(Editor’s note: the following is a copy of the communication provided to candidates, that have challengers either in the June primary or the November general election, seeking elected positions in McDuffie County. We have also provided questions to the State Senate Dist. 23 candidates. We have included answers for those that responded as well as including the questions provided to the ones that did not respond. If a candidate’s answer exceeded the allowed word count we did not publish words past the word count.)

 In past years during an election cycle, the local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has hosted political forums. The McDuffie Progress staff always worked with these ladies during the planning of the questions and also covered the forum. That usual format is not taking place due to COVID-19. There is a Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce online forum June 2; however that forum takes place after our newspaper will have gone to press earlier that same day. Since we have a duty to inform our community, The McDuffie Progress is submitting questions to you and all other candidates. The candidates’ answers will be published in full, without editing, in the Thursday, June 4, edition of The McDuffie Progress.

Please respond with your answers in email to wparham@mcduffieprogress.com no later than 9 a.m., Monday, June 1. We will not accept answers from candidates received past that deadline. The questions for you are below. Please stay within the word limits for each question.

State Senate Dist. 23 Trey Allen (R)

1. Introduce yourself and tell us what you want to share about yourself, your occupation, family, and interests. (100 word limit)

I'm an Augusta native, raised in Blythe and have lived in Martinez for 25 years. I'm a fourth genera- tion entrepreneur and ran my family's stores until 2005. My wife Susy and I also owned Learning Express Toys for almost a decade. I'm a licensed mediator and arbitrator with a business consult- ing degree from UGA and own an insurance compa- ny. I'm currently in my third term on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners and a member of the State Board of Education. My son James is a UGA Senior AFROTC Cadet and my daughter Katy is a Sophomore at Evans.

2. As our state senator, what specifically would you do to benefit McDuffie County? Provide examples of what you think are important to the success of our com- munity. (200 words)

As your state Senator, I can benefit McDuffie County best by support- ing    and    providing resources to the local gov- ernment. As a 3 term County Commissioner, I believe the government closest to you is more knowledgeable, respon- sive and accountable to your needs and issues. I'll give your local officials the tools they need to serve their citizens, not only in city hall but also by strongly supporting Law Enforcement's mis- sion in McDuffie County and making sure they have the tools needed to bring criminals to justice. A strong educated work- force is critical to the growth of McDuffie County. We need to improve our childrens' educational options, including school choice and promote Career, Technical,    and Agricultural Education.

As part of that CTAE program, I'm dedicated to supporting our farmers. Agriculture is such an important part of McDuffie's economy, employing 10% of the population and providing over $163million in eco- nomic output. I strongly support HB545 the Right to Farm Act, protecting our farmers from nui- sance lawsuits.

It’s time to give McDuffie County's rural citizens the support they

need. I've been instrumen- tal in running fiber throughout Columbia County's rural areas and I have proven methods to expand rural access to healthcare as well.

3. What do you see as the key issues facing the General Assembly in 2021 and where do you stand on those issues. (150 words)

Without a doubt, the key issue facing the General Assembly next session will be the recovery of the state from the COVID-19 Pandemic. I believe that Georgia's status as the #1 state in which to do busi- ness for the last several years, as well as our strong financial reserves have put us in a position to rebound faster than almost any other state in the nation. We must con- tinue our path to econom- ic recovery by making strategic cuts to our cur- rent $28m budget. We must also dedicate our efforts to assisting those locally owned businesses that are the engine of our economy and employ the majority of Georgians. This pandemic has also clearly illustrated the importance of many caus- es I was already champi- oning; healthcare, broad- band and the options of home based and virtual education. As we contin- ue Georgia's recovery, these issues will be priori- ties in my platform.

4. Pick just one of the three topics and discuss needs, issues, and how to improve in the district. Economic Development. Education. Healthcare. (200 word limit)

District 23 has immense potential in regards to Economic Development. I've personally been involved with Augusta University's expansion including the Cyber and Cancer Centers, worked with the leadership of Fort Gordon regarding needs for the continued growth of the US Army Cyber Command and pro- vided strategic planning for infrastructure to get Amazon's new distribu- tion center in Appling. I know how to foster responsible Economic Development and provide opportunities for our citi- zens. And there is no rea- son that responsible growth shouldn't come to McDuffie County. By focusing on existing resources like Thomson's great airport, infrastruc- ture improvements like those brought forth by TSPLOSTandcreatingan educated workforce, we

can continue to provide new opportunities to our community. I want District 23 to be a place where my children will wish to live, whether they want the activities offered in a large city, the ameni- ties of a planned subur- ban area, the serene peace of rural Georgia or the comfort of a small south- ern town. Our district is diverse enough to offer anything they could desire, but regardless of where they choose to live in District 23, we have to make sure that work opportunities continue to be available to them.

