The special election to fill the unexpired term of Jennifer Hulsey’s District 2 seat on the Polk County Commission is set to be on the Nov. 3 ballot with five candidates on the ballot.

Ricky Clark, Christopher Roberson, Glenn Robinson and Jody Bentley Smith joined Linda Liles to run for the remainder of Hulsey’s four-year term, which will be up for re-election in 2022. All five are running as Republicans.

All candidates were asked to provide some background about themselves and answer three questions. Chris Roberson was invited to participate but did not provide any responses before press time.

Ricky Clark

I was born in Rockmart-Aragon Hospital and raised in Rockmart and Polk County. I started my law enforcement career in 1976 with the Aragon Police Department and retired with the Polk County Police as a detective. I served approximately 30 years as a public servant before retiring, but I still have a desire to serve the people of Polk County if it is the voters’ wish.

Q: What do you think of the management of Polk County’s budget in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and what changes to the budget would you like to see made?

A: I believe we need to manage peoples’ money wisely. We need to keep funding law enforcement, the fire department and the road department to make sure county roads, bridges and right-of-ways are kept up. We need to re-stripe a lot of county roads because, when driving at night, it is hard to tell if you’re on the right side of the road. Plus we do not need to be raising the property taxes on the property owners. We can use grants and SPLOST money.

Q: What infrastructure improvements would you like to see completed in the next five years in Polk County?

A: With the current crisis going on in the nation, with COVID and other things, and budget restraints, I do not believe the county should take on any new projects right now except for one thing, and that is to invest in jobs for the people. After the current spec building is sold we need to build another spec building so people can stay in Polk County and work.

Q: The county commission recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Polk County Chamber of Commerce. In what ways would you like to see tourism in Polk County promoted in the future?

A: I believe the chamber should hire a company to go all over Polk County and document all of Polk County’s beautiful places, like the Silver Comet Trail, Cedar Creek, Euharlee Creek, Hightower Falls, all of the mountains and valleys in the county, farms and other places, and make a video so that it can be marketed in the future.

Linda Liles

I was born on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa Florida. I graduated from Mercer University with a Bachelor of Science degree with a minor in Psychology. I married Hubert (Hub) Liles who was born in Polk County. He brought me to Polk County 28 years ago where we have a small cattle farm. For the last 19 years I have worked for Congressman (Phil) Gingrey and Congressman (Tom) Graves as Constituent Service Representative. I have volunteered over the years here in Polk County on several 501(c)3 boards and nonprofits. It’s my diverse experience that I bring to the position of commissioner that enables me to be your public servant.

Q: What do you think of the management of Polk County’s budget in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and what changes to the budget would you like to see made?

A: This year after five revisions, management worked hard to give us a balanced budget despite COVID, which saw revenues down this year. A county budget is an arduous job because the county faces higher operating costs each year. This is due to price increases, salary and insurance increases, and continuous equipment needs. Management had to adjust accordingly and delivered. The biggest expense went to public safety, where it needs to go. First and foremost is the safety of our citizens. Some of the changes to the budget would be more paved roads and repairs to existing roads in the county. We have a great road department and they are working hard to make sure our roads are safe. I would like to see more infrastructure projects such as sewers, fire safety and broadband for the rural areas of the county. These items would greatly enhance our county and improve our quality of life.

Q: What infrastructure improvements would you like to see completed in the next five years in Polk County?

A: I would work alongside the Polk County Development Authority in bringing economic development to our county. Infrastructure is a very important part of good economic development. This is one of the goals I hope to work on as your commissioner. Infrastructure is vital to the county’s economic development and prosperity. You can increase economic opportunity by adding more public services in our community. A good infrastructure, while protecting our natural resources by good practices, will create long-term benefits. Good roads, bridges, an airport, sewers, fire services and broadband in our county will not only boost our economy but will bring good industry to the county. With industry brings good job opportunities, and industry and jobs will grow our tax base. A good infrastructure will also create a better quality of life for the citizens of Polk County.

Q: The county commission recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Polk County Chamber of Commerce. In what ways would you like to see tourism in Polk County promoted in the future?

A: I would work alongside the Polk County Chamber of Commerce to promote tourism here in Polk County, utilizing what Polk County already has to offer. This is the best time to promote our county. Because of COVID people are ready to get outside into the open spaces, and what better place than our beautiful county by utilizing our natural resources and our recreational opportunities I support business owners who are developing ideas that will benefit Cedartown and Rockmart’s downtown. We have farmers that are now growing grapes and have vineyards in our county and will soon be promoting wine tasting and touring the vineyards. We have several museums where you can learn about the history of our county and learn about some of the famous folks that were born right here in Polk County. Promoting our beautiful county and all that it has to offer is something that comes very easy for me.

