Four candidates battling for Jones County Commission

lfabian@macon.comOctober 23, 2012 

  • Candidates for Jones County Commission

    Commission Chairman

    J. Preston Hawkins
    Age: 73
    Party: Republican
    Occupation: Retired construction engineer
    Political experience: Jones County Commission chairman, 2005-present.

    Chuck Baker
    Age: 64
    Party: Democratic
    Occupation: Small-business owner
    Political experience: Jones County Commission vice chairman, 1977-1980; unsuccessful bid for tax commissioner, 1980.

    Jones County Commission District 4

    Bert Liston

    Age: 58
    Party: Republican
    Occupation: Retired business owner
    Political experience: Jones County Commission, 2005-present; Jones County Magistrate, 1983-1984; Jones County Justice of the Peace, 1981-1982.

    Daylon Martin
    Age: 40
    Party: Democratic
    Occupation: Education administrator, real estate broker
    Political experience: First run for elected office.

The two contested races for Jones County Commission feature a lifelong resident, two people who have lived most of their lives in the county and a fourth who has spent a dozen years in the community.

The race for commission chairman pits incumbent J. Preston Hawkins against former Commissioner Chuck Baker. In District 4, incumbent Bert Liston faces challenger Daylon Martin.

Hawkins, 73, is a retired construction engineer who worked for the Georgia Department of Transportation for 34 years before joining the private engineering firm of Moreland Altobelli Associates for 14 years. Baker, 64, owns the C&M Market on Joycliff Road and a mobile home park.

Hawkins has lived in Jones County his whole life, while Baker’s family moved to Jones County from his native California when he was a child.

Both men see economic development as a key issue for the county.

Hawkins is proud the county has more than three months of operating expenses in reserve and has held the line on taxes the past five years in tough economic times.

“We have to stretch a dollar as far as we can,” Hawkins said. “We’re in super shape compared to counties our size.”

Baker thinks there’s still fat to cut in the county budget.

“I can bring a tighter budget, cut wasteful spending and a better relationship with the work force, which you learn by being a self-employed businessman,” Baker said.

Baker feels the county has bought too much heavy equipment that sits idle, and thinks it would be cheaper to sell it off and subcontract for those services when needed. He also feels the public works department could operate more efficiently by altering hours to accommodate daylight saving time and improving communication with workers.

One of Hawkins’ first priorities when he took office was to resurrect the North Gray bypass project.

He said he’s spent eight years getting the project moving and wants to see the road completed to alleviate traffic congestion in downtown Gray by shifting tractor-trailers to the bypass.

The loop from Ga. 129 North across Ga. 11 and back into Ga. 22 will be funded by state and federal dollars, Hawkins said.

He expects construction to begin next summer, but Baker believes the project is not moving fast enough and says he could put more pressure on lawmakers in Atlanta.

Baker wants to upgrade the county water system and pave as many dirt roads as possible. Hawkins, too, would like all the county roads paved, but said budget constraints have not made that possible.

He touts nearly 20 miles of new water lines during his two terms and a new 2-million gallon water tank, which is expected to go online in a couple of weeks. The tank is expected to increase the community’s water supply and water pressure, he said.

Jones County Commission District 4

In the District 4 race, challenger Daylon Martin, 40, said he started watching the Jones County political scene after having to appear twice before the commission -- once for a matter involving his church and the other as a real estate broker negotiating a new business for the community.

“It started to make me realize there were things we could do better, and I questioned whether I had a voice,” said Martin, who moved to his bride’s family home of Jones County when they married 12 years ago. “There are a lot of people who complain about things or murmur, but it’s hard to make a change from the outside.”

Martin, who grew up in Hartford, Conn., wants to be “a compassionate ear to hear and a voice that will be heard.”

Incumbent Commissioner Bert Liston was born in North Carolina and moved to Jones County as a child. His family ran a grocery store from 1963 until he retired in 2000, which he said gave him great experience working with people.

He believes luring more commercial businesses to the community would boost tax revenues to fund more infrastructure improvements, such as paving roads, expanding county water service and enhancing fire service.

Liston is proud of the new fire station that was built in his district. He has also identified property for another station to be built on Ga. 57 with special purpose local option sales tax money, he said.

Fire protection is also a priority for Martin. His family suffered a devastating house fire that could have been a total loss, if it weren’t for the efforts of Jones County volunteers.

Martin directs The Neighborhood Academy, which serves as a private school or day care for 120 children in east Macon. But it’s his prior work as a consultant in corporate America that he feels will better equip him to market Jones County to new industries.

Martin thinks social media and conventional advertising on a national level could put Jones County on the map for those looking for good schools and a low crime rate.

Liston points to the installation of a traffic light on Ga. 49 at Joycliff Road and his successful campaign against the annexation of land into the city of Macon as some of his major accomplishments in office.

He believes he’s the better candidate as a retired person.

“I have the time to devote to the commission, that’s why I waited (to run) until after I retired,” he said.

Martin says he can better empathize with those suffering financially following a personal bankruptcy.

He got into trouble with his 20-unit apartment complex on North Avenue when tenants fell on hard times.

“I didn’t have the heart to evict people, so we carried them for a while and ran empty,” Martin said. “God continued to bless us through the entire process and we were able to stay in our house. I felt a lot of the pain people are feeling.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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