CANTON – The public got its first opportunity to hear from newly qualified candidates for local offices on Monday in the first of six weekly forums sponsored by Cherokee County Republicans. Candidates for county commission District 4, solicitor general and school board District 4 answered questions at the historic county courthouse downtown.
Qualifying ended Friday for the May 22 party primaries.
Woodstock residents Steve Divine, an insurance agency owner, and Corey Ragsdale, an engineer, told a full house in the second floor courtroom, that managed growth is their top priority for District 4, which encompasses the southwest corner of Cherokee County.
Divine said if elected, he would work to bring all local governments to the table to develop a county-wide roads plan to repair worn streets, alleviate traffic and accommodate future growth.
Ragsdale told attendees that industrial development in District 4 in recent years had hurt the quality of life for many longtime residents of the area, and that he would work to minimize the effect of commercial growth on local neighborhoods.
Both men said they believe Cherokee County should concentrate on its own roads and bridges for a few years before discussing joining a regional mass transportation system proposed by state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta.
Following the District 4 commissioner candidates solicitor general hopeful Todd Hayes took questions. His opponent in the Republican primary, Sarah Hobson, did not appear, citing a previous commitment.
In opening remarks, Hayes cited his long family ties to the community and his years of experience working for incumbent Solicitor General Jessica Moss, who is retiring at the end of her term, Dec. 31. He said his passion for the work of prosecuting misdemeanor cases, as well as his experience make him the best choice for solicitor.
In response to questions, Hayes said he doesn’t support bail reform being considered in the Legislature. “Victims must come first and it’s not a good idea to be releasing people on their own recognizance,” he said. “The bail now is $1,000 per charge, which is not exorbitant.”
The work of the solicitor general’s office is to help keep local streets and neighborhoods safe by seeking justice in misdemeanor cases, Hayes said. “I want you to live in Mayberry,” he said. “Hopefully, if I do my job right, you’ll never know we’re here.”
The final candidates to speak were those vying for the District 4 seat on the board of education, challenger Donna Kosicki and incumbent Robert Rechsteiner.
Rechsteiner said that if he earns a fourth term, his priorities for the school system are to continue to improve graduation rates, and to reduce crowding in the rapidly growing system.
Canton Elementary School students will be moved next year to two other schools, so that students packed into adjacent Cherokee County High School can spread out into it.
Kosicki said her mission if elected is to increase parental engagement. She said she would hold town hall meetings in District 4 before each school board meeting to keep parents informed and get their feedback on issues. She said she would encourage other board members to hold town halls in their districts, too.
In response to a question, Rechsteiner said he is not in favor of arming teachers to increase security in local schools, and trusts Sheriff Frank Reynolds to work with school officials and school police to prevent violent incidents like the one in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14 where a former student killed 17 students, teachers and staff. Reynolds and local police chiefs have also said they do not believe arming teachers is a solution.
Kosicki said she is a gun owner herself, but said if teachers are armed as part of security, they should be given the opportunity to opt in or out of that responsibility and would have to have extensive training.
Both candidates said they got involved in the school system through their children’s attendance of Cherokee County schools.
“If you have boys, you’d better be involved (in school) willingly, or they will involve you unwillingly,” Rechsteiner said. Teachers at his sons’ schools encouraged him to run for the school board he said, because of his involvement.
Kosicki’s involvement as a school parent expanded all the way to the presidency of the state PTA. “I can attest to my husband saying, ‘You said yes again.’” she said. “I want to roll up my sleeves and get to work for you.
The forums, which are sponsored by the Cherokee County Republican Women and the Cherokee County Republican Party are scheduled at 6:30 p.m. each Monday through April 23. Doors open at 6 p.m. Next week the candidates for Cherokee County commission chairman and school board District 6 are scheduled to answer questions.
Citation Tribune Ledger News – March 16 2018