The primary elections are May 20 and the last day to register to vote in the primary elections is April 21.
The first candidates to speak were Frank Loyd and Incumbent Robbie Moore for the Board of Education District 5.
In his opening statement, Loyd said that he was raised in Murray County.
"I graduated from Murray County High School in 1966," Loyd said. "Both of my children graduated from Murray County High School...my joy in being here is to see the next generation be all that they can be. I have a heart for kids. I've worked in vacation bible school since 1971, impacted many kids. I want to see the kids in our community be the best that they can be...my wife was a school teacher in Murray County for 31 years."
Moore said in his opening statement that he was seeking reelection. "I have a vested interest in the school system of Murray County," Moore said. "I have been married for ten years...I have two children that attend Chatsworth Elementary and I strive very hard to do a good job on the board not just for their sake, but for the sake of every student of Murray County...I really hope that I will be able to continue serving Murray County on the board and I feel like my job is not done there and I want to continue going forward."
Moore also said that he graduated college with a degree in theology.
The first question posed was why were the candidates running for the office.
"I've had people ask me ‘are you crazy to seek reelection,’" Moore said. "Is it really something that you have a heart for? And let me just tell you that it is something that I have a heart for. I love kids. I love the school system. And as you will see...the slogan that I have chosen is ‘We are enriching our community one student at a time.’ That is exactly what Murray County is doing. We've had some success over the last four years and I wish to continue that success...the real reason that I'm running for the board of education is that I want to be a help to anybody, any student in our system and any worker in our system whether it be an administrator, whether it bea teacher, custodian, whoever, I want to be a help to them. I believe that this a way I can be a help."
"I'm running because I'm retired from Chatsworth Water 13 years...and Brown Printing..from 25 years," Loyd said. "One thing that's impressed me since I've been going door to door...is the young people. These are our greatest resources...I'm retired and I can put more time and effort into the school system. It is my hope and my desire just to do all that I can do...I believe that to reach the next generation, we've not just got to give them an education, we've got to point them in some scripture...and we have to give them something to hope in. Two words that I heard in the last few weeks are encouragement and hope. There's a lot of folks losing hope...because of the way things are going in our country...our kids...need to know that are some adults who genuinely care about their education..."
The second question posed concerned a two million dollar deficit in the budget.
"We cannot continue to have a deficit," Loyd said. "It would sooner or later catch up with you. And I know that we have been fortunate enough...they've been making wise decisions using the money the best they possibly could but I believe we can do much better. And I'm hoping the government will open more with state money, and I believe it's going to be difficult to maintain the budget and balance it every year but it can be done. We have to have people that are willing to make the effort to make sure that they get the right numbers...sometimes you may have to cut and these cuts...are difficult...it's not good for morale and I believe this a challenge that we face..."
"I don't know where the figure came in that we were two million dollars in deficit," Moore said. "If you will check around the state of Georgia, there have been school systems...that have filed bankruptcy, that have dipped into their reserve that we are required to have on hand...Murray County has not used any money out of their reserve...our budget has been balanced and we are running on a balanced budget currently...the question was can we balance the budget and keep it balanced, yes we can. We have a finance committee...that I would put up against any committee in the state of Gerogia. And we have kept that budget balanced, we have kept that budget under very much scrutiny to make sure that we have not gone over...we are running the school system on the money that we are given...we are using it to the best of our ability."
Kevin Tidswell served as moderator for the forum and posed a third question which was did the candidates believe a seat on the board was just a rubber-stamping yes vote.
Both candidates answered that their voice and vote as a board member would not be a rubber stamp and that each would stand to their beliefs and convictions.
Chief Magistrate Judge Candidates
Dwayne Hooper, former associate magistrate judge is running against Incumbent Gale Buckner, who was appointed to the position by the Conasauga Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judges when former Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment.
In her opening statement, Buckner said she was a lifetimemember of the Murray County community.
“I am a 1975 graduate of Murray County High School and a proud member of Holly Creek Baptist Church,” Buckner said. “I have 36 years of full time criminal justice experience. I started as a dispatcher for the Chatsworth Police Department while I was working on my bachelor’s degree, spent 24 years with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, almost seven years with the State Board of Pardons and Parole, two of those years as chair. My last year with the state was as the Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice and several of those positions I did work right here in our home countyso I have kept up with what the issues are in our county and am so pleased to be a part of it. When I was appointed...to take over as Chief Magistrate, I took this job November 1, 2012, and let me tell you since that time, myself, our staff at Magistrate Court, we have worked feverishly to make our court restore the faith of this community...we have worked many long hours, we have worked nights, we have worked weekends just to give this community what it needed.”
Buckner noted the accomplishments of the court.
“Number one, we took over 200 garnishment checks that were over 90 days old, added those to the system, gave our people back over $25,000...”, Buckner said. “We found ($300,000) sitting in our bank account, we were able to show where those monies should have gone. About $240,000 of that went back to Murray County...we have realized that while the budget here in Murray County has been in distress for the last several years, even though we started out at a deficit...we were able to catch up in August of last year...we are three percent under budget right now, we’re very pleased with that...we are very pleased to continue to move forward in magistrate court, we are looking forward...one of the things that we want to look at is to have the potential to have some people pay their fines online...”
