July 31st is an important day here in Catoosa County, as well as all across Georgia. It is a day when registered voters get to voice their own opinion in the primary election.
A vote is a valuable thing.
In many countries people would give their life to vote — and many have.
I remember vividly those photos flashed around the world of the people in Iraq following their first free elections. From the looks on their faces they truly appreciated having that right to cast a ballot freely.
Yet, in our own country we have dismal voting turnouts. We all seem to enjoy complaining about our elected officials, but we are reluctant to actually get to our feet and make our way to the voting booth.
This primary election is important. Many races will be decided on that day.
While many races are uncontested here in the county, the ones that are contested are very important races. Take the race for sheriff, for example.
With five very competent men vying to replace the retiring Phil Summers, I like what I hear from each of the candidates. Each has an extensive amount of experience in law enforcement and each has a clear-cut vision for the Catoosa County sheriff's office. About the only difference I've heard in the two debates I've attended is that Larry Black is very uncomfortable with Georgia's open gun carry law.
Truth be known, as a law enforcement professional, I can understand where each one might be uncomfortable with that section of the law. Jeff Holcomb was quick to jump on Black, labeling him a gun control candidate, at the same time saying he thought it was "tactically impractical to carry openly."
Holcomb is very quick to add that he is a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, which guarantees every American the right to keep and bear arms.
Mike Helton, Ben Scott and Gary Sisk also readily add that they support the Second Amendment as well, saying everyone has that right to carry either openly or concealed. Helton went a bit further, saying he thought there should be more training to go along with the carry permit. Being a Tennessee resident who has a Tennessee carry permit, I agree. The class I had to attend was invaluable, even to a prior military veteran.
Black brings good experience to the position, both with the sheriff's department and as commander of the local drug task force.
Scott is a candidate who intrigues me with all his experience in many different locales. Having worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency, Scott brings many positives to the campaign.
Sisk is also a very viable candidate. Serving as the chief deputy, he has been the right-hand man to the sheriff for several years now. Without a doubt, if you are pleased with the direction of the department, Sisk could step right in and run the show.
I do like Sisk's bent to support alternate sentencing to help alleviate the overcrowding in the jail and I believe he has a heart to be the ultimate public servant. Scott has been a local cop with Chattanooga, as well as serving all over the United States in many high-profile positions with a federal agency.
The ultra-conservative in the race is Holcomb, a fact he has touted over and over. A constitutionalist, he could be counted on to defend and protect both the U.S. and Georgia constitutions. He has gone on record saying he would never step aside to allow federal agents to enforce unconstitutional laws in the state. Now, whether he could stop federal agents from enforcing federal laws in Catoosa County is a matter for a higher court, but I admire his zeal.
Perhaps the candidate I know best is Helton. I have attended church with him and his family and I understand his desire to serve the citizens of Catoosa County. His platform involves early detection and prevention of crime and a commitment to our young people. Having served as a captain over investigations he understands the department functions.
Helton's service as a magistrate judge and as county manager, in my opinion, truly set him apart from the other candidates. He understands what it takes to bring a case to trial and can build and manage a balanced budget.
Now, please understand, although at this point I am still a Tennessee resident and have no actual vote in this election (I do look forward to becoming a Ringgold resident in October), if I did, my vote would be for Mike Helton as sheriff of Catoosa County.
Other county races...
After attending the Chamber of Commerce debate, my picks in the other contested county races are:
- Clerk of superior court: Daniel McMurry
- Chief magistrate: Brad Palmer
- County commission, District 1: Jeff Long
- County commission, District 3: Steven Henry
- Board of Education, at large: Brent Williams
Good luck to all the candidates, we should be grateful for their willingness to serve..
Dennis Norwood is a reporter for The Catoosa County News. He can be reached at email@example.com or 706.935.2621.