FORSYTH COUNTY — A Forsyth resident’s campaign for county commission can continue after it was determined he will meet the age qualification to hold the elected office.
During a meeting Monday, the Forsyth County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections reviewed the situation involving Justin Hawkins, who last month announced his bid for the District 5 post in the May 24 Republican primary.
According to elections supervisor Barbara Luth, County Attorney Ken Jarrard looked into the issue and also wrote state Attorney General Sam Olens, who has not yet responded.
“[Jarrard’s] view on this, after researching it thoroughly, is that you must obtain the age of 25 by the date you are sworn in to office,” Luth said. “The formality of sending the letter to [Olens] was for a comment from him is as to his opinion. Whether or not we get his opinion back from him, we are proceeding forward.”
Hawkins will turn 25 in November. Reached after the meeting, the South Forsyth High School and Kennesaw State University graduate who works in pharmaceutical sales said he was happy to be able to run.
“I’m glad that it is finally resolved and taken care of. They have validated my candidacy,” he said.
“I was a bit surprised of why this was an issue in the first place, because several lawyers have taken a look at it, including around the state and in the Republican Party, and had deemed that I was eligible from the get-go.”
Hawkins wondered if perhaps the issue had been brought up for political reasons.
Contacted later on Monday, incumbent District 5 Commissioner Jim Boff denied any involvement in the situation.
“I knew nothing whatsoever about this,” Boff said. “My understanding is that it was a question from Barb Luth to the county attorney. However, it doesn’t surprise me that Justin doesn’t know hold old he is.”
Minutes from the election board’s January meeting indicate that member Joel Natt made the request that staff ask Jarrard for a legal opinion on whether a candidate must meet a certain age by qualifying, the November general election and taking office.
Boff, who is retired from a career in technical sales support of voice, data and optical fiber switches, was first elected in 2008. He has previously said he would seek a third term this year.
Commissioners in Forsyth are elected by district-only voting. District 5 covers much of eastern Forsyth. Qualifying for the primary is set for March 7-11.
Rather than it being a drawback, Hawkins said his age gives him a different outlook on county issues and long-range planning.
“Time in and time out, we have elected candidates that are usually well above the age of 45 to 50,” he said. “The fact of the matter is I think that if our [commission] looked for people in their 20s and 30s, we would not only have a vision for our future, but the current trajectory that we’re on would look a lot different.
“I think someone my age has more urgency to solve the problems, because I want to live here not 10 or 15 years down the road, but 20 or 30.”