Forsyth County political candidates running unopposed in the July 31 primary had a chance to speak during an event Monday night.
The forum, at the Forsyth County Administration Building, was the first of several political events over the next two weeks held by the Forsyth County Republican Party.
“You are the Republican nominee, you’re carrying the banner for the Republican Party so we appreciate you throwing your hat in the ring and being willing to serve,” Ethan Underwood, chairman of the party, told the speakers, who also don’t face Democratic opposition in November.
All of the uncontested positions — which include tax commissioner, probate judge, clerk of courts, solicitor general and three school board posts — are held by incumbents.
“Too often what you do goes unrewarded and we appreciate your time away from your families and businesses to serve our county,” Underwood said.
Trilby Leech, a member of the Forsyth County Tea Party Patriots Alliance, was one of just a few people who attended the forum. She said while the candidates are running unopposed, it still is important to hear what they have to say.
“I just think it’s everyone’s responsibility to learn about the candidates and the issues,” she said. “I just feel real strongly about that.”
Nancy Roche, the school board’s District 5 representative, was the first to speak.
She was joined by Tax Commissioner Matthew Ledbetter, Clerk of Courts Greg Allen, and Probate Court Judge Lynwood “Woody” Jordan.
Leslie Abernathy, solicitor general, and school board Chairman Tom Cleveland of District 3 and Darla Light of District 4 did not attend the forum.
All the officials thanked residents for their support.
“Since myself, Tom and Darla are all running unopposed, I think that tells us a lot about our community,” Roche said. “I think they’re happy with our school system. I think they have confidence in us that we will continue to do a good job for the citizens of Forsyth County.”
Added Allen: “I truly enjoy and love my job and I get great satisfaction from serving the citizens of Forsyth County.”
Jordan said his position is one that likely will continue to grow in importance over the next few years.
“We are entering an era that is going to have the greatest intergenerational wealth transfer that has ever occurred in the history of the United States,” he said, referring to shifts in wealth from baby boomers.
Ledbetter thanked residents, saying he was “tickled” to be unopposed this year.
“I drive down the road and I see a lot of effort going into these campaigns, and we’re glad we’re not having to do that much work this year,” he said.
The officials also discussed changes they had seen during their time in office and plans for the future.
“Right now we have the lowest millage rate in the Atlanta area and highest test scores,” Roche said. “I think it’s a real good return on your investment.”
She added that “families are still moving here.”
“We’re growing an average of 1,300 kids a year … that’s about an elementary school every year and unfortunately we don’t have the money to keep building them,” she said.
Roche noted that the school system has grown from 15,000 when she first took office in 2001 to more than 38,000 expected this fall.
“We had 17 schools [in 2001] and we’ll be opening No. 36 this fall,” she said.
For Ledbetter, his tenure, which began in January 2005, has been largely about focusing on the customer.
“We opened a drive-through window for customer service. We’re a big believer in customer service,” he said.
“We like to greet people at the door, treat them with respect so you can get your business done in a timely manner.”
Like Roche, he noted that the county is still growing.
“We sold 237,000 car tags last year. That’s up 6.5 percent,” he said. “We’re still growing and we’re doing this … four years ago we had 42 employees at the tax commissioner’s office, we now have 31.”
Allen, who was elected to his first term in 2008, said his office also is handling more work with fewer staff members. He noted numbers have gone down from 36 in 2006 to 31 this year.
“I was fortunate to inherit a great staff from my predecessor and I believe the staff of the Forsyth County Clerk’s Office is without equal in the state,” Allen said. “They’re hard work has allowed me to operate a lean office and reduce our budget to the bare minimum for running the clerk’s office.”
Jordan also praised court staff.
“I take seriously the responsibility of preparing for these challenges which the citizens of Forsyth County have trusted to me … one is speedy resolution of cases,” he said. “This is critical for some of these cases.
“The other thing we pride ourselves on is speedy resolution of jury trials. We don’t have many, but when we have them, they’re important to people because they’re usually in the area of decedents’ estates and you have someone that’s missing and business needs to be taken care of.”
Jordan said he hopes to soon begin a public information campaign, which he said would “make some more information available in both print and electronic formats.”