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DALTON, Ga. -- Candidates for Whitfield County offices say they will comb office budgets for ways to cut spending while saving jobs.

Candidates in contested races for the District 3 County Commission seat and two Board of Education seats spoke at a forum Thursday at the NorthWest Georgia Trade and Convention Center.

"There are a lot of teachers who have lost their jobs, and we've had a lot of programs cut back," said school board at-large candidate Jarrod Cline. "I'm just not convinced we have gone through the budget line items as we should."

He said Gwinnett County schools cut its budget but didn't reduce staffing. He said a car allowance for the Whitfield school superintendent is proof the school board could do more to reduce spending before cutting jobs.

Most of the others agreed, criticizing spending, teacher layoffs and poor communication by the school board.

The exception was District 2 school board member Tim Trew, who is battling three challengers.

"No one is protected in this economy -- even teachers, and that astonishes some of them," Mr. Trew said.

He said the board trimmed $80 million from the schools budget and lowered per-student spending before it cut 113 positions.

County Commission District 3 candidate Robby Staten, a political newcomer, said he'd like to inject his energy and fresh ideas into the commission. Incumbent Randy Waskul, who said he recently lost his job but will open a new business, said he is committed to making Whitfield County a better place for future generations.

ELECTION DATES

* July 20: State primary

* Aug. 10: State primary runoff, if needed

* Nov. 2: General election

* Nov. 30: General election runoff, if needed

Source: Georgia Secretary of State's Office

Both men said they favor government investment in new jobs, though Mr. Staten said he's against creating new industrial parks while some lots are sitting fallow in current parks. Both men said they wanted to help diversify Whitfield's economic base.

"We have a viable I-75 corridor that is unique to our county," Mr. Staten said. "We need to build our economic pyramid with as many layers as possible."

Mr. Waskul described Whitfield as "a diamond in the rough."

"We are actively looking to entice new business," he said.

No Democrats are running in local contests in Whitfield.

The forum was sponsored by Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce and the Leadership Dalton-Whitfield Alumni Association.


ON THE BALLOT

* County Commission District 3

Robby Staten

Randy Waskul, incumbent

* County Board of Education At-large

Jarrod Heath Cline

Tony Stanley

Bill Worley

* County Board of Education District 2

Rodney D. Lock

William "Bill" Moore

Jessica Swinford

Tim Trew, incumbent


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