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Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart Continues to Be Proactive in Making Community Enhancements

Sam Hart, Chairman of the Bibb County Board of and candidate for Mayor of Macon-Bibb consolidated government, recently conducted a public interview and shared his vision for our community. Hart has 14 years of experience and dedication as a public servant. Born in Monroe County, he served in the Army as a medic. Hart retired from Mercer University as Director of the Upward Bound program where he also served as Dean of Students. He often credits his leadership abilities and thoughtfulness to the upbringing he received from his father and his mother, Elizabeth who is now 101 years old and resides in Bibb County. Hart is married to the former Faye Webb. They are the parents of two sons, Sam Jr. and Sheldon, and they have two grandchildren, Bryce and Kadence. Provided below are Hart’s responses to key areas affecting local citizens.

Question: Why do you feel you are the best candidate and that you are uniquely qualified to be elected Mayor of Macon-Bibb's new consolidated government?

Answer: The Macon-Bibb County area is already experiencing a tremendous amount of momentum as we move into a new consolidated government. Continuity of leadership is a key factor to ensure that the community continues to thrive and reach its fullest potential. The four key features of my Platform are: Continuity of Leadership, Economic Development, Public Safety and Regionalism. We need a leader who is a consensus builder and can bring the community together to continue the progress for our citizens.

My extensive experience in running Bibb County-wide services and operations as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Bibb County Board of Commissioners, as well as my extensive knowledge of this community and its citizens uniquely qualifies me to successfully carry through on this important Macon-Bibb transition.

I have worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for all the citizens of Macon-Bibb. My record shows that I am a team builder and that I consistently take a "win-win" approach in deciding on and supporting issues on behalf of the citizens.

Question: As County Commissioner and as a candidate for Mayor, your motto continues to be - Think Community: Creating the Future Together Would you explain to our readers, where you are going with this?

Answer: Think Community is not just a catchy phrase. It's a new way of life for the citizens of our community. For several years now, I have followed a - THINK COMMUNITY - leadership and decision-making approach in fulfilling my duties and responsibilities as Chairman of the Bibb County Commission. This "what's good for all of Bibb County" approach, has led to noteworthy accomplishments for the county in very important areas.

Question: What are some your greatest accomplishments as a member and Chairman of the Bibb County Board of Commissioners?

Answer: I am excited about the many quality projects taking place throughout the community that have been initiated during my tenure as Chairman. For example:

New Job Opportunities: I have been instrumental in creating and/or retaining more than 1,100 jobs positively impacting Macon and Bibb County. Tractor Supply Company, the largest retail farm and ranch store in United States, has begun hiring for more than 300 good paying jobs with benefits at its 650,000-plus square foot distribution center, located in South Bibb County. This economic development activity represents a capital investment to the area of over $50 million.

Consolidation of Bibb County Services - Two major departments of city and county employees - Engineering and - Parks and Recreation - were successfully combined under the County's governing structure. Employees from both groups have made a smooth transition and citizens have not realized any decrease in quality nor interruption of services provided. This transition is an example where my "think community approach" has benefited both services to the citizens as well as the protection of employee jobs and benefits.

Going Green Initiatives to Protect and Conserve the Environment: Bibb County has acquired two different fleets of vehicles to support this environmental need. Included is the purchase of five hybrid vehicles to ensure continued emphasis on preserving the environment, conserving energy, and promoting eco-friendly products in the area. An additional eight new electric cars for use by departments that comprise an eco-friendly fleet that is 100 percent electric and zero emissions have been added. A new electric charging station has been installed and is located in front of the Bibb County courthouse to offer drivers of electric vehicles an opportunity to recharge their cars free of charge.

Fiscal Accountability - Bibb County government has received a clean audit each year and has been the recipient of the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the highly recognized Government Finance Officers Association. (GFOA) during my tenure. Also in 2009, Bibb County received a rating from Standard & Poor's allowing the County to issue variable rate debt backed by self-liquidity.

