I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the community for your amazing support during my campaign for the position of Heard County Commission Chairman. Since announcing my qualification for the position in May, I have encountered an awesome amount of support from you the citizens and I am very appreciative.
I would like to share with you again a few of my key thoughts and ideas which would be implemented if entrusted with your vote on November 6. I believe that Heard County is ready for new leadership that will be open, energetic, and forward thinking.
Things have always been a certain way in Heard County, but I feel that it is time to break down some of those barriers. Integrity and confidence in our community leadership needs to be restored and I believe one of the first steps to that is being completely transparent and accountable and that should start from the top at the chair position.
During difficult economic times when family budgets are strapped and individuals are cutting back, our county government should be no different. We need to be working within our financial means.
I will work diligently to make sure we are spending our tax dollars wisely and effectively at all times. I will make every attempt to try and cut wasteful spending in order to get the pay raises that our county employees so richly deserve.
If I am elected Heard Commission Chair, I will not be someone who is afraid to explore proven examples. It isn’t always necessary to reinvent the wheel when there are other counties that have already adapted to a better way of doing things.
I will work hard with the Chamber of Commerce and Development Authority to actively pursue and market our county to potential businesses and point out the tax incentives that are available because we’re considered a “Tier 1 county” under state guidelines. I will strive for Heard County to become more commercially and economically diverse.
I will be aggressive and persevering in seeking new grant opportunities, and I will partner with regional, state and federal agencies to develop tools, tax incentives, and financing options for new business growth. We will have to be competitive and persistent in this economic environment in order to make this goal a reality.
It is vital that we think not only about our immediate future but our long-term future as well. If elected as your next commission chair, I will strive to maintain a positive working relationship with everyone in any way involved with our county operations. I am willing to put my personal agenda and ego aside for the betterment of our community as a whole.
Our goals and directives as a county should not be hindered by personal feuds and constant petty bickering. I seek to display professionalism to the citizens of Heard County at all times. I will make no promises that I cannot keep; however, I will encourage input and ideas from you the citizens at all times.
I believe if we wish to bring positive changes to our community we will all have to work together. Thank you for your vote and support next Tuesday!
Below I would like to share my answers to some of the more important questions I have received from the public throughout my campaign:
What changes would you make to the Heard County website?
I would start completely over with a brand new website. The current site is very outdated, poorly maintained (if maintained at all) and provides only a minimal amount of important financial information to the public. In fact, the current website scores only a “D” rating by sunshinereview.org. I will work to improve this by implementing a new website which will offer the public access to timely meeting reports, audio/video of the meetings, agendas, audits, budgets, contracts, and detailed accounts of each general fund check that the county writes.
Will you make any changes to the county meeting format in regards to public comments?
Yes I will make some much-needed changes to our public meeting proceedings. Currently, our citizens are only allowed to make public comments for two minutes and they must discuss only items that are on the agenda. I feel this is a very bad way of doing things. I feel that the board of commissioners is there to serve the public and this means listening to anyone when they have any problem or concern about any county related item. There will be guidelines of course but generally speaking ANY citizen will be allowed to make a public comment on any item that relates to county business. While what a citizen has to say may not seem important to anyone else, it is obviously very important to them and I think they deserve to be heard. The two best opportunities for a citizen to be heard are at the voting booth and at a public meeting. I don’t think either of these should ever be compromised.
Will you make any changes to the meetings in regards to the agenda?
Yes I will. Currently in many situations a district commissioner must get approval from the board to have a topic placed on the agenda. I feel this is a wrong way of doing things. District commissioners are entrusted and elected by the people of each district and because of that I feel need to be allowed to bring any item in front of the board without approval from anyone. I also believe our citizens should be allowed to be placed on the agenda if they feel a need to speak with the board more extensively than in a public comment.
What changes will you make at the recreation department?
I have closely observed the activities at the recreation department for several years now and I see many great things happening. I would, however, like to see more activities taking place there other than just the regular sports. I think that arts, crafts, dance, and martial arts are just a few of the programs that could thrive. I would also like to see more programs and sports offered to adults as they have been in the past. Taxpayers have spent a lot of hard-earned money on these tremendous facilities and we should be utilizing them to their full extent. Our current leadership has been quoted as saying that “entertainment is not allowed at the recreation department.” This make no sense to me at all. We need to be using our facilities for as many different programs/events as possible. It is also time that we started a much-needed boys and girls club in this county that the citizens have been requesting for years.
What are your thoughts on controlling county spending?