Hooper said he felt that it was important that the people decide who their magistrate judge is.
“I am a lifelong resident of Murray County,” Hooper said. “I am a member of Welcome Hill Baptist Church and I’ve served on the Boys and Girls Club Parent League. I have 22 years of experience as magistrate judge. Over those years I have accumulated almost 500 hours of training...magistrate court was established in 1984, I came aboard in 1990, I grew up with the court. When I started the jurisdictional limit was $1500, and we heard very few criminal cases...since that time, today the jurisdictional limit for magistrate court is $15,000 and we hear many more cases. We’ve taken on many misdemeanor cases...I’ve probably heard 1,000 civil cases and even more criminal cases, and I’ve always tried to be fair and impartial to everyone that came before me...it has always been my goal to use common sense while dispensing the law.”
The first question asked was “what sets you apart from the other candidate?”
“I think the main thing that would set me apart...when it comes to the magistrate court of Murray County I think I’m the most qualified candidate,” Hooper said.
“What sets me apart is that I’m a go getter,” Buckner said. “I am a problem solver. If there is an issue that needs to be resolved I am going to stay on top of that until it’s resolved. I was put into this position, I believe, to restore the justice and fairness in this court that this community felt was lacking and that has been our goal all along and that will continue to be our goal.”
The next question concerned what has been accomplished and what could be improved.
“We have accomplished...I have already mentioned some of that to you, we found $300,000 that a portion of that had been sitting in our bank accounts since 2008, those monies should never have been left sitting there...we have also set up an accounting system...we balance our books every day. We have stayed late many days when we have been less than a dollar short. We have made sure that the dollars are accounted for. We found that the previous administration had offender based tracking system information not being put in until someone had served their full probation. Now why is that important to you? When someone was given a sentence, if a law enforcement officer pulls someone over...and they have been charged with some kind of crime and we don’t have it in the system, we are putting that law enforcement officer in danger...we are developing some good Best Business practices to share with our business people, particularly the way that we manage bad checks...I have had a couple of business owners that were kind of mad about the way things have happened and we were able to work with them to get their issue resolved. We want to see more of that happen. We are also going to make sure that our documents that date back to the 1970’s are entered into our system electronically so when you need access to those documents the retireval will be much easier.”
“I also had the opportunity to work with Ms. Buckner for a month,” Hooper said. “And we discussed a lot of the things that she has commented on actually. One of the things that we discussed was this money. I heard that...Ms. Buckner found almost $300,000. Now in order to find something it’s got to be lost or hid. Well, that’s just simply not the case. This money was in a checking account and yes i knew about it...I knew about it, the past Chief Magistrate knew about it...the past three commissioners knew about it....what can I do to improve? Well, she done a lot of things, some of the same things that I would have done. I talked to a friend who was an attorney and he said one of the first things that I should do was get an outside audit. I mentioned this to Ms. Buckner and that’s exactly what she done...I don’t think there’s no two people would do things exactly the same. I think I would have more of an open door policy than is previously going on. Other than that, we just have to see. There’s always room for improvement.”
The candidates then had closing remarks.
“For those of us that live here in this community...I’m going to say something that every one can understand,” Buckner said. “I’ve got my hand on the plow and I am moving forward. I’m not looking back. ..when you are plowing a line...you’ve got to look forward so that you can be productive so that you can get the best results possible. You don’t look back. What happens when you look back?...the line gets messed up, it gets crooked and you don’t get the same results as long as you’re moving forward. Folks I’ve got my hand on the plow at the Murray County Magistrate Court and we’re not looking back and I hope this community chooses not to look back as well.”
“Folks...I’ver heard a lot of talk about the money,” Hooper said. “I’ll be the first to congratulate oher on that. But my wife, she’ll come home from Belk’s with a new dress and she’ll say I’ve got this dress and I got $40 off on it. Well, that don’t mean a lot to me, what I want to know is what she spent for it. I was curious about what had been spent in magistrate court...there is a lot of poverty here...I checked with the commissioner’s office two weeks ago and I asked what was the renovation costs of the new magistrate court. And that cost at that time, and they said bills were still coming in, and that cost at that time was $229,451. So you can say I give $230,000 to the county but I took back $229,000...there’s many places that money could have went. We’ve been through the worse recession that most of us has ever seen. And most people I know still haven’t got through it. Did we need more room in magistrate court? We were crowded, we could have used more room. But when I think about a lot of the other offices...was it necessary? I don’t think so. And could we afford it? Absolutely not. If elected I will work every day to save every dime that I can in magistrate court. I will run it as efficiently and economically as I possible can.”
Due to time constraints, the remainder of the forum will be covered in next week’s edition of The Chatsworth Times.