Pickens voters will see some interesting political contests this spring with a contested race for the western commission seat with three Republican candidates and a contested school board race on the GOP ticket in the May 22 primary.
No Democrats qualified for any posts at the county level so, like most elections here, all the action will happen in the spring primaries.
Aside from the contested school board race between incumbent Byron Long and challenger Tucker Green, two other school board posts were on the ticket. In both the incumbents bowed out and only a single candidate stepped forward. New faces Steven Smith, director of public safety at Bent Tree, and Joeta Youngblood, a longtime principal
and teacher who retired recently, will join the board. In January, they will replace current board chair Daniel Bell and board member Delane Lewis.
On both the Democrat and Republican ballots, voters will see straw poll language on creating a study committee to look at increasing the senior property tax exemptions for school taxes.
One quirk voters should note: For school board seats, candidates must live in the district but are voted on countywide, so all voters will vote on all school board races. But for commission district seats, they are only voted on by the voters in that district.
Candidates who qualified:
Jerry R. Barnes (R)
Bart Connelly (R)
Amberle Johnson Godfrey (R)
Board of Education Post 2
Joeta Youngblood (R)
Board of Education Post 3
Byron Long (R)
Tucker J. Green (R)
Board of Education Post 5
Steven Smith (R)
City of Jasper Council
City of Nelson City Council (This election has been cancelled with only one candidate qualifying.)
At the state level, Lee Shiver, a former superintendent of Pickens schools, qualified as a Democrat to challenge incumbent state rep. Rick Jasperse (R) for the District 11 seat.
On the Senate side, incumbent Steve Gooch (R) will run unopposed for his District 51 Senate seat for east Pickens.
The portion of west Pickens included in Senate District 54 will see incumbent Chuck Payne challenged by J. Scott Tidwell in the GOP primary and a Democrat, Michael Morgan has also entered the race.
At the federal level, longtime congressional representative Tom Graves (R) who represents Pickens’ western portion will see Democrat Steven Lamar Foster challenging him in the fall.
Congressman Doug Collins, (R) who represents the eastern side of the county will see two Democrats challenging him the fall, Dave Cooper and Josh McCall but no challenge in the primary this spring.
Regarding the senior tax exemption, both the Democrat and Republican ballots will have a non-binding straw poll question, basically asking if people favor creating a study commission. This changed from the possible three options of different exemptions discussed at a Seniors For Change meeting last week. (See article on the Seniors for Change meeting, also in this week’s edition.)
William Bell, chairman of the local GOP, said over the weekend there was a flurry of discussion with the state party, the state representative and senator and members of the seniors group about what the ballot language should say.
“I know everyone will not be happy with this but it’s not what you want, but what you can negotiate,” he said.
Bell said Monday it had changed to the study commission, which will formulate one specific plan for a new exemption depending on input and research given to the study commission.
The results of this commission’s work should be presented in the state legislature in 2019 to create a binding vote next year.
Bell said the final exemption plan can’t just be what those in favor of exemptions want, but must take into account all stakeholders and all those affected by changes in the school’s property taxes.
Bell said they want voter input to create something that is palatable to the majority of voters here.
The ballot question will state:
With regard to the Pickens County School Tax Homestead Exemption, choose Option 1 OR Option 2.
□ Yes □ No Option 1: Continue without change – Leave in place the Current Law.
Description: The Current Law provides that a homeowner who
(a) has a Regular Homestead Exemption,
(b) reaches the age of 62, and
(c) has a gross income (as defined in the Current Law) of less than $25,000 for the entire household may apply for exemption from school property taxes in the amount of the entirety (100%) of assessed value of the property containing the residence.
The School Tax Homestead Exemption excludes both the ad valorem assessment for schools and any taxation on retiring school bonds.
□ Yes □ No Option 2: Continue but with Study Commission – Leave in place the Current Law (as described in Option 1).
Establish a Commission that (1) shall hold forums to hear from citizens, businesses, Pickens County Government, and Pickens County Schools regarding the existing senior exemption from school property taxes and (2) shall forward to the Georgia General Assembly for the 2019 session recommendations on any desired changes to that exemption. (The Commission shall be appointed jointly by the Pickens County Republican Party and the Pickens County Democratic Committee.)
Some important dates:
• Election Day is May 22 at all local polling places.
• April 24th is the last day to register.
• Early voting runs April 30 – May 18. Early voting is in the Pioneer Road election office from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
• Saturday voting will be May 12th from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
For questions on registration status or sample ballots (available closer to early voting) see the secretary of state’s My Voter Page “Google Georgia my voter page” or look for this story at our website for the link. You can also call the election office at 706-253-8781.