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Mayor pro tem candidate answers questions: Rick Tipton

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Introduction: I would like to thank The Jones County News for providing this printed forum as well as the online edition. Many citizens who are unable to attend the public forum, which typically netted about 20 of each candidate’s friends and family members, can now consider and weigh each candidates response below in the comfort of their home.

Q: Economic development can be a two-edged sword with new businesses sometimes encroaching on neighborhoods. Are you in favor of continued development and how would you balance its benefits against liabilities to city residents?

A: I am in favor of controlled economic development. Controlled growth supports our tax base and lessens the tax burden on any one individual. We all want more choice, so more options or amenities to our community is a positive. However, the city’s responsibility for issuing business licenses doesn’t end when the license fee is paid. Planning and Zoning and City Council have an inherent responsibility to ensure the location and type of the business fits the neighborhood and does not reduce a neighborhood’s quiet enjoyment of their homes. If an issue arises, then city council should address it in a swift and judicious manner. As the owner of Select Property Solutions LLC, I have a business license and my office is at my home address. However, I do not entertain clients at my home out of respect for my neighbors and the children that play in the area.

Q: Gray has struggled with water production for decades, spending tens of thousands of dollars drilling wells that have not produced adequate amounts of water. Do you see the possibility of working with Jones County to purchase water at a reduced rate as a possible solution to that problem? Other ideas?

A: City Councils has one primary mandate. That is the health and welfare of its citizens. Water and air are necessities of life. We need to do whatever it takes to ensure clean water is available for our citizens. I’m sure the county commissioners recognize, Gray is the hub of our county and its citizens not only pay city taxes, they pay county taxes as well. Going forward as we do today I’m sure a fair and equitable pricing can continue to be worked out with our county partners via interagency service agreements. I would consider a joint city/county water authority to ensure today and tomorrow’s future water requirements are met and rates are kept low. There is a need to keep searching for viable underground water sources. Hopefully with the advent of emerging technologies our goals will be met. A water authority for example could seek relief by negotiating with Baldwin County as their water line ends on the other side of Haddock.

Q: Do you think there should be a requirement for city council members to attend a certain percentage of meetings each year to remain on council?

A: The real issue is integrity, sense of duty and how the oath of office is honored. If you have a prolonged illness or injury that takes you away from the people’s business for more than six months, that individual should resign and make way for someone who can handle the demands of the office. As a regional manager for three states, when interviewing prospective employees I asked this question. How many absences in one year do you believe are acceptable? As a conscientious person who is seldom ill, I tend to support zero as an answer. I do, however, recognize the occasional scheduling conflict, vacations, or brief absences due to injury or illness.

In 1969 while in basic training I had contracted full-blown pneumonia and spent two weeks in the hospital flat on my back. The day I was discharged I was faced with two options. 1. Recycle through boot camp for another six weeks or 2. Take the final physical fitness test that day. I took the test and passed. Sometimes you have to push through no matter how exhausted you are.

Q: The City of Gray will be the recipient of over $1 million in American Rescue Program Act funds. What do you believe would be the most beneficial use of those funds?

A: I believe we have three pressing needs. Water, Sewage Treatment Capacity, and our ever aging and dilapidated sewage lines. These issues should be of primary concern to every councilman and citizen of Gray. Due to many years of putting off upgrades to our wastewater treatment facility to meet growth, the band-aide approach was used which results in a rise to near capacity time and time again. Supposedly council is near a permanent fix. We also have a potential health issue as citizens report raw sewage surfacing on their properties from the broken sewage line. A sleeve can be inserted in some areas where other areas will require digging up the old lines and replacing them. To fix this problem we also need to start by mapping the old sewage lines. Currently no one can say with certainty where many of the lines are. You can’t fix it if you don’t know where it is. Knowing water is in short supply, I would also research emerging technologies that will allow us to locate needed supply.

Q: Gray does not have a city manager nor administrator to handle its day-to-day operations. Are you in favor of the creation a position that would act as the city’s chief of operations, and if not, why?

A: Years ago a citizen committee recommended a City Manager. Regrettably that recommendation was not adopted by council members during that period, some of which remain in office still today. Times are changing as well as the complexities of government. I believe the need for an administrator is essential. I doubt city council members possess the collective knowledge an experienced City Manager/Administrator could bring to the table. A City Manager is the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the city, providing executive leadership and representation on all matters concerning city government. The duties and responsibilities of the City Manager are determined by the City Council in compliance with the City Charter (we would have to amend the city charter) and state statutes. Responsible for planning, directing, managing, and reviewing all activities and operations of the city; coordinates programs, services, and activities among city departments and outside agencies; ensures the financial integrity of the municipal organization; represents the city’s interests; this individual would provide highly responsible and complex policy advice and administrative support to the Mayor and City Council. A City Administrator would pay for his/her position by streamlining processes, increasing efficiencies, ensuring Human Resource compliance, mitigate litigation issues and secure grants through the Georgia Municipal Association and the Middle Georgia Regional Commission.

