New Coweta chief says top goals are quality of life, rural preservation

Coweta County Administrator Michael Fouts. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Coweta County Administrator Michael Fouts is about one month into his new job position with county government. Assuming the new job after the retirement of long-time administrator Theron Gay, Fouts shared his outlook on the job, the county and the future.

It was on July 1 that Fouts, 33, began his service as Coweta County administrator with the retirement of Theron Gay. Fouts was an integral part of the succession planning put in place a few years ago in anticipation of Gay’s retirement.

“Theron and the staff did a great job of maintaining the core values of Coweta County. Those core values are the employee base and their service to the community,” Fouts said.

Having worked in county government since 2005, Fouts begins his new job already knowing the county. But with Fouts being the “new guy,” The Citizen thought it appropriate to get Fouts’ perspective on his new job, on the county government and Coweta’s future.

“We run a pretty thin employee base and the managers are very effective in their roles. We like to give them general direction and let them be involved in the day-to-day activities. It’s important to have that kind of leadership beginning at the department level and all the way up,” said Fouts.

“Small government is good in my opinion. It allows us to get things done on a timely basis. At the same time it’s important to maintain a balance of quality of life and the rural character, the things people value here in Coweta. With that, it’s important to have a balance of residential, commercial and industrial. And we have a great education system in place, so we’re constantly working with the various stakeholders to evaluate our service delivery,” Fouts said.

Fouts also shared his thoughts on the outlook held by county employees and the expectation of residents in general.

“I think our community as whole believes that smaller government is more efficient. And the attitude of our (county government) workforce is incredible, one where they want to help. And it crosses over departmental lines. And I think that’s important. The managerial philosophy is one that prompts county employees to take ownership,” Fouts said, equating employees to a family that is part of a larger community. “If you look around metro Atlanta, Coweta has one of the lowest millage rates. But I’d say we rank at the top in terms of quality of life and the quality of development we have here.”

Fouts offered his perspective on some of the current and future aspects of county government and how those might impact residents countywide.

“Moving forward, two of the things we are looking at are transportation and funding. And we will continue to evaluate and arrange available funding to maximize our transportation needs,” Fouts said. “Another large area of focus is public safety. We want to keep the community safe, so we continue to evaluate those needs. In particular, with the fire department we’re capped at 2.5 mills for our fire district. And the fire department has done a great job of trying to mitigate some of the operational costs.”

The county court system is an area where Fouts said changes could potentially occur.

“We’re continuing to look at our court system to see what the future holds,” said Fouts. “We believe that in the very near future Coweta is aligned to become its own circuit. And we’d like to see that happen. We think there are some efficiencies there that we can utilize.”

Another aspect of county government involves the 911 system and its service to the community.

“The enhanced 911 system is exceptional. We’re capped at the state level at $1.50 on wired and wireless telephone fees, and we’re one of the very few in the state that’s self-funded. We don’t appropriate any general fund dollars to the 911 system,” he explained.

Fouts said growth is an area that continues to be important, as long as that growth comes with quality.

“Continuing quality grow is important. We’ve seen more growth in the last six months than we’ve seen in the last four years, both in residential and in the commercial sides,” Fouts said. “That‘s great, but we want to maintain the quality that Coweta people want and deserve, including with things like enhanced county recreation venues.”

Taken as a whole, Fouts noted the importance of balancing a high level of service with a conservative, streamlined approach.

“In the future it is important that we provide a high level of service and maintain a cost-effective balance. And that we continue to be fiscally conservative, continue to review the budget and continue to streamline services where we can,” said Fouts.

Fouts began his service in county government in October 2005 as the county’s assistant director of information technology. He served in that position until he was promoted to the department’s director in January 2008. And it was in June 2012 that Fouts was promoted to assistant county administrator.

Prior to his time with the county, Fouts attended LaGrange College where he had responsibilities, beginning in his sophomore year, as a full-time employee working with the school’s computer network.

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