Visiting the 1903 Gold Dome Courthouse and the Frank Moore Administration Building, the Leadership Bartow class of 2013 got a glimpse of county-level policymaking and courts before seeing several aspects of public safety operations.
A 10-month program from August to May, Leadership Bartow introduces established and emerging leaders from around Bartow County to varying facets of the community. Meeting once a month, each program day is dedicated to a different topic, including education, health and wellness, tourism and community service.
Wednesday’s leadership program focusing on local government began with insight on the local court system from Cherokee Circuit Superior Court Judge Scott Smith and District Attorney Rosemary Greene.
“This gives us a chance to talk to you in the community that otherwise might not have any idea of what happens here in the courthouse,” Smith said. “But it is your court system. It is here to serve the people of this circuit and by circuit I mean Gordon and Bartow County — we are in a two-county circuit, which means the judges that serve here also serve in Gordon County. We go back and forth to both locations conducting both civil jury trials and criminal jury trials.
“We are busy in both counties. There are four superior court judges. ... This circuit, compared with other judges, per capita we are usually within the top five circuits in the state as far as cases per judge.
“Last year, I heard roughly somewhere in the neighborhood of about 1,100 non-jury hearings myself. You multiply that by four, you’re talking about over 4,000 hearings of a non-jury nature and that’s not counting jury trials, which take a lot longer. So we are rather busy in this circuit.”
With a mission of education and awareness for each program day, local government day focused on the process and reasoning for government policy and procedure — an understanding organizers hoped to relay to participants. On the committee organizing local government day was Bartow County Fire Chief and Interim Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Millsap.
“The most important thing is there is always a lot of misconceptions about government, especially when you’re looking at local government versus the state, versus the federal government,” Millsap said. “To be able to have that one-on-one dialogue we’re able to have here, because generally a citizen doesn’t just show up to ask those questions, there usually has to be something going on just to find out from your elected or appointed officials. Things that are taking place, maybe you thought it should be done one way and there may be a reason it can’t be done that way and a lot of times knowing that makes things a lot smoother.
“All these public officials, we work for you. If you have questions — it’s OK to stop by for a cup of coffee and ask those questions because I’d much rather talk to people when they’re coming to see me on a friendly basis rather than after something has gone wrong. Until you really talk to the people that are in that situation, there’s so many things you may armchair quarterback and say, ‘If they would just do it this way,’ only to find out there are 15 reasons we legally can’t do it that way.”
In clarifying process regulations and opening lines of communication, Leadership Bartow participants heard from Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor, County Administrator Peter Olson, Water Director Gene Camp, Clerk of Court Melba Scoggins, Tax Commissioner Steve Stewart and Probate Court Judge Mitchell Scoggins.
Switching gears to the arena of public safety, participants met with Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap and toured emergency dispatch as well as the Bartow County jail, including new facilities expanded through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds.
Other aspects of public safety were brought in with demonstrations at the Cartersville-Bartow County Fire Training Facility and the Bartow County Sheriff’s Department Firing Range. Annual training was taking place at the fire training center on Paga Mine Road constructed with SPLOST dollars and after demonstrations from the SWAT team and a Bartow County K-9 unit, participants were shown the basics of firearm safety and use by taking their shot at the firing range.
The day wrapped up with a panel discussion of representatives from various municipalities across the county, including Cartersville, Emerson, Adairsville and Euharlee to give a view of opportunities and obstacles facing Bartow’s cities.
“With the tough economic times we’re in, everyone knows how it affects them and their local businesses, but hopefully they’re able to see how that affects local government and some of the things we are facing as well as the plans we have to overcome it,” Millsap said. “There tends to be a disconnect between saying, ‘Well, that’s government and this is private industry,’ — but they are all so integrated. It is a symbiotic relationship, one doesn’t go without the other. What we tried to do was show how it connects and if you don’t have all those pieces working together, the puzzle won’t fit.”
The Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce is currently accepting nominations for Leadership Bartow 2013-2014. For more information, visit www.cartersvillechamber.com or call 770-382-1466.