Smith, Marlowe square-off in Coweta commission forum

Coweta County voters Monday night got a look at the two candidates running for the District 5 seat on the Coweta County Commission. Incumbent Al Smith (D) and challenger Hayden Marlowe (R) fielded questions from the Newnan-Coweta Chamber. The District 5 commission seat encompasses the Newnan area.

Marlowe in his opening statement said that, while only 22 years of age, he became interested in politics in college and was later encouraged for run for office to be a fresh voice, especially for people his age. Marlowe said he currently works with his father in operating a local vending business. Marlowe said he takes the race for commissioner very seriously and asked that voters look past his age.

Born and raised in Coweta County, Smith in his opening remarks noted his work as a pastor and his outlook that makes him suited for work as a county commissioner. Smith was elected in 2008.
The first question asked candidates to expand on their life, elaborating on how their work and life experiences will help guide their decision-making.

Smith said he started in the sign business at age 23.

“People saw a young man going door-to-door and wanted to help him,” Smith said, explaining that what he saw in the community then helped form his outlook later in life. “People sometimes need things but don’t know where to go to get them. I enjoy working through the bureaucratic red tape.”

Marlowe responded to the question by referencing what he learned about the need to work within his means.

“I need by home budget to balance. I have to be responsible or I will lose my job and my house,” Marlowe said.

Another question focused on what candidates saw as the biggest budget and services issue facing the county and how the commission was handling the recession.

Marlowe in response said the biggest problem was fiscal irresponsibility, citing the use of $1.7 million in reserve funds to balance the current budget.

Up next, Smith said the economy and the downfall in the housing industry led to a decrease in the tax digest.

“We haven’t reduced services. The biggest issue with (the budget) is the upkeep of bridges and roads,” said Smith. “The county is in great financial shape.”

The candidates in another question were asked what major road improvements were need in the county.

Smith cited the planned Poplar Road interchange at Interstate 85 and the recent approval the county received for the engineering component.

“And the (Newnan) bypass that’s now completed is a beautiful thing,” Smith added.

Marlowe agreed with Smith on the Poplar Road project but disagreed on the need for the bypass, even when the economy returns. Marlowe also noted a safety need pertaining to a street in his area that did not have sidewalks. Smith in response said that street is inside the city and did not fall under the control of the county commission.

Marlowe in his closing statement asked voters to look past his age.

“I’m hard working and a fast learner. I won’t be in this for my benefit, but for the benefit of the citizens,” Marlowe said.

Smith in his closing remarks referenced the learning curve he experienced after being elected four years ago.

“In 2008 I didn’t know what the board actually did, but I got help from the commissioners and the (county) staff,” said Smith. “I don’t know all the answers, but I’m hell-bent on listening to what others say instead of being stuck on what I think.”

The forum was sponsored and conducted by the Newnan-Coweta Chamber.