Glenn Robinson

My family in Polk County goes back five generations. My parents worked at Goodyear Mill. I gained decades of valuable experience in 38 years in the Air Force Reserves and Department of Defense, where I was supervisor of roads and grounds and utilities, and rose to become the fire chief responsible for training crews at multiple U.S. bases. In DoD, I held a contracting warrant overseeing billions of dollars in federal contracts. Since retirement, I volunteer with FFA, 4-H and the Polk County Calf Team, as well as working with a disaster preparedness crew with the Polk-Haralson Disaster Preparedness team.

Q: What do you think of the management of Polk County’s budget in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and what changes to the budget would you like to see made?

A: With COVID, everything seems to be in a state of flux. My question is how do they know how COVID affected our local economy when the property tax revenues have not come in yet? Until then, we cannot accurately evaluate the effect on our economy. Our property taxes increased significantly this year. I agree with the commissioners that a lower millage rate was in order, but it still does not off-set the much higher property assessments. Additionally, SPOLST revenues increased by several percentage points exceeding 2018 and 2019 levels. August intake increased by approximately 8% bringing in over $530,000. This was not expected. I am only pointing out things may not be as bad as some say. I would like to see the commission work off a three year budget where each department puts in their anticipated needs. This worked very well during my career in the federal government.

Q: What infrastructure improvements would you like to see completed in the next five years in Polk County?

A: This is what SPLOST is for — major improvement projects approved by citizens. My top priorities are an aggressive road maintenance schedule and a plan to replace the one-lane bridges in the county. Both continue to deteriorate, becoming more dangerous due to increased growth. Most agree we need a full-time fire department in unincorporated Polk County. My plan is to start looking for logical locations and buy land based on current and future population density for an emergency services headquarters. This would include fire, police and EMS personnel. My proposal would be to borrow the money needed while interest rates are low and pay off the loan in the 2026 SPLOST cycle if approved by the citizens. Finally, we need to plan our water and sewage needs now. We must bring Polk County into the 21st century to be an attractive and environmentally safe place to do business and live.

Q: The county commission recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Polk County Chamber of Commerce. In what ways would you like to see tourism in Polk County promoted in the future?

A: Popular B&Bs, wedding venues and visitors on the Silver Comet Trail tell me people want to visit Polk County. Both organizations need to market aggressively, starting with a coordinated, consolidated master plan. Agriculture, our No. 1 industry and a popular attraction, offers both economic development and tourism. Vineyards and specialty farms like Carlton Farms on Highway 113 bring hundreds to the county. The proposed Agriculture Education Center can become the focal point, bringing visitors from nearby counties for events such as livestock shows, business meetings, trade shows, job fairs, educational programs and more. It will be easily accessible to the Comet Trail and 500 acres owned by the county earmarked for recreation. Our historical and art museums, Van Wert Church, Hightower Falls, the Old Mill, Peek Park and more are treasures that, if properly promoted, would bring visitors to learn about our history and enjoy the natural beauty of Polk.

Jody Bentley Smith

I am a proud Polk County native and for over 23 years my husband, Donnie, and I have been raising our three sons here. I work alongside my dad, Jerome Bentley, and brother, Jason Bentley, at our family’s small manufacturing company and fifth-generation cattle farmers. I know from experience that farming and small businesses are vital to our state and community economy. I am a graduate of the University of West Georgia, completed the Polk Leadership Program and have served on the Polk County Water Authority Board of Directors. I sit on the Cherokee Elementary School parent counsel, Polk County Zoning Board, and the Cedartown Optimist Club Board of Directors.

Q: What do you think of the management of Polk County’s budget in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and what changes to the budget would you like to see made?

A: I think that the department heads and employees have held to a tight budget during this pandemic. They have been asked to cut an additional 10% — which the employees did. Polk County’s revenues have stayed about average — Polk County does not have the sales tax revenues that other counties have, so the impact has not been as great yet. Going forward Polk County will have to hold to a tight budget if our unemployment rate increases. Unfortunately, the fallout of this pandemic could be felt for years to come.

Q: What infrastructure improvements would you like to see completed in the next five years in Polk County?

A: In five years I would like to see improvements in Polk County’s basic foundational services. We need to have some type of reuse & recycling program in place. I would like a push for broadband to be offered from our local EMC (Gov. Kemp signed into law on April 26, 2019). In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America through a program called “ReConnect.” Several Georgia counties have been able to use this money to expand broadband in their area. I would also like to see our social infrastructure improved with emergency services, cultural centers, and public green space.

Q: The county commission recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Polk County Chamber of Commerce. In what ways would you like to see tourism in Polk County promoted in the future?

A: First, our chamber has been working hard to overcome COVID-19 problems. The Chamber of Commerce is the first place most people and businesses look at when they are moving into a new community, so this website needs to be updated often and made user friendly. I personally would like to see the chamber do a weekly highlight of small businesses around the county — not just chamber member businesses. This could be done on the website along with social media. I believe doing this would help to grow the chamber.

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