Roughly 80 citizens packed into the wooden pavilion at Cagle’s Family Farm in Hickory Flat to listen to local and state candidates running for upcoming elections.
Candidates included incumbent Probate Judge Keith Wood; Magistrate Court James Drane; Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison; Jeff Rusbridge, candidate for State Court judge; incumbent Tax Commissioner Sonya Little; Kenny Phelps, candidate for tax commissioner; state reps. Sean Jerguson of Holly Springs and Calvin Hill of Hickory Flat; Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood; Canton City Council members Amelia Rose and Jack Goodwin; and Canton City Council candidates Glen Cummins, “Hooky” Huffman and Bill Grant.
State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) sent a representative, as did 2012 presidential candidate and current U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minn., U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) and U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Moultrie) and Johnny Isakson (R-east Cobb).
Bachmann's representative was Phillip Dacosta.
County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens and Commissioners Jason Nelms and Jim Hubbard also attended the forum.
County offices up for election in 2010 include the County Commission Post 2 seat, held by Hubbard, and Post 3 seat, held by Commissioner Karen Bosch; Cherokee sheriff, held by Garrison; district attorney, held by Garry Moss; clerk of court, held by Patty Baker; chief magistrate, held by Drane, probate judge, held by Wood; chief superior court judge, held by Frank Mills, III; superior court judge, currently held by Ellen McElyea; state court judge, held by C.J. Gober, who announced he’s not seeking re-election; state court judge, held by Allen “Dee” Morris; coroner, held by Earl Darby; surveyor, held by Ron Wilke; tax commissioner, held by Sonya Little; board of education Post 2, held by Mike Chapman; board of education Post 4, held by Janet Read; and board of education Post 7, held by Kim Cochran.
Canton City Council elections will be held in November and Hobgood, Rose, Goodwin and council member Pat Tanner are all up for re-election.
Garrison of Canton, who has served as sheriff for 18 years, said, with his leadership, his office maintains a status of being among about 3 percent of law enforcement agencies to achieve official accreditation.
He also said he’s looking forward to serving another term.
“I love my job and I hope you will let me keep it,” he said.
Hobgood, who is seeking his second term as mayor , said he has been able to help clean up the city’s financial state. While the city still has a ways to go before becoming more stable, he said Canton officials have made difficult choices to advance the city to where it is today.
“We know where we are and we can build on that,” he said.
Rose, who has been on the Canton City Council for nearly 20 years, told the crowd she’s enjoyed her time in local government and noted the city still has some challenges to overcome.
Jack Goodwin praised the current council and administration for not raising its millage rate for the next fiscal year, adding the city was steadfast in making cuts needed to avoid raising taxes.
Challengers to council incumbents said the city has some very serious challenges and added they are the ones to guide the city in the right direction.
Cummins said he’s “intuitive” and “analytical.” He said he's not new to public service. He said he served as a city council member in Florida and also served as president of what he said was the largest soccer association in Tennessee.
Little, who stepped in to serve out the remaining term of former Tax Commissioner David Fields in February, said she’s looking forward to competing for her first full term next year.
Her opponent Phelps, who said he’s worked in the Cherokee County Engineering Department for 25 years, said he would like to bring “effective management” into the office and have an “open door policy” if elected.
Rusbridge, a political new comer who’s a partner with Dyer & Rusbridge in downtown Canton, said he’s running because he has the “experience and commitment to the job” of state court judge.
“I believe that you should serve your community,” he said.
Drane, who is seeking his second term as chief magistrate judge next year, said he and Chief Associate Judge Greg Douds have worked to keep expenses low in his court.
He also said he’s worked remain good stewards of the taxpayer’s money.
“It’s plain and simple,” he said. “You need your bang for your buck and we are here to give it to you.”