CANDIDATE PROFILES: District 4's next county commissioner to be decided next week


With no Democrat challengers in November, the race to replace Henry Craig as District 4's next county commissioner will be decided next week.

Craig, after three terms, chose not to run for re-election earlier this year.

District 4 covers everything "across the river," with the exception of a largely uninhabited swath of territory along Lake Laurel Road. District 4 also encompasses the country club area, the airport area, as well as everything "lakeside" east of North Columbia Street/US 441.

Nifty interactive map

Early voting continues at the Carrington Woods government annex through Friday afternoon. The hours are 8:30 a.m. through 5 p.m. Meanwhile, all Baldwin County precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21, which is "primary day." 

The three candidates are Carol Ballew (pictured at top left), Andrew Strickland (pictured in the middle) and Jay Wright (pictured at right). Here's more about each:

1) Please tell voters more about yourself without giving them your entire life story.

BALLEW: I am the kind of person who likes to explore everything life has to offer. As a once avid skydiver, I loved making formations with other friends in free fall, and challenging myself to improve with each jump. As a business owner, I prided myself on giving each customer the best service possible, and making their experience with me a memorable one. As a community volunteer, I found all the gratitude I needed in bringing a smile to someone’s face. Sometimes it was the the relief of a homeless citizen being fed a hot meal for the first time in a week. Other times it was the praise of an individual who had read my non-fiction book, and now felt the confidence to seek out an estranged family member, or listen for God’s voice in a difficult situation. Sometimes it was helping another family as they suffered through the abuse of an elderly or disabled relative. I know that I have been richly blessed, and truly enjoy being a blessing to others.

STRICKLAND: From a young age, serving others was instilled in me by my parents. I have been involved in Emergency Services for over 20 years. I am a Board Certified Flight Paramedic and worked on the Life Flight helicopter in Baldwin County for the past 7 years. In terms of civic involvement, I am a former Baldwin County Republican Chairman. I have served on various committees within the Republican party at county, district, and state levels. I represented Georgia as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2012 in Tampa, Fl. I have been appointed twice to the Planning and Zoning Board of Milledgeville and served as Vice-Chair. I helped to relaunch the Milledgeville Jaycees and served on the Georgia State Board of Jaycees. I have also been involved in planning various related charitable events over the years. I have always tried find ways to have a positive impact on our community. My family keeps me grounded. I am blessed to have a supporting wife, Gracie, and two wonderful children.

WRIGHT: I am a lifelong resident of Baldwin County, a veteran of the U.S. Army, and a long time small business owner with a highly successful track record. I have been married to my wife, JOY, for 23 years. We have two adult sons, Billy (Erin) and Jayson, and one grandchild. Our family has attended Northridge Christian Church for the past thirteen years.

2) Baldwin County lost population in the last census for the first time since 1880, the Garfield administration. How do we prevent Baldwin County from becoming a "dying county" with declining infrastructure, declining population and declining community enthusiasm?

BALLEW: I do not believe that Baldwin County has become a “dying county” at all. I believe there will always be fluctuations in population. Between 2010 and 2020, the census shows a decline of 1,921 citizens. This can easily be attributed to the first year of Covid deaths, and the national decline of the fertility rate. We are already working towards better infrastructure, and I don’t see a decline in community enthusiasm at all.

STRICKLAND: I agree that we have yet to capitalize on our assets but I do not think we are a “dying County”. We have 3 colleges, Lake Sinclair, a rich history, and some of the best people in the country. Yes, we have been hurt by job loss over the years and we can do better. I suggest that government focus on being responsive and efficient in providing the services citizens expect. When we focus on serving our citizens with a community that is clean, has good roads, adequate quality of life measures and invest in the safety of our families, we are providing a place to thrive.

WRIGHT: I’ve been in this county through thick and thin. I’ve seen it at its height and I see where it is today. My family has lived in Baldwin County for seven generations. We are not new here and our roots run deep. I’ve seen the thousands of jobs that have left our community over the past 15 years or so. This is an amazing community with so many wonderful opportunities however we also have a tremendous room for improvement. If you’re under 22 or over 65, then Baldwin County is great for you. But I ask what about those of us between 23-64? What is here for us? As your next district 4 commissioner, I understand all of the issues, not just one, and I will work from sunup to sundown, just like I do in everything else I’m involved with, to better our community by attracting employers who offer good paying career type jobs with benefits. I will be creative in finding ways to fund infrastructure improvements. I will also work hard to revitalize all of our recreation facilities to not only improve the quality of life for our community, but also to attract more visitors to our community, who bring LOTS of sales tax dollars with them, for sports tournaments.

