtown."
The draft plan presented to the Rome City Commission this week covers the area across the Oostanaula River from the Broad Street downtown district.
While focused on revitalizing West Third Street and Fifth Avenue, it takes in the whole area between the river and Turner McCall Boulevard — from Second Avenue on the west to Avenue A and Bale Street on the east.
Williamson and Jim Watson with Nelson Nygaard Consulting have drawn up a mixed-use scenario that features affordable townhomes, residences above street-level retail, new multistory commercial and office buildings and historic homes repurposed as shops. It also includes bicycle and pedestrian connections to existing trails.
The Fifth Avenue bridge makeover, with streetscaping, would calm traffic and make it safer for pedestrians. The central park would provide a gathering place.
"If you want people to live in this kind of density, you need to have some greenspace," said Watson, adding that it could draw food trucks and festivals and even tailgating parties for Barron Stadium games.
Commissioners indicated general support for the design, although Mayor Jamie Doss expressed some reservations about replacing the tennis courts with a park.
"That's an extremely valuable piece of property. Maybe too valuable for a park," Doss said.
The plan was developed over several months with input from property owners and other stakeholders. Rome-Floyd Planning Director Artagus Newell is reviewing the draft with an eye to incorporating comments into the final recommendations.
Newell noted that most of the property is privately owned. The city's role would be to encourage the development scenario with tools such as zoning and infrastructure improvements. The 2017 special purpose, local option sales tax package contains $2 million for work in the district.
"You could really start to enhance the aesthetics in that area," he told the board. "Business owners want it to be a shop-and-walk district, safer and more inviting."
Newell said the recommendations also could be written into the Rome-Floyd Unified Land Development Code that is due for a complete overhaul in the coming year.
The plan would serve as a guideline for development over a number of years.
"We want to lay the groundwork for a more pedestrian-friendly, humanscale area but let private development take its own course," Newell said.
International Paper is once again planning a major re-investment in its Coosa linerboard mill, to the tune of up to $150 million.
Rather than speaking of job creation, officials spoke of job retention. Technological upgrades to the mill are expected to help retain over 500 jobs.
An inducement resolution for the project was approved by the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority on Tuesday. Authority attorney Andy Davis said the last time International Paper received bond financing, for a similar amount in 2013, the company pledged to retain 460 jobs.
Since then, he said, 40 new jobs have been created at the mill.
International Paper will receive a 10-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement as part of the bond package. The company has agreed to pay 25 percent of its local tax bill with the remaining 75 percent abated over the 10-year period of time.
The company itself backs the bonds and there is no exposure to either Floyd County or the development authority.
"It is going to be used for the modernization of the plant and it is going to be spent over the next three years," said Jonathan Frey, a property tax manager of International Paper who represented the company at the development authority meeting on Tuesday.
The company came very close to using the full $150 million approved in 2013.
"We're very happy to be here and spending some more money in Rome and Floyd County," Frey said.
"Everybody in this community knows how important International Paper is," said Ken Wright, director of business and industry services at the Rome Floyd Chamber. "Not only employment, jobs and wages, but their significant contributions to education and nonprofits and things like that."
Rome-Floyd County Development Authority Chairman Pete McDonald said the continued success of operation at the Coosa mill was "vitally important to so many Floyd County families."
Authority member Doc Kibler said he was "ecstatic that IP is interested in continuing to invest in Rome."
International Paper is scheduled to make $75,000 annual payments in lieu of taxes to the development authority stemming from the 2013 upgrades through 2024 with a final payment of $43,750 scheduled in 2025.
The PILOT fee for the new bond package will be another $95,000 a year for 10 years.
In other business, the authority appointed McDonald to a new three-year term replacing Otis Raybon, who is rotating off the board as an at-large member at the end of the year. McDonald is the current chairman of the authority as well as the chairman of the Rome Floyd Chamber.
Today's artwork is by Bear Bridges, a second-grader at the Montessori School of Rome.