“I think the people of Carroll County were at a point where they were looking for as much transparency and open style government as they could see,” said Marty Smith, reflecting on the large vote majority he received in the Aug. 21 runoff election.
“The big picture all boils down to communications. People are at a time where they want to know more, see more and be more involved.”
Smith, 48, a Carrollton developer and political newcomer, said he wants to open up the lines of communication, not only with the county residents, but with the members of the Board of Commissioners and all county employees.
He said communications with the more than 600 county employees is a major part of his plan.
“We want to do maybe a monthly directive, straight to the employees and keep them involved in what’s going on,” Smith said. “They’re the front line and the ones who provide our services, what taxpayers are paying for. They need to know what’s going on. I want to let them know where we’re heading, what our goals are and where we’re going.”
Smith said he has no plans now for job cuts, vowing “every position is safe, every job is safe.”
“Obviously, we’re going to have to learn to work more with less because of the economic times,” he said. “That’s one thing I promised, from day one, we would evaluate every position we have. Our goal is to make things the best they can be. There’s no cuts, we know of, coming right out of the gate.”
Smith said one of the concerns expressed by outgoing Chairman Bill Chappell was that Smith would come into office “cutting and firing.” Smith said he assured Chappell that he will evaluate every position individually.
“I think getting in there and working with employees to make Carroll County a better place is what the employees are looking for, and what the people of Carroll County are looking for,” he said. “I want to know what every department is doing and what we can do to enhance or make their jobs better. I assure you that working with the employees of Carroll County is one of my top priorities.”
During his campaign, Smith often talked about division among members of the Board of Commissioners and vowed to bring them together. He said open communications will also play a major role in that task.
“I know a lot of responsibility falls on the chairman, but we have six other opinions there,” he said. “It’ll be nice to go to them and ask questions to see what their thoughts are. We may come up with some new ideas. It never hurts to bounce ideas off other people and keep them informed on what’s going on.”
Smith said he will try to have better work sessions with board members so everybody will come to the regular board meetings with knowledge about what’s going on and ready to make decisions.
Smith said he’s “not placing blame” and he doesn’t know where the fault was in the past, but he felt the board was often not prepared when it came to meetings. He wants to make sure the members are better informed on what’s happening and they can come together as a collaborative group.
He said when prospective industry is looking at a county for possible location there, they don’t like to see a board that’s split all the time.
“They want to see county government and the board working together,” he said.
Smith said he believes the county is in overall good financial shape, based on a recent quote from Chappell that the county has “$16 million in the bank.”
Smith said an audit is under way, as required by the county charter, and it will show where everything stands.
“As for SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) dollars, we’re out,” he said. “We’re going to have to discuss this. That’s what allows us to do the day-to-day projects we need to do.”
He said the budget will be one of the first tasks facing the new administration.
Smith said he has been going through a long transition process since being elected, which has included meeting with all county department heads and working with Chappell.
“Mr. Chappell has gone over things he saw coming and things we may be facing,” he said. “He shared his ideas and goals for the next few years. He was very cordial and shared his feelings on the direction the county should go.”
Smith said he also toured all county facilities and looked at potential upcoming problems.
“Mr. Chappell shared a lot of good ideas with me,” he said.
Smith has completed mandatory training for newly elected commissioners. The training is taught by ACCG (Association County Commissioners of Georgia) at the University of Georgia campus.
“They do a great job of training and they’re also there so you can call on them, if need be,” he said. “All 159 Georgia counties are members of the organization. If you see any problems, you can call on them and they’ll direct you to another county that might have had similar problems.”
Smith said ACCG has a mentor program in which new office holders are assigned to someone in the same role in another county.
“I’ve signed up for that and am waiting for my mentor now,” he said. “It’s someone who will check on you weekly to see how things are going in your new position.”
Smith said he will work hard to continue the good cooperation between the county and city governments. He said he has attended many of the city government meetings and he wants to be sure the cities have input to the Board of Commissioners.
“We want them (the cities) to know what we’re doing and we want to be good neighbors with them,” he said.
Smith often talked during his campaign about the county charter and he said he’s talked with the state delegation about looking the charter over.
“A lot of the charter stuff I mentioned (during the campaign) was interpretation,” he said. “So now it’s a matter of meeting with attorneys to see if things are being misinterpreted or do things need tweeking.”
He said the county charter was approved by the Georgia Legislature in 1989, when the county was transitioning from a sole commissioner form of government. It gives a lot of power to the county commission chairman, he noted.
“I want to make sure, when we read that charter, that any chairman realizes what the true power is and doesn’t cross that boundary and create a position where he has to be challenged,” Smith said.