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Posted: Friday, June 29th 2012 at 11:35am

Elections 2012: Richard Mecum

By Ken Stanford Staff
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NAME: Dick Mecum


OCCUPATION: Retired (35 years Law Enforcement)

1) Why are you running for this office?

Empower Tax Payers of Hall County
-- The incumbent has done a good job of representing the special interest groups and big-money campaign contributors but the ordinary citizen has been left out of the decision making process. I'll empower the tax payers and be their voice on the Board of Commissioners.
End the Reckless Spending
-- We don't have a tax problem. We have a spending problem. There are numerous examples of the incumbent chairman's reckless spending. I'll end those reckless spending practices and relieve the tax burden on citizens.
Reduce County Debt
-- The debt Hall County has amassed during the incumbent's term is shameful. This is debt that is being passed on to our children and grandchildren and we have to stop it.
Bringing Hall County Together
-- Due to bad decisions and poor communication by the incumbent Chairman, many of the eight cities in Hall County have either filed lawsuits or are at odds with the county. Over my 35 years of public service, I have developed close working relationships with most every city council member in Hall County. I understand their anger and frustration. Moreover, I am committed to representing all Hall County citizens fairly – both inside and outside of city limits.
Transparency and Accountability
-- Two years ago, thanks to the local media, we learned the incumbent chairman had secretly signed off on a consulting agreement that cost Hall County taxpayers $75,000. Not a single other commissioner knew of this agreement. And, to make matters worse, there is no record the consultant provided any consulting services. The incumbent doesn't understand the meaning of the word transparency.

2) Is the first time you have run for political office? (If "no," please explain.)

I was honored to be the first Republican to be elected in Hall County and the first Hall County Sheriff to be elected to three consecutive terms in 1980, '84 and '88. During those years, thanks mainly to our deputies passion and dedication to public service, we successfully reduced the overall crime rate, traffic fatality rate and traffic accident rate to the lowest on record. And, by the end of 1992, the Hall County Sheriff’s Department had become one of the most proficient and professional law enforcement agencies in the State of Georgia.

3) What qualifications for the office do you bring to the campaign?

During my 35 years of law enforcement experience, I served in various management positions at the federal, state and county level, requiring oversight of budgeting, personnel management, organizational planning, finance and accounting.

I earned a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration, Business Management, Accounting and Finance from the University of Georgia and a Master's Degree in Public Administration, Administrative Public Management, Strategic Planning, and Accounting from Brenau University.

4) What do you see as the biggest concern/issue facing Hall County?

Empower the tax payers of Hall County
-- By that I mean the incumbent has done a good job representing the special interest groups and his big-money campaign contributors but the ordinary citizen has been left out of the decision making process. I want to put the power in government back where our Founding Fathers intended in the hands of the people.
Restore Fiscal Sanity
-- Audits indicate the incumbent mismanaged taxpayer funds in 2007, 2008, and 2009 to the tune of $11 million resulting in a $9 million reduction in the county's reserve funds. This mismanagement occurred at the height of the nation's worst recession since the Great Depression and precipitated a reduced quality of life for our citizens, the loss of highly-trained and experienced county employees and the implementation of furlough days and a loss of pay for those who were able to hold onto their jobs.
Cut reckless spending
-- Hall County doesn't have a tax problem. We have a spending problem. The greatest county in Georgia is now $90 million in debt. In 2004, indebtedness was only $17.5 million. That is a 500 percent increase in the past seven years. The Georgia Constitution, Article IX, Section 5, requires that the county not incur any new debt without receiving approval by a majority of the voters. While there are some loopholes in the law, the incumbent has a moral and ethical responsibility to uphold the original intent of the Georgia Constitution to keep taxpayers informed and educated as to the increasing debt and the overall financial stability of the county.
Generate Non-Tax Revenue
-- In these troubled economic times, Hall County needs a chairman who is willing to think outside the box. Municipalities all across America are looking for creative ways to increase revenue without increasing the tax burden on citizens. Some are selling naming rights to government parks, playgrounds and buildings. Others sell advertising on the Government Access TV Channel and websites. It's time to get creative. Our citizens deserve it.
Transparency and Accountability
-- In March 2010, we discovered the incumbent had a secret agreement to pay former Gainesville City Manager Carlyle Cox $1,500 a month to act as a consultant on water and sewer issues. The payments continued for more than four years and totaled $75,900. No other commissioner was aware of the agreement. To make matters worse, no record could ever be found to indicate Mr. Cox made a single phone call or sent a single email to earn the money he was paid. Not only did the incumbent leave the citizens out of the decision making process he left his fellow commissioners out as well. I'll restore transparency and accountability to Hall County government.

5) Should the county continue with work on the Glades Reservoir and see it through to completion? And, please explain your answer. (EDITOR'S NOTE: This question was asked and answered before the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the water dispute involving Georgia, Florida and Alabama.)

This is difficult to answer, particularly in light of the EPD's decision not to permit any reservoir until after the Tri-State Water War is resolved. The Hall County, Year 2060 Water Needs Certification supports the need for more water but it was based on the July 2009 ruling by Judge Magnuson which has since been overturned by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and is now headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the outcome is uncertain, the chairman continues to move the Board forward, awarding contracts in excess of $1 million without a bidding process. The process should be halted until a comprehensive strategic plan can be developed and taxpayers have been informed and given the opportunity for input.
Now is the time to give the Glades Reservoir the study and analysis that will bring transparency for the taxpayers, and a more ordered and informed decision making process.

6) Do you favor consolidation of Gainesville and Hall County governments or the merger of certain departments or neither? And, please explain your answer.

The Gainesville and Hall County governments should not be consolidated at this time. However, several similar departments in the city and county could be merged, resulting in cost savings for city/county taxpayers.

7) What, if anything, should be "off the table" as the county continues to grapple with budget problems? And, please explain your answer.

Tax increases.

Experience has shown the incumbent's lack of fiscal and financial leadership skills and his willingness to conduct the county's business in a transparent manner is making a bad economic situation significantly worse. The financial and budgeting difficulties should be corrected and not passed on to the taxpayers in Hall County in the form of a tax increase.
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