Two vie for District 1 Commission seat Nov. 8

Two vie for District 1 Commission seat Nov. 8

October 6th, 2011 by Mike O'Neal in Catoosa


District 1 consists of the Chambers, Fort Oglethorpe and Lakeview precincts and voting will be slightly different at each.

All who live in the Chambers precinct will vote solely at the county precinct because this community near Rock Spring is outside Fort Oglethorpe's city limits.

Voters living in the Fort Oglethorpe precinct will vote for city and county candidates at Constitution Hall.

Those registered to vote in the Lakeview precinct will vote at two separate sites on election day. Balloting for the commission race will take place at the normal precinct but those who are also Fort Oglethorpe residents must go to Constitution Hall to cast ballots in the city council and mayoral election.

On Nov. 8, voters living in Catoosa County Commission District 1 will select either Judd Burkhart or Jeff Long to represent their interests for the remaining year of Ken Marks' term as commissioner.

This special election is necessary because Marks resigned from the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners to enter the race for mayor of Fort Oglethorpe.

Both Burkhart and Long are self-described "conservative Republicans" and longtime residents of Fort Oglethorpe.

Burkhart has previously served six years as a councilman and eight years as mayor in Fort Oglethorpe.

"I think being a commissioner is a better job; you get to represent more people and enjoy the challenge of serving a bigger area," he said. "No one has been really supporting the issues that are of greatest interest to citizens living in Lakeview and Chambers; no one has been looking out for District 1, but I could."

Burkhart said that as an elected official he worked to keep taxes low, extend homestead exemptions and follow prudent financial policies.

"You just have to know how watch where the money goes and be conservative without cutting services," he said. "They've just come out with the Fort Oglethorpe budget and it shows the city is solid, that shows I left it in good shape."

Burkhart said that commissioners, while looking out for their own districts, should focus on countywide improvements to water and sewer projects that began in the 1980s and are still works in progress.

"We need to look to the future," he said. "What is done today will affect the next 50 or 100 years - what we do is for future generations, councils, commissions and mayors."

The former mayor and councilman said it is critical that District 1 has an advocate on the commission - "they don't have anything" - something he feels he is better able to do than his opponent.

Because Long works for the city, Burkhart said some conflicts of interest will arise when the commission votes on matters that will affect Fort Oglethorpe.

"Abstaining from a vote is like giving up representation for your district," he said.

Long, with more than 20 years service to Fort Oglethorpre as a volunteer firefighter and employee, said concerns about conflicts of interest should be directed at Burkhart, not himself.

"This is typical politics and nothing new," Long said. " There is really no more conflict than for anyone acting on what goes on in their district. If I vote on something, as a city employee it would be for the city's and not my personal gain.

"As a businessman who deals in real estate, my opponent has more potential for conflicts - as was shown when he previously was in office."

Long said his background as director of public works and recreation should be considered a plus and not a hindrance for someone elected to the Board of Commissioners.

"I deal on a day-to-day basis with laws that concern stormwater, roads, recreation and fire service," he said. "We have a good commission and I can bring something that now is missing - experience in those areas."

District 1's precincts have diverse needs, according to Long.

"Putting in a mile of sewer in Lakeview would affect three times as many people as in a more rural area," Long said. "Chambers needs a traffic light at the intersection of Twin Cedars Road and Highway 27, and I deal with Fort Oglethorpe's concerns every day at work."

If elected, Long said he will work to improve working relations between the city and county and not just for the short term.

"I plan to be on the commission for at least the next five years," he said. "I want to get things done for the city and all my district."

The last day to register or change voter registration information for the Nov. 8 election is Tuesday, Oct. 11. Early voting for the District 1 commission seat begins Oct. 18 and runs through Nov. 4.