5. Why would you be the best person to fill this position? (100 words)

My professional experi- ence as a business owner, coupled with my exten- sive experience at multi- ple levels of government with current officials gives me the knowledge to hit the ground running as an effective Senator for our region from day one. I've both met payrolls and worked on government budgets. I have worked from a local level with the state legislature to accom- plish goals for our com- munity. I've also served on two vital state boards: the Department of Community Affairs and the State Board of Education. I have the experience, knowledge and relationships needed to be an effective leader for East Georgia.

State Senate Dist. 23 Max Burns (R)

1. Introduce yourself and tell us what you want to share about yourself, your occupation, family, and interests. (100 word limit)

I grew up on my family farm in rural Screven County where I live today. I earned a BIE from Georgia Tech and a mas- ters and PhD from Georgia State University. I’ve spent over 30 years in education, business, gov- ernment and agriculture.

The majority of my pro- fessional career was in higher education. I’ve been a classroom teacher, business school Dean and college President.

I was honored to serve in the 108th Congress, repre- senting Georgia’s 12th Congressional District.

My wife, Lora, and I have been married for 47 years. We have two adult sons and three grandchil- dren.

2. As our state senator, what specifically would you do to benefit McDuffie    County?

Provide examples of what you think are important to the success of our com- munity. (200 words)

I would provide a strong, conservative, independ- ent voice in the Georgia State Senate. I would ensure that McDuffie County’s core values are protected - values like hard work, individual freedoms, mutual respect, religious liberty and the right to keep and bear arms.

Specifically, I would work to reduce govern- ment intervention in the lives of individuals and businesses – making McDuffie County a more attractive place to live, work and raise a family.    I would champion broad- band access across McDuffie County and the 23rd Senate District to attract quality jobs. I would support education and healthcare enhance- ment and expansion. Building on a strong foun- dation, I would facilitate partnerships with Augusta University, Augusta Tech and others to equip McDuffie to par- ticipate in the explosion of the cyber in our region.

My goal is to facilitate positive growth and pro- vide expanded opportuni- ties for McDuffie citizens by attracting skilled, tech- nology focused, high pay- ing jobs. Every citizen, young and old, should choose to be a part of the McDuffie County commu- nity because of enhanced job prospects and the quality of life that McDuffie affords.

3. What do you see as the key issues facing the General Assembly in 2021 and where do you stand on those issues. (150 words)

With only seven months until a new legislative ses- sion, the 2021 General Assembly will be tasked with leading the state toward full recovery both in healthcare prepared- ness and economic recov- ery.

The 2021 General Assembly will face two critical issues:

1. Create a more robust healthcare network to address new or recurring infectious diseases.

I will champion an inte- grated state-wide approach to healthcare delivery. I will support our non-urban hospitals and medical services through incentives and telehealth expansion.

2. Reignite and grow our state’s economy ensuring job creation and a return toeconomicprosperity.

Put Georgia back to

work! I will propose an aggres-

sive partnership with Fortune 1000 companies that have a presence in Georgia to relocate jobs from China to our state, district and McDuffie county.    We can no longer be dependent on China for pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, PPE’s and other absolutely essential products.

Bring the jobs back NOW!

4. Pick just one of the three topics and discuss needs, issues, and how to improve in the district. Economic Development. Education. Healthcare. (200 word limit)

While all three topics are critical to the future of Georgia and the 23rd Senate District, I will focus on economic devel- opment. There are three essential elements of eco- nomic development – infrastructure, workforce and leadership.

In order to grow an econ- omy a community must have essential infrastruc- ture including roads, energy,    water/waste water treatment, devel- opable land and telecom- munications technology. Eighty percent of all jobs are created with ten miles of an Interstate highway. An area of focus must be broadband availability. I will work toward full implantation of broad- band throughout the 23rd District.

A trained, work-ready population that has a strong work ethos is essential for growth. Jobs today are highly spe- cialized and require tech- nical or professional edu- cation. Partnerships with the TCSG, USG and pri- vate partners are critical to economic development.

