HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw told local Democrats last week that one of the biggest challenges facing him as commissioner is managing the county’s expected growth. “We are going to expand, and we need to be involved with that growth because we want it to be controlled growth,” Bradshaw told the Democratic Party Aug. 8 at the Towns County Civic Center. The commissioner cited an increase in tourism tax dollars from $37 million to $41 million in the past three years as evidence of a growing local economy. “The only way we are going to grow the economy here is more population, but we also have to consider how much do we want to grow and how,” Bradshaw added.
Bradshaw responded to questions and spoke to the Democrats for almost an hour about accomplishments during his first three years in office as well as future goals. Clearly enthusiastic about his time in office, Bradshaw told the Democrats, “I love doing this job. I work every day for the people, and I don’t know how they vote and I don’t care. My job is to be the very best commissioner I can be for Towns County. My job is to protect our mountaintops, to keep the county clean, and to keep our water clean.”
Towns County Democratic Party Chairwoman Charlotte Sleczkowski said that she appreciated Bradshaw taking the time to share his vision for the county with the group. “We want to work alongside Commissioner Bradshaw as he strives to make Towns County a great place to live and work,” Sleczkowski said. “Our mutual goals for the county have no political distinction.”
A challenge related to growth is providing a skilled labor force to supply the needs of businesses, beyond the restaurant and service industry, that want to locate here, Bradshaw explained. Additional traffic comes with growth, and Bradshaw stated he will be meeting with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and the state transportation director later this month regarding installing a left-turn lane on State Route 76 West, near Papa’s Pizza.
Among the accomplishments of his first term Bradshaw listed:
- Remodeling the old county recreation center gym with new lighting, roofing, painting, and flooring, making it pickleball friendly.
- Building a new fire station on Highway 66 in Young Harris and the addition of a helicopter landing pad there to provide a second site for medical evacuations. He also noted the fire station will contribute to lower home insurance rates for people in that part of the county.
- Replacing county road equipment, particularly old dump trucks with high repair bills.
- Adding a recycling station for electronics (cell phones, TVs, printers, computers, etc.) at the county dump.
- Maintaining the $3.1 million financial reserve which he inherited from the previous commissioner. Any funding above that amount will be used to improve the county, Bradshaw said.
- The county’s 2018 audit report revealed general revenue increases of more than $600,000 as a result of efficiency changes Bradshaw said that he has instituted, with no increase in taxes since 2007.
- Instituting a veterans’ program that formally recognizes any veteran who has grown up in Towns County, graduated from the county high school, or who has moved into the county. The program is carried out in cooperation with the local VFW chapter and includes a suicide hotline.
Bradshaw cited as a primary goal reclaiming for the county the one percent special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) which expires for county schools in 2020. “We want to get it for the county to remodel the courthouse. It’s time,” the commissioner said. Another fire station near the Emergency Management Services building is an additional future goal.
Bradshaw also plans to renegotiate the county medical air flightcontract, which he emphasized covers every full-time homeowner in Towns County, with the county covering the fee. Bradshaw said the current contract has a cap on the price so the county doesn’t pay more if the airlift service flies out more people than in the previous year. The commissioner wants the new contract to provide a lower cost if the service flies out fewer people than in the previous year.
Towns County Democrats will meet again on Sept. 20 at the Towns County Civic Center. A potluck dinner will begin at 6 p.m. followed by the business meeting at 6:30. Meetings are open to the public.