Q: The question of package liquor sales is on the Nov. 2 ballot along with the Mayor Pro Tem election. Are you for or against having package liquor sales in the city limits of Gray?

Freedom of choice is a cornerstone of our republic. I choose free enterprise and free will. Of course with that freedom comes responsibility. So, if an individual wishes to operate a state controlled liquor store, I’m fine with that as long as they ensure their patrons are of legal age and comply with all local and state laws. The location must be zoned for this store and it should not standout with gaudy posters or signs. Our citizens now travel to Milledgeville or Macon to make their purchase, this would cut down their travel time and bring in a few tax dollars to the city. Whether citizens are purchasing in our city or another it is imperative they utilize good judgement never drink and drive. If they violate our community standards we are fortunate enough to have a vigilant police department.

Q: You serve as a member of the Jones County Blight Committee and want to see the ordinances in the city strengthened to be able to stop littering and clean up blighted areas. Do you have any ideas of how the issue should be addressed in the city, and do you think it should be a joint effort with the county?

A: Code Enforcement shouldn’t be an afterthought, it is a necessity. Blight and Litter do not stop at the county line or city limits. City and County Ordinances should mirror one another. We deserve a clean and safe community. No one wants a neighbor bringing down surrounding property values. Our two-year journey of rigorous research revealed children living near or adjacent to blighted areas do not perform as well in school and have more anxiety. Abandoned and dilapidated homes are magnets for children, attract criminals, are used for sex and drug trafficking. Overgrown and brush riddled lots are used by criminal elements to stash guns and drugs. I would eliminate this growing concern with a City/ County partnership. Due to errors in interpreting county ordinances, the counties code enforcement position has been woefully under-utilized. Adding the city to the scope of responsibilities would justify this as a full-time position. Our committee’s research revealed a software system called Comcate utilized by various municipalities across the United States. This software would enhance the Code Enforcement productivity and provide the much needed transparency to the public.

Q: Collins has been a vocal advocate of Gray and Jones County working together in the area of water and sewer. Do you agree that the entities should be working together on the issue and what other ideas do you have for the city and county working together?

A: Weaved throughout this Question and Answer session. I have made it abundantly clear we need a strong partnership with the county if we both are to survive economically and provide necessary services taxpayers so richly deserve. I pay both City and County taxes. Therefore I want my elected representatives to be good neighbors with one another. So the last thing I want to see is a turf war or anyone playing one up-manship every time it comes to paying for services. Council/Commission members need to leave their egos at home and simply put the needs of every taxpayer first. We need to work together to provide clean drinking water, consider the need for a future consolidated waste-water treatment facility. To accomplish this we both need to maintain and enhance our tax base, this can be done by having a strong pro-active Code Enforcement posture, and controlled development.

Q: What are you most proud of during your time of public service?

A: My 20 years of military service and working with the Jones County Blight Committee. I enjoy new leadership challenges and opportunities at every assignment. From a basic recruit to the pinnacle of my career retiring as the Deputy Director for Command Control and Communications. I accepted each assignment with a sense of purpose and left each assignment with a sense of accomplishment. To capture foreign intelligence our old military equipment lacked in ability, I purchased off the shelf technology at my expense (a Bear-Cat Scanner) and attached it to our ship’s antenna system. The chain of command was impressed in my ability to gather intelligence faster than anyone else in the fleet. I have always thought outside the box. That’s why it was important for me to run for Mayor Pro Tem and bring my experiences to the table. We all know some of council members have not been exposed to new opportunities that would allow them to build an experience library to draw from. I have that library and it’s open for business.

The Blight Committee allowed me to see how our elected officials are intentionally saddled with blinders by selfserving individuals. They provide limited/directed information that does not serve the community as a whole. However, once Commissioners have the right information they make informed decisions that benefit all of us.

Q: You and your opponent are both politically conservative, sharing many of the same views. Why should the citizens of Gray vote for you?

A: Often people run for office who are not seasoned enough or have the depth of experiences necessary for the job. As Mayor Pro Tem, I’ll bring my leadership, business, educator experiences, work ethic and knowledge to help better serve our citizens. Will there be challenges, “YES” can we overcome them “YES”. As a fiscal conservative and local businessman I will be a good steward of our hard earned money. Your money is as important to you as mine is to me. That is an expectation every citizen should have of their elected representatives. My decisions will be based on how actions benefit the citizens of Gray, not how it will benefit special interest parties.

Those who know me know, I do not support public office as a career. Our founding fathers never envisioned career politicians, they must be rolling in their graves. During every election cycle every candidate should have opposition and every citizen should vote. Our right to vote has been paid for by every veteran who wore a uniform. I believe in term limits through the ballot box. If you want change then vote someone new in. Politicians never seem to vote themselves out. I will be a servant of the people for a limited time then move on.

I have no aspirations to move into the Governor’s mansion. My home is in Gray and I’m here to stay. Regrettably, we all know that some politicians at every level of government have been in office so long they believe it is their right to hold that office rather than thinking of it as a privilege. Vote Rick Tipton For Mayor Pro Tem: “Change is Good.”