Finally, to facilitate eco- nomic development there must be local, regional and state leadership that aggressively promotes and supports a communi- ty’s efforts to expand cur- rent industries and attract new industries. Through a coordinated effort, growth can be achieved.

McDuffie County is poised to enjoy unprece- dented economic growth. I look forward to the opportunity of being a part of the economic development team.

5. Why would you be the best person to fill this position? (100 words)

With over thirty years of experience in education, business, government and agriculture, I have the knowledge and expertise to effectively represent McDuffie County.

I represented seven of the eleven counties in the United States Congress. I’ve served on the Screven County Commission and the CSRA Board of Directors. I’ve successful- ly managed multi-million dollar budgets. I operate and live on my family farm.

I have experience in the legislative process and enjoy strong working relationships with the Governor and leadership in the Georgia Senate.

I am the most qualified candidate for the State Senate, District 23.

In challenging times, experience matters.

State Senate Dist. 23 Ceretta Smith (D) (Candidate did not

return answers)

Questions provided to candidates for McDuffie County Chairman

1. Introduce yourself and tell us what you want to share about yourself, your occupation, family, and interests. (100 word limit)

2.   What is your vision for McDuffie County in both five and 10 years? (200 word limit)

3.   How would you bring economic development, jobs, and growth to McDuffie County? (150 word limit)

4.   What are your goals for improving the community and quality of life in McDuffie County and how would you achieve those goals? (150 word limit)

5.  As an elected official, how can you increase citizen engagement and transparency in government? (100 word limit)

 6. Why would you be the best person to fill this position? (100 word limit)

McDuffie County Chairman

Charlie Newton IV (R)

(Candidate did not return answers)

McDuffie County Chairman

Paul W. McCorkle (D)

(Candidate did not return answers)

McDuffie County Commission

Dist. 2, Seat B

Jeffrey Pagac (R)

 1. Introduce yourself and tell us what you want to share about yourself, your occupation, family, and interests. (100 word limit).

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Jeffrey Pagac.  I’m an Air Force Veteran and have been a Thomson resident for over 35 years.  I’m a former Golf Professional, business owner, and a Licensed Registered Representative of the National Association of Security Dealers (NASD).  I moved here in 1984 and chose to raise my family here in McDuffie County because of its peaceful nature.  I’m an avid golfer and muscle car enthusiast, both vintage and current.  

2. What is the biggest challenge we face in McDuffie County and how would you address that? (200 word limit)

The largest challenge we face here in McDuffie County is planning for the future.  We sit at the edge of Columbia County that has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 15 years, and that growth is coming toward us at a fast pace.  We have to expand, and quickly.  With the Cyber Center at Fort Gordon growing at an exponential rate, and with the Amazon Fulfillment Center just five miles from I-20, we need to take steps to prepare for this type of growth. Grovetown and Harlem have begun to see this expansion already. Dearing and Thomson need to be ready to accommodate the new wave of people that industry will bring our way. As your commissioner, I would work towards future affordable housing and negotiate with developers in advance for cost effectiveness. The future is coming, and we should be ready to reap the rewards of growth by being business and industry friendly.

3. What are your goals for improving the community and quality of life in McDuffie County and how would you achieve those goals? (150)     Community improvement goals would include enhancing our current school system.  According to state records, McDuffie County School system boasts an 82.2% graduation rate but only 44.2% are college ready, which is little more than half of the graduates. Our school system is failing our kids and needs to be addressed.  The graduation rate should be no less than 95 percent.  Over the past few years a large number of teachers have left our school district for better jobs but not necessarily better paying jobs. As your County commissioner, I would work with administrators to bring back the best qualified teachers to our school system.

4. Pick just one of the three topics and discuss needs, issues, and how to improve. Economic growth. Infrastructure. Quality housing. (200 word limit)    Infrastructure in our community is something that needs our attention. I see a need in several areas that include the downtown area, and other areas in the county. Driving through downtown, we see vacant store fronts and businesses that are not flourishing, because of the parking situation. This could be resolved as I have seen in other cities such as downtown Atlanta, Wheeling, West Virginia and Augusta by revamping the whole downtown area by one-way green belt streets. One on Main and the other on Greenway.  This enhancement would make downtown more business friendly and accessible.  The city itself is outdated and could use a facelift. With certain growth potential coming our way we’ll need it a lot sooner than later. That’s what I want to see for Thomson.  As for the county and subdivisions outside the city limits, we will need to offer county sewage for the areas that currently use septic tanks, and cable for internet usage in outlying areas, thus increasing revenue. Thomson is a diamond in the rough that can be a polished gem by incorporating new faces and new ideas with a positive vision of the future.

