Among the forums held Sept. 29 at the Fayetteville Library was one featuring the candidates for the District 1 seat on the Fayette County Commission. Candidates for the District 1 commission race include former Republican commissioner and attorney Eric Maxwell and AVPride Executive Director and Democrat Pam Reid.
One of the questions asked the candidates to comment on the well-publicized interpersonal relationships of county commissioners and how those relationships impact the county.
Reid in her response said, “Some of what I see is very concerning to me. I think that everyone in leadership has an obligation to conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and certainly a high degree of respect. I know that I have demonstrated the ability to work with all the people. And when you are working collaboratively, you have to have an opportunity to hear all their perspectives. I think that what I see currently is something that absolutely has to change if we’re going to engage our community and if we’re going to bring respect back to the county commission.”
Maxwell responded saying he has not attended county commission meetings though he has read the newspaper from time to time.
Without naming Commissioner David Barlow, Maxwell said he “knocked him off” in the primary, adding that Barlow is part of the problem on the current commission.
“In the four years I was a county commissioner I never saw the fight that (accompanies) just talking about something among these commissioners,” said Maxwell. “I don’t really know what the problem is or who the problem is, but quite frankly these folks need to sit down in a room, we need to talk and we need to come up with some decisions. And we don’t need all this hot air and all these five-hour meetings.”
The candidates in another question were asked how they define affordable housing and what they see as Fayette’s current status of such housing.
Up first, Maxwell did not define affordable housing but said he is against it, citing as an example the apartments being built “across from the (Fayette County) Chamber of Commerce” on Ga. Highway 54 West near downtown Fayetteville.
“It’s a ridiculous thing to be built here in Fayette County. We don’t need stuff like that. What we need is good housing, not apartments,” Maxwell said. “Those apartments are going to fill the schools up with kids. There’s no tax revenue that will be coming from the families that live there. It’s going to fill your roads full of cars, so I’m totally against that. I do support the Fayette County Land Use Plan.”
Maxwell’s reference was the Lafayette Square luxury apartments on Ga. Highway 54, located in Fayetteville and not in unincorporated Fayette County, which will feature Fayette’s only concierge-level services.
Reid in her response said everyone should have the opportunity to have housing they can afford. In terms of a definition of affordable housing, Reid said the community needs to decide that definition.
“But I do believe what we decide to have in our county has to be something that fits the character of our county. It has to make sense, and we have to have the infrastructure to support it,” Reid said. “We also have to make sure on the front end that it’s going to be the right thing for our community. There are service men who work here but cannot afford to live here. There are people who need to have options and opportunity. What that looks like we need to decide.”
An additional question referenced Fayette’s aging population. Moderators noted Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s recent comment that Fayette’s population is out of balance. The candidates were asked if such is the case and what the commission might do to address it.
Maxwell in his response said he would like to talk with Cathy at some point.
“I know that this issue came up when they were talking about the Millennials and stuff like that. The article I read about it said that his plan comes with buses. So if his plan comes with buses I’m against it,” said Maxwell. “This county is a bedroom community and has been like that for generations, and to change that is not the proper way to handle it.”
Reid responded to the aging question and took a different perspective.
“I think the numbers speak for themselves. We are an aging population,” Reid said, adding that, “I do believe as we continue to look at businesses for the county, we should look at businesses that bring in quality jobs with good salaries. I believe that the things that Millennials (see as) an ideal place to live are the same things most of us believe make an ideal place to live. I think if we focus on the population as a whole we will be able to attract the people that we need.”
While not included with the question, it is noteworthy that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a significantly higher senior population than the state’s other most affluent suburban counties and is positioned to have the 65 and up population above 20 percent by 2020.
At the same time, Fayette has a population of people age 18 and under that is smaller than most other affluent suburban Georgia counties. That demographic is shrinking faster than other similarly affluent counties, with the clear potential that, by 2020, the number of people 65 and above will outnumber the age group 18 and younger. Added to that is the fact that Fayette leads metro American counties in the number of people of child-bearing age (Millennials) leaving the county.
It is also noteworthy that the Fayette County that many harken back to, in the days when 41 percent of households had school-age children, is the Fayette County that has not existed for nearly a decade. It is hoped by some that new industries, such as the continually increasing number of jobs at Pinewood Atlanta Studios and affiliated companies, and perhaps other new industries, will reverse that trend.
The forums were sponsored by the Fayette County Democratic and Republican parties, the Fayette Chamber of Commerce, the Fayette NAACP and the Fayette County Issues Tea Party.