Rita Rainwater, who served in the office from 1992 to 2004, and incumbent Tom Worthan, who defeated Rainwater for the job in 2004 and is seeking a third term, traded charges during the two-hour event at Sutton Hall in Douglasville. The two are seeking the GOP nomination for chairman in the July 31 primary.
Worthan noted the commission is split 2-2 between Republicans and Democrats and the chairman election will decide which party has the majority on the county commission.
“We need to nominate someone who can win in November,” he said.
The winner in the GOP primary July 31 will face Democrat Romona Jackson Jones in the general election Nov. 6.
Party leaders have said Douglas now leans Democratic in countywide voting. Worthan won re-election in 2008 despite Democrat Barack Obama winning the countywide vote the same year.
Rainwater said her top achievements while in office included construction of the Douglas County Courthouse, Boundary Waters Aquatic Center and the county senior center — and convincing voters to approve the sales taxes to build them.
Worthan said he led the county through the worst recession and the worst flooding — September 2009 flooding damaged 187 bridges and roads — in many Douglas residents’ lifetimes. Worthan also said he inherited a $2 million budget deficit upon taking office after defeating Rainwater in 2004. The county now has “little or no” debt and no long-term debt, he said.
“We need to move forward. It’s not time to move this county backward,” Worthan said.
Rainwater said the chairman must provide more oversight of department heads on purchasing.
She also said the millage rate was 31 percent higher now than in 2004.
“That’s not acceptable to me. Is it acceptable to you?” Rainwater said.
Worthan responded that the higher millage rate is a product of much lower property values, which dropped significantly because of the economic downturn beginning in 2008.
The forum, moderated by former state senator Perry McGuire, also included the three candidates for the new Georgia House District 66 seat representing Douglas and Paulding counties; and GOP candidates for county offices who will be uncontested in the July 31 primary.