CONYERS -- When Jason Hill began considering a run for Rockdale County Commission chairman, he said discerning the answers to two key questions helped him make his decision.
"About a year and a half to two years ago, my wife and I started praying about it and I talked to some other people who were supporters to see what they thought about the possibility," said Hill, "and as that grew, we started talking to more and more people about the possibility and the same questions kept coming up Can you do a better job than the guy who is in there, and can I win? The answer came back yes for both of those questions. We started the campaign and the support has been overwhelming from the start."
Hill, a former county commissioner (2004-08) and a Republican, will challenge Democratic incumbent Richard Oden in November's General Election.
Pointing to his previous commission experience and his family's longtime local business, Still Lumber Company, Hill said he feels as chairman he can make a big difference for the community in the all-important realm of economic development.
"I don't pretend to think that the county commission controls the economy, but we can prepare ourselves to be ready when the economy does come back so there's room for people to do business," said Hill. "Frankly, I don't think there's been much of a plan in the last three and a half to four years for that."
Hill -- who in 2008 was defeated in his quest for re-election by current commissioner Oz Nesbitt -- said that Rockdale County needs to be able to provide support and infrastructure to potential new businesses and industries.
"We need a clean community, a business-friendly community that treats everyone fairly and treats everyone the same," he said. "We need to figure out how to be more friendly to (businesses) when they want to operate here.
"The commission really hasn't addressed the infrastructure needs that economic development requires. They've replaced some leaky water pipes and repaved some roads and those are things that needed to be done, but they're not economic development tools. We need new roads to open up new avenues for development and that free up traffic that brings business to Rockdale County. We need new sewer lines and sewer capacity to open up room for economic development and those things haven't been addressed."
He also said the county needed "new ideas" for economic development and mentioned the business incubator being developed by the city of Conyers. He vocalized his support for a partnership with the city (which Oden has also done), locating the incubator at the county's Parker Road site, near the Rockdale Career Academy, as the start of an education-commerce corridor.
Hill added he frequently hears from voters about public safety and pledged his intent to work with the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office in any way possible to keep neighborhoods and businesses safe.
"If we don't have a good, safe community, we don't have much of a community at all," said Hill. "Publicly, there have been a couple times when the chairman hasn't worked with the sheriff and we're going to work with (the sheriff) to make sure they have what they need, be it manpower or capital-wise, to do what we can to make the community safe."
He also said he'd like to bring a different style of leadership to the commission.
"(People talk to me about) the overall tone of government leadership we're getting," he said. "People feel they want better representation from the people who make decisions for them. They want to be assured they're not going to waste money on things that aren't important but will look at things like code enforcement and public safety, and that's where our money is going to be spent and not wasted.
"And I think people want a chairman who's going to act like the chairman of a board and not a top-down CEO. The chairman pushed the two part-time commissioners away from their decision-making as soon as he took office. He's maintained that tone, and a few weeks ago he made the statement that a particular vote didn't mean a thing and that power still rested with the chairman. It sounds like he's lost touch with what he was elected to do -- he was elected to represent the people ... If you lead by example, you understand that you've got to listen to other people and get other people involved in the process to set the tone for the whole community."
A native of Rockdale County, Hill graduated from Rockdale County High School in 1989, earned a degree in management from Georgia Tech in 1994 and received his MBA from Georgia State in 1999. He and his wife Andrea (who met while both were students at Georgia Tech) have two children, Graham, 7, and Ashley, 5.
For more information, visit www.electjasonhill.com.