Construction of New Fire Departments - Given the multitude of recent residential and industrial fires, the addition of three new fire stations - two in county and one in the city - will greatly enhance first responder services for residents and businesses in Macon and Bibb County. Construction of Fire Station #109 on Forsyth Road has been completed and an open house was held on July 12th to allow the public to tour the new facility. Fire Station #110 on Heath Road is scheduled to open in the winter of 2014. Additionally, the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department currently has an ISO Class I rating. Only 45 other fire departments in the country hold this distinction

Construction of a new Juvenile Justice Center - A $7 million Juvenile Justice Center, located at the corner of Second and Oglethorpe Streets, near the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center, will soon be available to house and better coordinate court services, probation, rehabilitation and prevention services for juvenile offenders and children of abuse. Under the current arrangement at the Bibb County courthouse, Juvenile Court Judges often complain that hallways fill up with more than 100 kids and parents usually waiting on arraignment. They report that juveniles in custody are paraded to their hearings in front of the public waiting area because there is no other room. In many cases, people are being jammed into conference rooms that are no bigger than a closet.

Construction of a New Animal Welfare Shelter and Dog Park - Also under construction is the county's brand new, 11,000 square feet animal welfare center, which replaces the 32-year-old shelter located near the county landfill. The property is situated on ten acres. Citizens from many segments of the community were elated to hear about the news of a much needed, upgraded facility that is being built. It will be an optimal facility for the animals, the public and employees. The shelter is designed to be low-kill and will include a dog park and walking trails for visitors.

Repairs and Upgrades to Macon-Bibb’s Parks and Recreation Facilities - Repairs, renovations, and enhancements are underway to the county's parks and recreation facilities. Some residents have already begun to enjoy the new look and feel of new roofs, flooring, tennis courts, improved lighting and security systems as well as new air conditioning and heating systems. I, along with the current Board of Commissioners support a long-term move to fewer - but bigger and better parks. For example, a regional park is planned for "sub south" Bibb County. While the property for this project has not yet been identified, the project could become a model for the county's future recreational venues.

Enhanced Neighborhood Watch Programs- I pledge continued support of the dedicated officials from the Sheriff department who train and support concerned members of neighborhood groups. Training materials for dissemination at workshops and other gatherings have been updated and are regularly presented to citizen groups as an effective means of continued crime prevention.

Extended Community Services- I collaborate with public safety officers in their mission to contribute to the community in several ways. Trained and certified staff provides CPR classes, free blood pressure and blood glucose screenings at fire stations. Fire fighters raise more than $200,000 annually for charitable causes. In addition to distributing smoke alarms and fire detectors, firefighters provide fire safety education to school-age children and the elderly.

Question: What is the continued role that Macon-Bibb will play in saving jobs at Robins Air Force Base?

Answer: I am a huge supporter of Regionalism and I intend to remain a major leader in ongoing efforts to ensure a region-wide approach regarding the Bibb-Houston County areas. This means that Bibb area residents continue to benefit from Robins Air Force Base employment and related community benefits such as affordable housing, school systems, cultural social events, and airport services.

I am active with the 21st Century Partnership, an organization that works to protect jobs at Robins Air Force Base and tries to bring new missions. I led the creation of an allocation of $6 million dollars to address the encroachment issue in South Bibb County. Encroachment funds are targeted to purchase properties in noisy or crash-prone areas close to military installations in an effort to avoid losing missions or perhaps even base closure under the Federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).

Question: What are the key voting dates that Macon-Bibb residents and registered voters need to remember?

Answer: This election will be a non-partisan election, which means that there is no need for voters to declare a party affiliation such as Democrat or Republican. The last date for Macon-Bibb residents to register to vote is August 19. The Board of Elections office is located at 2445 Pio Nono Avenue. The phone number is 478-621-6622. Absentee ballots may be cast at any time with no reason required at the Board of Elections Office. Early Voting dates are August 26 through September 13 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. You may also cast your vote on Saturday, September 7, 2013 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. A picture ID must be provided by the voter. Election Day is Tuesday, September 17. The potential Run-off Election date is October 15.

Readers can attain more information regarding Sam Hart's candidacy at http://samhart2013.com and FB: samhartformayor2013.

Sanford Bishop
Samuel F. Hart, Sr.