Baldwin ballot full of newcomers

The Baldwin County summer primary races are shaping up to be a mix of old and new as several first-time candidates try to gain a foothold in public service.

The majority of the county's elected officials are uncontested in the July 15 primaries. All the county's contested primaries - two commission seats and the office of tax commissioner - will be fought among Democrats.

Most of the first-time candidates for the county commission seats in the first and fifth posts think the county is headed in the right direction but say improvements are in order.

In the commission's Post 1 race, three political newcomers - Emily Davis, Walter Lattimore and Pierce Nunn - will battle for the chance to face Republican Travis Strickland for the seat being vacated by Geneva Bell Davis.

Though all three Democrats are running for office for the first time, Emily Davis, Geneva Bell Davis' daughter, is no stranger to the county commission. Her late father, Oscar Davis Sr., was the first black elected to the county commission while her mother was the first woman to hold a seat.

After her mother decided not to make another run at public office, Emily Davis stepped up.

"This is my first time running, but I've worked on all kinds of campaigns," she said. "There's still so much work to be done."

A paraprofessional with the Baldwin County school board, Davis said her government contacts will be an asset in helping her to secure grants and get projects started.

Recreation is the top issue facing the county, she said, and the more activities youngsters in the county have at their disposal, the less likely they are to be involved in crime, she said.

Davis also wants to improve roads, sewage and other services to the people in her district.

Lattimore, who is retired from Central State Hospital, said he's in the race because of his sense of community.

"I've always been a people person," he said. "I feel like I can do something to help (Baldwin residents). ... I'm concerned about all the people living in the county. Everybody knows me. They know if I'm there, I'll get results."

Lattimore didn't give specifics about how he wants to address the county's issues except to say he would focus on attracting new industry.

Like Lattimore, Nunn also is retired. He worked at Central State Hospital for several years and worked in the life insurance field.

The county needs to do a better job of addressing the concerns of its residents, Nunn said. He wants to increase the high school graduation rates but also wants to exclude people over 65 from having to pay taxes for schools. Instead, he wants to fund education through money raised from sales taxes.

"I'm just trying to do something new," he said. "I thought (county officials aren't) doing their job like they should."

As a retiree, Nunn said he could devote his energy full-time to the business of government.

"(Other commissioners) all have other jobs," he said. "I don't believe you can do but one job at a time."

In the commission's Post 5 race, G.B. "Butch" Moore III squares off with Charlie Ross in the Democratic primary. The winner will face Republican incumbent Bubba Williams.

Moore has plenty of political experience, though has never run for office in Baldwin County. He served as chairman of the Jones County Commission for a combined 21 years. He works as an attorney for the public defender's office in the Ocmulgee Circuit.

If elected, Moore pledges to address concerns about taxes.

"The main thing I'm hearing from people is about the millage assessments and higher taxes," he said.

Moore hopes to help Baldwin County officials work with state officials to increase opportunities for the county's growth.

Moore pointed to several accomplishments during his time as a Jones County commissioner, including introducing special purpose local option sales taxes that helped renovate the county's government center and courthouse, as well as upgrade the fire department.

His opponent, Ross, is a political newcomer who says he would bring a lot of ideas with him.

An employee development coordinator for Georgia Power, Ross said his list of goals include improving graduation rates in public schools and lowering property taxes.

"The graduation rate is improving, but the property taxes need to be addressed as well," he said. "A lot of people are undertrained, which causes them to be underemployed. ... I'm a hands-on person out in the community. I like to get out and work and see the results of my labor."

In the tax commissioner's race, the primary between incumbent Cathy Freeman Settle and challenger R.L. Lingold Jr. will decide who will hold the office, since there is no Republican challenger.

Settle has been tax commissioner for the past 13 years after having previously worked in the office for an additional seven years.

"I've worked in this office for 20 years," she said. "It feels like home."

Settle said she has helped the office become more technologically advanced, including allowing residents to pay property taxes online. She touts one of her main accomplishments as catching up with delinquent taxpayers.

She also initiated a judicial tax sale process that gives a purchaser a clear tax sale title after 60 days, which allows abandoned properties to be put back on the tax rolls.

Lingold, a restaurateur, said he wants the office to provide better customer service.

"I'm basically running on a public service/customer service type thing," he said. "I've been talking with people for a couple of years and getting their input. (Any changes) will be nothing real major. I just see some needs for improvement."

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.