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Six candidates in race for commission seat

WINDER - A handful of voters toward the west end of Winder will pick from six candidates to lead District 3 on the Board of Commissioners.

The two Democratic candidates represent the recent reorganization of a formal Democratic Party in heavily Republican Barrow County.

Whomever voters elect faces four years of heavy labor.

Barrow County struggles with rapid residential growth that strains the school system, roads, infrastructure and spotlights its lack of nonautomotive byways. The county needs a network of costly sewer to attract the industry it desires to build a tax base and keep jobs at home.

While county officials endeavor to make the Northeast Georgia Regional Airport into a profitable entity, local residents struggle against land condemnations and the imminent end of their rural lifestyles. Meanwhile, a handful of high dollar projects - a new jail, courthouse, animal control facility and cultural arts center - further stretch resources while building a base into which the county can grow.

Candidates

Alfonza Brown, 55, a Democrat, says smart planning for growth will lead to an improved infrastructure, water supply, educational system and jobs. He has formed no opinion regarding consolidating city and county government, like that of Athens-Clarke County.

William Drane, 49, an assistant manager at Home Depot, campaigns on the slogan, "Bring Barrow County out of the dark ages." He favors a consolidated government to unite activities and build public infrastructure to support development.

"I will represent the people instead of being just another bureaucrat," Drane said.

Charles Justin Grant, a 33-year-old high school physics teacher, said Barrow County must market its successes to bring in industry. He named unplanned growth as Barrow County's biggest challenge.

"We have two new high schools, our middle and elementary schools are performing very well," Grant said. "But we have small subdivisions popping up all over that causes trouble with water and sewer."

William Doyle Healan Sr., a 62-year-old lawyer, served as Barrow County's attorney in the 1990s and as chairman of the Barrow County Democratic Party for nearly two decades. Healan is against consolidated government. He intends to halt what he calls runaway spending and open the county government's doings to public scrutiny.

"The current administration has adopted a throw money at it rule," Healan said. "We apparently have very good staff, then hire consultants for things one would think the staff would be able to accomplish."

The West Winder Bypass is in the wrong place, he said, and endorses an approach kinder to the environment.

"We will achieve no traffic relief and it's in the largest natural water collection point in Barrow County," Healan said. "We desperately need water and mitigating it in another part of the state will do us no good if we foul our own nest."

Thomas Williamson, a 57-year-old Realtor, said trust must be rebuilt between Barrow County government and its citizens.

"The next five years are critical for Barrow County and we need to believe in each other and work together," Williamson said.

He favors a consolidated government, if lower taxes and more efficient services were the result.

"Obvious savings of taxpayers' money should be weighed against the added cost associated with the merger by way of a good analysis of the net impact," he said.

Steve Worley, 45, serves as Monroe's director of public works. His work experience gives him a keen eye for Barrow County's infrastructure woes.

"If the EPD does not grant the landfill an extension, it will have to shut down and that's $1 million in revenue we won't have," Worley said. "We have to plan to make up that difference. Airports are a good revenue source and they can bring in folks that can spend money in your town."

The county must rebuild its relationship with the DOT, he said.

"Barrow County needs to get a good working relationship back with DOT, Barrow County has lost that," Worley said. "We are behind the eight-ball with planning, public safety and schools. We need industry to offset property taxes."

SideBar:

Alfonza Brown

Age: 55

Occupation: Real estate

Education: Bachelor's degree in business

Political experience: None

Family: Wife, Sandra; son, Alfonza Jr., 32

Contact: 770-867-6168

William Drane

Age: 49

Occupation: Assistant manager, Home Depot in Winder

Education: Bachelor's degree

Political experience: None

Family: Wife, Vicki; son, Tony; two granddaughters

Contact: E-mail bvdrane@yahoo.com

Charles Justin Grant

Age: 33

Occupation: Physics teacher, Dacula High School

Education: Specialist in education administration

Political experience: One year on Barrow County's Planning Commission

Family: Wife, Stephanie

Contact: 770-307-0682

William Doyle Healan

Age: 62

Occupation: Lawyer

Education: Juris doctor

Political experience: None

Family: Wife, Patti; children, Billy, 35; Cindy, 32; Michael, 27; and Erin, 22; and three granddaughters

Contact: 770-867-7554

Thomas Williamson

Age: 57

Occupation: Realtor

Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in public and urban affairs

Political experience: None

Family: Wife, Klaudia Esmonde; daughter, Ava, 7.

Contact: 404-925-9012 williamsongop@hotmail.com

Hugh Stephens Worley

Age: 45

Occupation: Public Works Director, city of Monroe

Education: Two years of college

Political experience: None

Family: Wife, Susan; children Heath, 21; and twins Ethan and Rene, 17

Contact: sworley@monroeaccess.net, 678-858-8672