Commissioners-elect look at bypass questions, selection of new manager
When Fayette County’s three new commissioners take office in January, they will face one looming issue that will give them a big opportunity to make their mark right off the bat.
That’s because they will be picking a replacement for interim County Administrator Jack Krakeel, who retired in July but is staying on until a new administrator is hired.
At last week’s commission meeting, the outgoing commissioners said they wanted their newly-elected counterparts — Charles Oddo, David Barlow and Randy Ognio — to go ahead and get involved in the hiring process, conducting interviews and selecting who they want as the next administrator.
Commissioner Lee Hearn, who was defeated in the runoff election by local businessman Randy Ognio, encouraged the new commissioners to work on the matter so they’ll have plenty of time to assure a smooth transition by the first of the year.
“I know if I was in your shoes, I would want to handle it,” Hearn said.
Commissioner Herb Frady, who did not seek reelection and will be replaced by runoff winner David Barlow, said he agreed leaving the choice up to the new commission, including the two holdover commissioners, was the best way to handle the matter. Those two commissioners, Allen McCarty and Steve Brown, also agreed.
Newly-elected commissioner David Barlow, who will be sworn into office with new commissioners Charles Oddo and Randy Ognio, credited the commission for “doing the right thing” in leaving the decision up to them.
“What they did, they showed me, they did a good thing. They did the right thing,” Barlow said. “It’s never wrong to do the right thing.”
Ognio, who also will take office Jan. 1, said he thought the offer from Hearn and Frady was a good idea, but he wants all the current commissioners involved in the process because of the importance of the hire.
“They may bring up some angles that us newcomers aren’t aware of,” Ognio said. “... I think we’re all part of the process and we need to make sure we get the best person in that position.”
Ognio said he was thankful that the existing commissioners want to include the newly-elected commissioners in the process.
“It’s a big gesture on their part, and I went to Lee and told him I think we all ought to look at it, because we’re investing in the future of the county,” Ognio said.
Two political newcomers became Fayette County commissioners-elect last week by winning the Republican Party primary runoff. With no Democrat opposition for the posts in the Nov. 6 general election, that means that three political rookies will take seats on the board come Jan. 1.
Local businessman and frequent commission critic Randy Ognio won the runoff election for the Post 3 seat, beating incumbent Lee Hearn with more than 71 percent of the vote.
For the Post 2 seat, Tyrone resident David Barlow defeated attorney Sheila Huddleston with 61.7 percent of the vote to win the Post 2 seat that is being vacated by the retiring commissioner Herb Frady.
Barlow and Ognio will join fellow newcomer Charles Oddo, who defeated Robert Horgan outright in the July 31 primary.
Barlow said his intentions on the West Fayetteville Bypass are to not break any existing contracts for construction activities and the like, but to make sure the project is being managed frugally.
“We’d be pretty sorry individuals if we tried to break a contract,” Barlow said.
Barlow said while he appreciates the support of those who voted for him, he also wants those who didn’t back him to understand that his goal is to “treat everyone with respect and dignity, because I now represent all citizens.”
Barlow also said he is looking forward to working with interim County Administrator Jack Krakeel and County Attorney Scott Bennett, because contrary to rumors Barlow does not plan to vote to replace either employee.
While Barlow admits he has had a difference of opinion with the two on some matters, he believes in capitalizing on the assets of a person.
Barlow said he has spoken with both Krakeel and Bennett, asking for the opportunity to work with them.
Ognio said he was “overwhelmed” by the supporters who helped him in the race.
“I just want to let them know ‘thank you’ and now it’s up to me to live up to their expectations and I’m going to work hard to do that,” Ognio said.
Ognio agreed with Barlow that it would be difficult to halt the ongoing work on the second phase of the west bypass, but he wants to see on paper the proposed intersection improvements for the third phase before he can consider them. Ognio said the deteriorating bridge on Ebenezer Church Road over Whitewater Creek will be replaced as a separate project and not part of the proposed third phase for the bypass.
Ognio also said he has been getting calls from citizens concerned about the East Fayetteville Bypass bringing more crime to their area. Ognio said he wants the county to change the project from a two-lane to a four-lane design so it can keep traffic from going through downtown Fayetteville.
Ognio said he told the citizens with concerns that if they had any other ideas to help move traffic around Fayetteville, he’d love to hear them.
“I don’t see much other choice and I don’t want us to become like the city of McDonough. You go through traffic hour there, that’s a disaster,” Ognio said.
Ognio said he is concerned about alleviating traffic in the heart of Fayetteville.
In the runoff race for the newly-created 63rd District in the Georgia House of Representatives, attorney Ronnie Mabra of Fayetteville handily defeated educator T.J. Copeland. Mabra took more than 64 percent of the 2,580 votes recorded while Copeland managed 35.1 percent.
The new district encompasses nearly all of Fayetteville along with the unincorporated area north and east of Fayetteville. The remainder of the district snakes northward in a sliver of unincorporated south Fulton County that runs up to College Park and also to the southwest into the southern tip of Clayton County that rests between the Fayette and Henry county lines.
Mabra did not come out of the election completely unscathed, as he had to defend his residency in a state hearing due to a complaint filed by fellow candidate Linda Pritchett, who ended up having the lowest vote total in the general election.
Although an administrative law judge ruled that it appeared Mabra did not live in the district at the Fayetteville home of his mother as he claimed, Secretary of State Brian Kemp determined there was not enough evidence to remove Mabra from the ballot.
Fayette residents supported Mabra by a margin of greater than 2 to 1, as Mabra won 70.7 percent of the vote compared to Copeland’s 29.3 percent here.