I believe that whether the economy is good or bad we should always try to cut wasteful spending whenever and wherever possible. I am economically conservative and feel that our government, especially on the local level, should watch not just every dollar that is being spent but EVERY penny. I also believe that the tax payers should have easy access to records of where and how we are spending their money.
How do you feel about the SPLOST tax?
I think the SPLOST tax can be a great source of revenue but I also believe we need to think long and hard about what projects the money is being spent towards. I believe in the past we have been guilty of “putting the cart before the horse” so to speak. Shiny new recreation facilities, fire stations, and big county trucks are wonderful to have but each and every one of these items increases the property tax burdens to citizens in the future for maintenance, upkeep, etc. We need to work towards using these SPLOST funds for valuable infrastructure projects (such as water/sewage) that will help our county to develop economically through new industry and business. Our citizens are desperate for jobs and bringing new industry/business to this town is crucial to our future. This is also the best way we can increase county revenues.
If elected how will you deal with the current county employees ?
First of all, I will say that I have no intentions of firing anyone on day one if I am elected to take office in January. The employees are a very important part of this county and I plan to give each of them a chance to excel provided they will also each give me a chance to lead them. The attitudes, efficiency, and performance of our employees are effected tremendously by the leadership provided to them and I will do everything I can to be a firm but fair county manager. I will always be there to listen to any concern or issue that may arise for any and all employees in every department. Hiring will be fair and I will especially work to end any and all nepotism moving forward.
Will you try to get raises for county employees?
I can’t promise anything to anyone at this point but I can and do promise to do everything in my power to work towards getting the long overdue raises for our employees. Wiser spending practices can and will help with this process. I think one great way to help our employees would be an end of the year bonus based on the financial success of the county for that year. This way everyone from the employees upward will be motivated to save money at every turn and in turn reap the benefits of an efficient well-managed government. Our employees need at least some sort of financial incentive and some hope for future raises in order to maintain a desire to keep working here in Heard County. We need to strive to keep our best public safety workers rather than having them all transfer to other counties for better pay and benfits. They need to be able to make enough money to survive and support their families. Additionally, our citizens deserve the best care and protection from our public safety workers which is an important issue when our county is currently considered as a “training ground” for public safety workers. We need to strive to keep the best public safety workers here in our county.How do you feel about the arena and its usage/guidelines?
Like most every other citizen that I have spoken to I feel it was very poor planning building our recreation department way out in the country and our arena right in the middle of town. I think it is not right that many of our northern county residents have to drive farther to our recreation department than to recreation departments in other counties. With that being said this is not something that can be changed at this point. We can, however, work to improve the arena usage guidelines. I agree that some fees should have to be paid to cover certain costs when using the arena but our current policy of requiring portions of the profits from these arena events to be paid to the county makes no sense to me. The purpose of the arena just like the recreation department should be to provide activities and events for our community. I firmly believe changes to these guidelines will increase the number of events held at the arena. The arena was paid for by the citizens of this county and they should all have an opportunity to use it just like the recreation department and other county facilities.
What will be your top priority as Commission Chairman?
My top priority will be instilling a sense of fairness across the board to every person in every situation. I have personally witnessed this to be a very big problem in our county with our current leadership. I will NOT have an authoritative dictator type mentality as leader of our county. The position of Commission Chair is essentially county manager and I will treat it as such. I will place a firm focus on fair practices in all aspects of our government. The time is long overdue that the “good ol’ boy system” was eliminated in Heard County and I have no doubt that I am the only candidate that will work to do just that. I have proven in the past to the people of this county that I am not afraid to stand up for what is right and I will continue to do that. The Commission Chairman has to make many difficult decisions which will almost always leave one side or the other unhappy, but I do promise I will look people right in the eye and tell them the truth about why and how any decision was reached. I feel telling people the truth is always beneficial.
What makes Russ Massa a better choice than Lee Boone as our next Commission Chair?
I think clearly the biggest difference between Lee Boone and myself is the direction we see for the future of our county. If you elect Boone as your chairman I believe most things will stay the same as they are now. His thought process of “Heard County is what it is” will not move us forward as a county. I believe he will continue to do things the way they have always been done and our county as a whole will continue to be stuck in the past. I have heard nothing from Boone to indicate that he plans to implement any changes to our government in the way of transparency, accountability, or progress. These three things will be the focus of my efforts as I plan to “lead” our county into the future as opposed to “running” our county as if it were my own personal business. Transparency and accountability is extremely important because it will make our entire government more efficient in its decision-making. As your next Commission Chairman I will work to fulfill the needs of EVERY citizen of this county to the best of my abilities.
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October 31, 2012 by Leave a Comment