 5.  Why would you be the best person to fill this position? (100 words).

I believe I am the best candidate for Commissioner because I am a forward-thinking individual who understands business, economics and most importantly people. Knowing what is important to the residents of our community would help in making positive improvements for our county.  I have extensive experience working with people from all walks of life and understand what it takes to make positive changes socially and economically.  As your county commissioner I will take the values of learned experience and make investments on your behalf that will count for you.

McDuffie County Commissioner

Dist. 2, Seat B

William “Bill” Jopling (R)

(Candidate did not return answers)

McDuffie County Commissioner

Dist. 2, Seat B

Charles Reese (D)

(Candidate did not return answers)

McDuffie BOE Dist. 4

Robert H. “Bobby” Anthony

1.   Introduce yourself and tell us what you want to share about yourself, your occupation, family, and interests. (100 word limit)

For the past 41 years I have been a citizen of McDuffie County. In 1979 Kay Gay from Dearing, Georgia and I were married at the First Baptist Church in Thomson. Shortly thereafter, I became a member of Thomson First Baptist and presently have the honor of serving as an active Deacon. In 1988 I was employed by the McDuffie County Board of Education as a Social Studies teacher and after 30 years of service, I retired from the system. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia, and I completed a Master of Education degree from Cambridge... (word limit reached).

2.   What are the biggest challenges we face in education in McDuffie County and how would you address those? (200 word limit)

A school system, just like a business in private enterprise, cannot operate without adequate funding. With a 14% reduction in funds for the upcoming school year, this will present a major challenge for our system. McDuffie County, like other rural systems, faces a problem when it comes to the recruitment of new teachers. Another problem our system faces is the number of special needs students whom we serve. Throughout our school system, 14% of our students are classified as special needs, requiring support through additional staff, and differentiated curriculum. We have one of the best, if not the best, programs in the state to meet the needs of these students. However, it takes more funds to meet these needs. We cannot cut the quality of service for these students, but we must find ways to restructure cost to continue to deliver the instruction that they deserve.

3.   What are your goals for improving McDuffie County schools and how would you achieve those goals? (150 word limit)

My primary goal is to work together with fellow board members to resolve problems in our system and to improve the services provided to students. Another goal would be to improve the ability to access the internet in our county. Involving parent input is critical and the Board has spent a great amount of time discussing how to improve in this area. This will be a goal I would like to improve. Teacher recognition for outstanding work is an area I will continue to work on. Finally, meeting with state officials to help us with our problems is a goal I want to achieve. To give an example, I was in Atlanta the week the Legislature adjourned because of the epidemic. As I have already mentioned, one of our problems is the huge percentage of special needs students we have in McDuffie County. On Monday of that week I met... (word limit reached).

4.   Pick just one of the three topics and discuss needs, issues, and how to improve. School security. Workforce Development. Dealing with reduced state and federal funding. (200 word limit)

The major concern for this upcoming year will be handling the 14% cut in funds.  As I have stated, you must have the funds to provide quality services. We will have to run the school on reduced funding while continuing to offer quality services to students as they hone their academic skills. We also must provide teachers with adequate resources to accomplish this goal. The big dilemma is how we will accomplish this without adding an additional burden on the taxpayers of McDuffie County. When we first received word of the cuts several weeks ago, we did not know how deep the knife would pierce. At that time, Dr. Rhodes and her staff started looking at cutting 12% from the upcoming budget. Of course, when the word came that it would be 14%, it raised our eyebrows. Dr. Rhodes and our Comptroller Charisa Carter went back to the drawing board. They are looking at several ways of providing the resources needed to maintain quality instruction in our schools. There will be less money spent but they are confident we can do this with minimal disruption. I cannot give specific statements at this time because it is under discussion and there...(word limit reached).

5.  Why would you be the best person to fill this position? (100 words)

I have been on the school board for the last four years and have gained knowledge of the problems we face, why decisions have been made, and have developed contacts around the state to bring attention to the specific needs facing our county and how to resolve them. I have already mentioned how I have met with state officials to make them aware of the problems we face in McDuffie County. Again, I want to emphasize that I have been asked to serve on the Georgia School Board Association’s Legislative Committee. This will give our county access to people who...(word limit reached).

McDuffie BOE Dist. 4

Pamela Strouble

(Candidate did not return answers)

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