The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Candidates hoping for turnout Tuesday


Two Fayette countians will be hard at work this Fourth of July shaking hands and kissing babies.

Scott Gilbert and Peter Pfeifer will take advantage of the crowds of celebrants at two local holiday celebrations in a last-minute push for votes in Tuesday's special election runoff for County Commission Post 3.

The post was vacated by Commissioner Harold Bost, who resigned citing personal concerns.

"It's going to be a very, very busy campaign day," said Gilbert. "I'll be trying to hit the last few voters I didn't get a chance to talk to before," said Pfeifer.

The candidates will appear in Peachtree City's Independence Day parade before heading to the Kiwanis Fairgrounds for that group's Fourth of July family picnic. Then it's back to Peachtree City for fireworks.

"I hope they see that I'm the most qualified candidate in terms of experience and independence," said Pfeifer. "I'm always cautiously optimistic," said Gilbert. "Either way it goes, I'm going to be very competitive.

Both candidates agree strongly on one issue: they would like to see better voter turnout than the 6 percent that showed up for the June 19 election.

Election officials said many registered voters may not know that they can vote in the runoff even if they didn't vote in the special election. A general rule of thumb for runoffs is that about half as many people cast ballots as in the election, which would mean only 3 percent of the voters would decide this election.

Both candidates said they're hoping for better than that.

Gilbert, 37, is vice president of Southside Wrecker Service and a newcomer to politics.

Gilbert's family was in Henry County for eight generations, he said, but he brought his wife and two children to Fayette partly because Henry is growing too fast without what he considers proper controls.

"Growth and development and how we manage it is the number one issue as far as I'm concerned," he said. In Henry County, he said, "I've seen what happens when people do not have a far-reaching plan."

He called for "slow and managed growth," adding that although he agrees with much of what the County Commission has done in the past with regard to growth, "There's always room for improvement."

"I came here for quality of life and I want to maintain that as much as possible," said Gilbert.

And although commercial and industrial growth should also be slow and managed, Gilbert said, he favors some nonresidential growth to help keep taxes down.

Tax issues are a concern, he said. A relative with a 440-acre farm in Florida paid less taxes last year than Gilbert did on his 1.1 acres and a house in Tyrone, he said. "It is a balancing act ... there is some room for business in the community," he said.

"I definitely don't want to be overwhelmed with uncontrolled growth of business," he said, "but I think the homeowners would appreciate some tax relief."

Governmental cooperation also is a concern, he said. The ongoing dispute between Fayette and its cities over tax equity can be solved, he said.

"I have sat down with both sides of the issue, and I can't say as of today which side is right," he said. "If any taxpayer is being taxed for duplication of services, we ought to eliminate it," he added.

"But I don't think we have any problems that can't be resolved," he said, adding he believes those involved should talk to each other rather than "fighting in the newspaper.

The fact that he is a newcomer to politics and has no political alliances is "the number one thing I can offer to the voters of Fayette County," said Gilbert. "I'm an open slate. I can sit down and work with others without any baggage over my head," he said.

Pfeifer, 53, is manager of Contract Product Group in Peachtree City. He ran unsuccessfully for Peachtree City Council several years ago and has lived in Fayette since 1987.

"Proven leadership" is the theme of Pfeifer's campaign, he said.

"I've been involved in leadership in the community for a dozen years," he said. "I have a track record so you can see how I've handled myself."

He is a former chairman of the local as well as the 3rd congressional District Republican Party, and a former member of the county, district and state party executive committees. He also has worked in leadership positions in Fayette Adopt-A-Mile, Beautiful Fayette and the Peachtree City Optimist Club, and is a graduate of Leadership Fayette.

Local control of land use planning, slow growth, better county/city relations, the need for traffic improvements and the need to study a freeze on property valuations for tax purposes are among the issues Pfeifer is pushing.

"It seems to me there is some justification on the county side" of the tax equity dispute, he said, but added, "I think all sides would like to sit down and reexamine all of those issues. I see a lot of willingness to start over."

The Atlanta Regional Commission, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and the new water superagency pose a threat "to local control and our ability to determine what the county is going to look like," Pfeifer said, adding he believes Fayette's insistence on local control "may come to a showdown."

The county should maintain local control but cooperate to be sure resources are managed wisely on a regional basis, he said.

He called for a study of the decision of some counties to freeze property values at the original purchase price for tax purposes, changing them only when property changes hands. "I will investigate these programs and answer my question: does this make sense for Fayette County," he said.

He would also work for a traffic plan to improve current conditions, he said.

Polls are open Tuesday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.