“There’s no shortage of headaches that come with this job, but there’s a great opportunity to accomplish things for the betterment of the citizens of Carroll County,” he said. “Without being egotistical, I give myself an ‘A’ on that.”
Chappell said he’s not interested in any other political offices now, but “I won’t rule out running again for this office in the future.”
Carrollton contractor Marty Smith defeated Chappell in an Aug. 21 runoff election, winning 68 percent of the vote to Chappell’s 32 percent. On July 31, Chappell had been the top vote getter with 35 percent of the vote in a field of three candidates in the Republican primary. Smith came in a close second, with 33 percent, to win a spot on the runoff ballot. There were no Democratic challengers for the office in the Nov. 6 general election.
Asked if he had any feelings about why he lost the election so decisively, Chappell said, “I do, but I won’t get into that.”
However, he said he has no regrets in the way he conducted his campaign or ran his office.
“I wouldn’t do anything differently,” Chappell said. “First off, I’m not a politician and I didn’t do this job from a politician’s standpoint, or would I ever. There was a job to do and I did it.”
Chappell said he has no plans for the immediate, short-term future.
“But that’s short-term,” he said. “Because I’m certainly not a wealthy man and I do like groceries on the table. I won’t go back to the newspaper (Carroll Star News), although I will help Sue (Horn) when she needs something.”
Chappell said he’s had no job offers yet, but he hasn’t been looking and said it will probably be another couple of weeks before he starts that phase of his life.
“I’m looking forward to it and looking forward to the future,” he said.
Chappell came into office in a 2007 special election after then-commission Chairman Robert Barr resigned. Chappell got the most votes in a September special election among a field of four candidates and came back to win the runoff, with 55 percent of the vote. He later won an easy victory in the 2008 election to a full four-year term. However, he drew public criticism in 2009 when he fired two popular county department heads. A recall petition was circulated but it failed to get enough signatures to force a recall election.
On Thursday, Chappell recalled the time when he first took office.
“The county was in bad financial shape,” he said. “The previous board had borrowed $5.4 million just to be able to get through the year. They had spent the county’s reserve funds and that necessitated borrowing. I’m very proud of getting that paid off and getting the county in a position where we don’t have to borrow on tax anticipation notes.”
Chappell contrasted those early days with where the county is now financially.
“At the end of December, the county will have somewhere between $16 to $17 million in the bank,” he said. “The reason a reserve is so important is that the county spends more than in brings in during the first nine months of the year. Only in October through December does the revenue exceed expenses, because of property taxes. We have enough reserves to get through those (first) nine months.”
Chappell cited several projects of which he’s most proud.
“The biggest one is the courthouse,” he said. “We did it the right way. We did it, designing, bidding and billing, with pre-qualifying contractors to make sure the people bidding on it had the financial strength to do a project like that and had the construction experience and record to do it. We’re very fortunate that J&R Construction was the low bidder on the project. They got the job and have done an excellent job on it.”
Chappell said he’s also proud of the public works and maintenance facility on Horsley Mill Road.
“That facility will save the county a lot of money for a long, long time,” he said. “Routinely, when I’m over there, they have everything from fire trucks to deputy cars to bulldozers to be maintained or repaired.”
Chappell said the roads department has done “a magnificent job” since he reorganized it.
“We paved right at 25 miles of dirt road,” he said. “We’ve resurfaced close to 125 miles of roads. We got all those projects, the roads, the courthouse and maintenance facility, with SPLOST funding.”
He said the county took the convenience centers, which he termed “eyesores,” and made vast improvements on them.
“We started new convenience centers in Lowell and Tyus,” he said. “It had an interesting side effect we weren’t aware of. Before Lowell became a manned center, we were getting 12 tons of garbage every day at that one dump site. After we build the convenience center and manned it, it was down to three tons. We were getting a lot of garbage from other counties and Alabama. It costs us $39 per ton to handle. That’s a tremendous savings to the county.”
Chappell cited the parks as another accomplishment of his administration.
“The first project was putting in a small park, with a boat ramp, down at Lake Seaton,” he said. “Then we had a lot of improvements at McIntosh Reserve and we acquired John Tanner State Park. We developed Little Tallapoosa Park on Highway 113.”
He said the county has purchased land for a park at Moore’s Bridge on the Chattahoochee River that should be the next development.
“It will be a park of real significance and historic importance,” he said. “We had Civil War history, the only battle in the county was on that property. It was over a covered bridge that was built by Horace King, who was a freed slave and a master bridge builder. The African-American significance is obvious, but it was also the site of a lot of Creek Indian history. The largest Indian mound in the state was located on the adjacent piece of property and was flattened during the 1950s for farming.”
Chappell said several recreation projects were completed, including more ball fields, an eight-lane track and a secondary road out of the recreation complex where one only existed before.
“To make that work, we built a roundabout,” he said. “We had a very dangerous four-way intersection where a young lady was killed shortly before we started on the roundabout.”
He also cited county help on various projects for the cities in the county, including the Villa Rica amphitheater and other projects in Temple, Whitesburg, Bowdon and Carrollton.
Commenting on things that didn’t get done and he’d like to see done, Chappell cited the office complex on College Street which houses his office. He said he’d like to see it demolished and a new building constructed there.
He said the county has started several road improvements that need to be finished, including the widening of several county roads by two feet on each side.
“We’ve done several of those, Stripling Chapel and most of Pleasant Hill now,” he said. “They’re expensive to do, but they need to be done, because county roads and road improvements get more important as our population grows.”
Chappell said he’d like to see parks developed on the remainder of the land that the county has acquired for that purpose.
When asked about opposition to some of his projects, Chappell said, “I think everything we did, I had resistance on the Board of Commissioners. But we eventually overcame that and got the projects done. The roundabout was a good example of that.”
Chappell praised the role of SPLOST in county financing and said it’s critical that voters renew the current SPLOST.
“Without that one penny tax, the millage rate would jump about 50 percent and you’d put the entire load on property owners. Whereas, with the sales tax, the one penny tax, it’s shared fairly with all citizens in the county and all citizens from other places who use our services and infrastructure.”