By Tim Pinkham Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — SHOALS — Martin County Commissioner Paul R. George faces challenger John Collins in the May 6 Democratic primary for the commissioner’s seat in District 2.
This is one of three contested primary races in Martin County, all involving Democrats.
Incumbent Mike Steiner faces Joe Howell in the contest for Martin County Prosecutor, while incumbent Jason Hennette is being challenged by Joe McAtee for Perry Township Trustee. In this race, the winner will meet Republican Ernest Canell, who is unopposed in the primary.
George, 42, is seeking his third consecutive term as commissioner. He is the father of two children, Tyler, 17, and Taylor, 14, who are students at Shoals.
He works in the farming industry and drives a school bus for Shoals School Corporation. He is a graduate of Shoals High School and Oakland City College.
A life-long resident of Martin County, George has served as president of the commissioners for the past six years. As a commissioner, his duties include serving on the Martin County Redevelopment Commission, Martin County Solid Waste Board, District Oversight Planning Committee, South Central Region 8 Workforce Board and the task force for county employee compensation and benefits.
George also serves as president of the Martin County Farm Bureau Inc. and is an active supporter of the county’s 4-H program. He is also a member of the Martin County Democrat Committee.
Due to the harsh winter weather, all county roads in the state, including those in Martin County, took a beating. The candidates were asked how they rate the current condition of the county roads and what the commissioners can afford to do about it.
“Martin County roads are currently in fair to poor condition,” George said. “We had an extremely harsh winter and our county roads paid the toll. The Martin County Highway Department did a good job at keeping the county roads as clear as possible this past winter. The county highway employees are now out dura-patching and hand-patching potholes, and some of the heaviest hit roads will receive some new paving this summer.”
The candidates were also asked if Martin County presently receives enough tax revenues to meet its obligations to its citizens, and if not, what would they propose to increase revenues?
“The only option to increase revenue for the roads is to implement a county Wheel Tax,” George said. “With a deteriorating economy, and everyone worrying about the cost of health care, I cannot support a wheel tax in Martin County. I have worked hard not to raise taxes in Martin County, and will continue to do so, if re-elected.
“I have worked hard the past eight years to keep Martin County financially stable in a very unstable financial environment. I am honest, fair, and work hard for every citizen in Martin County. I enjoy meeting and talking to the citizens of Martin County. I am available in the courthouse 2-3 days per week.”
George continued, “I would like to continue to serve the citizens of Martin County as commissioner and continue the programs already started. The commissioners re-energized the Martin County Veterans' Service Office, and the amount of Martin County veterans served has nearly doubled this past year. I believe it is important for Martin County to continue our partnership with the Crane Naval base and the WestGate Tech Park Authority to maintain as many local job opportunities as possible. Both of these businesses provide skilled and non-skilled jobs for Martin County citizens.”
Candidates were asked to give their thoughts on the county’s current budget and spending situation, as well as any changes they would make.
“The county is always looking at cost reduction options.” George said. “Martin County is operating on a bare-bones budget. We have cut the operating expenses of most county programs as much as possible, and continue to provide services to the citizens of Martin County. I believe the citizens of Martin County understand this, and will continue to work with the county to ensure our success.”
Collins failed to respond to numerous e-mails and phone messages requesting both his personal information for this article, as well as answering pertinent questions concerning the duties of county commissioner.