Ahrens is seeking an unprecedented third term in the county’s highest elected office against Archer, a former Holly Springs City Councilwoman in the primary Tuesday. They are running for the Republican nomination, and as no other candidates have signed on to run in November, the primary will decide the winner.
Asked this week what changes, if any, he thought needed to happen in Cherokee’s government, Ahrens pointed to the things he felt the county is already doing right in the “dynamic and evolving organization.”
“Since I took office in 2007, we have focused on staying true to the mission and making Cherokee a model for efficiency and quality of service delivery,” said Ahrens, 70, a retired executive from Rubbermaid, who graduated from Yale University. “Over the next four years, I will continue to improve upon our superior service and fiscal discipline.”
The chairman said the county’s efforts to attract development and jobs need to be continued, after those efforts won Cherokee 3,000 new jobs, during a recession.
“Now that the recovery is in full swing, I believe we can add even more,” Ahrens said, adding: “Superior services and continuous improvement with low tax rates is what our county is all about.”
Archer, a 49-year-old realtor and member of the Cherokee Development Authority, said she wanted to “restore transparency” on the commission by making sure meetings are broadcast live on the county’s website and by having regular town hall meetings. She wants to “restore trust” by having “open and honest dealings with all.”
Archer said she would like to tackle the county’s spending by imposing zero-base budgeting for all operations, requiring competitive bidding when purchasing and selling assets, and exploring cheaper options for the county attorney.
The longtime realtor also said she wants to make sure public safety workers have the tools they need to continue servicing the community.
On the Ball Ground Recycling issue, which Archer has often criticized Ahrens on, she said she’d like to appoint a “blue ribbon commission” to look into options to relieve the county’s ongoing debt of $100,000 a month, which she said will continue until 2037.
Asked how to encourage economic development, while keeping quality of life in mind, Archer once again brought up trust, saying it was “paramount” business prospects trust Cherokee County’s government.
“Business leaders need to experience a respected, professional, proven leader who will act in an open and honest manner and welcome business opportunities in the context of being a partner for the business,” said Archer, who attended a Christian college in Missouri. “As a public servant, I will be open and honest in all negotiations because businesses considering Cherokee must believe they will be fairly treated.”
She added promoting economic development will provide more local employment options for the county residents who travel out of the county to work. She cited a study that found 78.8 percent of Cherokee residents leave the county for work each day.
Ahrens said the county is “investing more in economic development than ever.”
“We have already taken the first step by launching a marketing outreach, brand building initiative in cooperation with the cities,” he said, adding it would be desirable to eventually bring on an additional employee for the county’s economic development office, and have a center to sell to prospective businesses.
“Then we could target industries like medical and health care, financial services and information technology,” he said. “Expanding the airport to allow for corporate jets was a step in that direction … I will work to add even more resources in this area so that we will be even more competitive for the right kind of jobs.”
When it comes to their qualifications for office, each of the candidates offer an extensive list.
Ahrens said it was his 40 years of experience in “global executive management” and his leadership over the last seven years on the commission that made him the best for the job.
“Cherokee weathered the economic storm and came through with the second lowest tax rate in the region and one of the lowest in the state,” he said. “We have also been able to maintain award-winning services and a quality of life that is second to none.”
Ahrens added a “list of talking points” won’t help Cherokee residents.
“I’ve overseen efforts that have resulted in award-winning services, job growth, low taxes, and conservative budgets and restored reserves,” he said.
Archer cited her “experience, ethics and my successes on the Holly Springs City Council and as mayor pro tem,” successes she said made the city of Holly Springs debt-free.
“I have no record of failed backroom deals or of being sued personally or in any capacity for my work there or on the County Development Authority,” she said, taking jabs at Ahrens.
“I am a cancer survivor, wife, mother and successful businesswoman who had to balance budgets and make tough choices.”
She added she is a believer in Jesus Christ and the United States Constitution. Archer pledged she wouldn’t “let the citizens of this county down or ever betray their trust.”