Hughes and Smith are vying for the chance to become the first Democrat to win a contested primary since Curtis Garner defeated Elbert “Dude” Turner in 1994.
Ironically, the last Democrat elected to the Paulding commission was Mike Pope in 1992. Pope qualified as an independent candidate for the Post 2 seat this year and will face either Hughes or Smith and incumbent Republican Todd Pownall in the November general election.
Smith said she hopes voters know she is “like one of them” when they step into the voting booth.
“I’m not a politician,” she said.
The west Paulding resident returned to the area in the middle of last decade after years of living in Florida to care for her then-ailing parents, who are now deceased.
The house is located near the end of the Silver Comet Field airport runway. As she neared a decision to offer it for sale last fall, a company named Propeller Investments announced it was seeking an airline to bring passenger service to the airport.
Propeller’s announcement spurred her to action opposing the passenger flights, leading her to create a website highly critical of the airport authority, which oversees airport operations.
She also began reviewing recent actions of the industrial building authority, which has used funds guaranteed by the taxpayers in recent years to build industrial parks and airport hangars.
“I started paying attention to the governing process, and I was horrified,” Smith said.
County boards are spending money to develop such projects as a movie studio, she said.
“I want to pave roads, not spend money on crazy ventures,” Smith said.
County officials also have not been as transparent as they should in conducting business, Smith said.
“They’ve been so cryptic about it,” she said, in reference to code names routinely given to projects county officials are recruiting.
Smith admits a Democrat stands little chance of being elected in heavily Republican Paulding County.
However, she said if she were elected she would seek to dissolve the airport authority and industrial building authority.
“This is an exercise in civic protest,” she said.
GEORGE ‘PAT’ HUGHES:
Hughes said he hopes voters know they have a choice when they see his name on the Democratic ballot for Post 2 commissioner – facing highly outspoken airport commercialization opponents in Smith and Pownall.
Hughes said the main issue now for Post 2 voters is the proposed addition of passenger flights at Silver Comet Field. County leaders need to make the airport a success to help spur development of badly needed industry in Paulding County, he said.
“I’m against the [Paulding] airport failing,” Hughes said. “We have a choice to make it successful.”
The Arkansas native said the Texarkana area of western Arkansas has fewer residents than Paulding County but has one of the busiest airports in the state and contributes heavily to the local economy, he said.
Hughes noted a county government board, the airport authority, contracted with a private business to recruit aerospace-related industry to the airport, including the proposed passenger service. That agreement cannot be broken, without consequences, simply because of public disapproval, he said.
“The authority of the airport authority and the [industrial building authority] is more than adequate to do what they’ve done,” he said. “I stand forthrightly in favor of contract law.”
However, Hughes is a longtime journalist and understands the desire for transparency about the passenger service plan, which was criticized because the company did not make its desires public for almost a year after it signed an agreement with the airport authority.
He said his first action if elected would be to call for county commissioners to pass a rule requiring them to wait two weeks after anything is first proposed before a final vote is taken.
“Everything [county leaders] will do will sound great, but I like to think about it,” he said. “I’ve seen things pass too quickly. We need to slow things down a little bit.”
He noted the commission approved laws in the past which ultimately led to federal lawsuits – actions which possibly could have been avoided if commissioners had taken more time to study the issues.
“Government does not need to be in that big a hurry,” Hughes said.