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District 27 debate: Candidates discuss county growth, Sharon Springs
District 27
District 27 state Senate candidates Greg Dolezal, Bill Fielder and Brian Tam take part in a debate on Thursday. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

This week, voters had a chance to hear why three Republican candidates should be the next state Senator for District 27.

On Thursday, the Forsyth County Republican Party held a debate for District 27 candidates Greg Dolezal, Bill Fielder and Brian Tam at the Forsyth County Administration Building.

Voters will decide between the three candidates on the May 22 primary, and the winner will face Democratic candidate Steve Smith on Nov. 6. The district will have a new state Senator as the incumbent, Michael Williams, is running for governor and not allowed to seek two offices at the same time. 

The debate was moderated by Carolyn Hall Fisher, first vice chair of the Georgia Republican Party and a former chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party.

In the debate, candidates made opening and closing statements, answered questions from Fisher and had the opportunity to ask a question to another candidate of their choosing. Candidates gave their thoughts on a variety of issues impacting Forsyth County. 

On growth

It’s no secret that Forsyth County has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, and each candidate had a different take on it.

Fielder, a small business owner, said he wants to bring funds from Forsyth County taxpayers back to the county.

“The main function of a state senator, your state senator, will be to bring as much of Forsyth County’s money and funds as it can back to Forsyth County from the state Capitol … to support the buildout infrastructure to relieve the pressure you feel now,” he said.

Tam, a restaurant owner and former member of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, said he also wanted to bring tax dollars back to the county, be accessible to the community and work to unite those with different land-use views.

“I’d work to unify the county and not divide us,” Tam said. “Dividing the county just divides up our resources. It makes us divide up our wealth and it makes us not able to advance infrastructure … as we otherwise could.”

Dolezal, a small business owner and former member of the county’s planning board, said he has worked to bring those with different views together and recently hosted a meeting to hear concerns from the community.

“Just this Monday night, I hosted a meeting in my office where people who had various, opposing concerns on how we move forward with representation and whether or not Forsyth County needs more municipalities,” Dolezal said. “That is what I’m going to do as a leader. That is what leaders do.” 

Sharon Springs

On the same day voters will decide the Republican candidate for the race, voters living in the area of the proposed city of Sharon Springs will also vote on whether or not the city will become a reality.

All three candidates were opposed to the proposed new city. 

“Another layer of government is not the answer,” Tam said. “It solves nothing. It’s a decentralization of services. It divides up our resources.” 

Dolezal said he did not support a new city as there are other ways to address issues, such as changing the makeup of the board of commissioners.

“I think that there is better representation that we can do by changing the county charter. I think we can move to a hybrid model for the board of commissioners,” Dolezal said. “I think that we can have the option for a supermajority to overrule a district commissioner in their own district.”

Fielder said he supported residents choosing whether or not they want a new city but called the city “an extremely risky proposition.”

“What I’ll add to that — rarely is more government a good answer, and my fear is that there will be a buildout of additional costs that are uncontrollable,” Fielder said. “Just one instance, there’s a salary proposed for mayor for $15,000 per year. There’s been no discussion of the cost of a city manager or cost of city staff or all the other costs.

Legislative priorities

The three were also asked to go into what they would want to pursue if elected. 

Dolezal said he was hopeful for 2019 since there would be new legislators and state officials in office.

“We’ll have the opportunity to move the needle on the conservative agenda,” Dolezal said. “I want to eliminate the state income tax in Georgia. I want to put money in each and every one of your pockets. I want to … continue to ban sanctuary cities.”

Fielder said he was inspired to run in the race for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, in the state. 

“RFRA is what motivated me,” he said. “Just like in local education, you cannot pass along your culture, your beliefs, your system and your outlook on life to your children without RFRA.”

Tam said his main priority was funding for projects in the county.

“This county worked hard to get [Ga.] 400 lanes five and six near completion. It’s time to start working on lanes seven and eight,” Tam said. “It’s time to start negotiating moving that project further north. The county entered into a transportation bond [in 2014,] and it’s only acquired half the funding so far. [The county] doesn’t have to borrow more money with the right relationships downtown.”