3) What are some decisions that the Board of Commissioners has gotten right in the last four to eight years, and what are a few decisions that you didn't necessarily agree with 100 percent?

BALLEW: In January, the Board of Commissioners voted against the proposed multi-purpose path around the airport. This was absolutely the correct decision, as it would have wasted taxpayer dollars. Approximately 95% of the residents along the proposed path did not want this path. It was in a low traffic area, and walkers and bikers already felt that they could safely exercise in the area without it. It would also run through front and back yards of residents, thus decreasing their privacy. I am proud of the commissioners for voting “no to this issue. Overall, I think the commissioners have done a great job. It is a thankless job, and no matter what they decide, there will always be people who disagree. I have witnessed times when the commissioners lacked the adequate information to make informed decisions, but felt pressured to move forward anyway. I also believe that they were sometimes given suspicious information to try to persuade them in a certain direction. I believe that I have the time and patience to dig for the facts that are needed.

STRICKLAND: The recent investment in the recreational facilities will benefit many of our children and families. It’s critical that Walter B. Williams remains a safe space centered on having a positive impact on our children and grandchildren. As for the latter, second guessing another with the advantage of hindsight is purely self-serving.

WRIGHT: One of the toughest things to do as a leader is being able to look to the future in community planning to ensure that we are doing enough to keep our community growing and prospering. You have to have enough vision to build for progress but also be careful not to overspend.

- I think that our current commission has done that to an extent but only in certain areas. I didn’t initially agree with the construction of the new government building however I now see it as something that we can grow into.

- I think that our commission has done a good job of working to improve our county water and sewer systems. There is still a lot of work to be done in this area but they are on the right track. The city system is a completely different subject.

- Something that I believe the current commission dropped the ball on is job creation. If they had started making small investments in the Sibley-Smith Industrial Park when it was originally acquired many years ago, we would very likely already have multiple factories out there. Now, as the rest of Georgia is booming with industry growth, Baldwin County has fallen far behind.

- As a business leader, I understand the importance and necessity in investing for future growth and I will work tirelessly to see Baldwin County prosper!

4) Why run for county commissioner? It's really not a glamorous job, and hardly anyone shows up to the meetings.

BALLEW: Being a commissioner indeed is not a glamorous job. Even just running as a candidate has shown me the anger that some people have due to decisions from the past that they didn’t like. But as a person who has always been involved in community service, I feel that my decision to run is due to my belief in civic duty.

STRICKLAND: I think I will be an effective representative for the citizens in the 4 th district.

WRIGHT: As owner of Wright Heating, Cooling, and Electrical, where we just recently celebrated our 50th anniversary in business, this community has blessed my family beyond measure over the course of my lifetime. Serving as your next District 4 commissioner is not about me at all. It is my way of giving back to a community that has given so very much to me and my family. My business is prosperous when and only when our local community is prosperous. I want desperately to see ALL OF BALDWIN COUNTY grow and prosper and I will work on every issue, not just one or two!!!

5) If you were giving a quick stump speech, what topics/issues would you most likely bring up during your speech?

BALLEW: Improving infrastructure, improving accountability with tax dollars, increasing emergency coverage, and improving animal control services would all be topics that I would like to cover in a quick speech.

STRICKLAND: As I listen to community members, I feel their pain. They see roads that need repair, inadequate resources allocated to our first responders, a recreation facility that has much needed improvements. More than 1 in 4 people in Baldwin live below the poverty line. With the closure of Central State Hospital our community was economically devastated. However, the people of Baldwin County are resilient and our future will not be determined by our past. When we focus on what we can control, cleaning up litter, improving our roads and infrastructure, improving our recreational facilities, and adequately funding our fire department, Law enforcement, and emergency services we create a place where our people are taken care of. Keeping the focus on the people and delivering results is what you can expect when you vote Andrew Strickland.

WRIGHT:  The primary areas that I see in need of improvement are, in no particular order of importance, infrastructure improvements, job creation, recreation department revitalization, animal control improvements, expanded EMS coverage, improved efficiency of government operations to reduce waste, and transparency. I truly believe that keys to all of these issues are creativity and good honest communication with the people of Baldwin County. Yes I am asking District 4 to elect me, but I promise to work hard for all of Baldwin County and always be available and easily accessible when you need me! I promise to be efficient and spend your hard earned tax dollars wisely and in ways that you can see what you’re getting for them!


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