The Valdosta Daily Times
When John Page stepped down from his Lowndes County Commission District 5 seat to run for the Georgia Senate, it left a vacancy to be filled in a non-partisan special election May 20. The special election will be held at the same time as the General Primary.
The three candidates in the race are Norman Bennett, Gretchen Quarterman and Clay Griner. Bennett served on the county commission in the 1990s, while Quarterman and Griner have not held elected office previously.
The winner of the special election will take office immediately and serve out the remainder of Page’s four year term.
MEET THE CANDIDATES
G. Norman Bennett
G. Norman Bennett, 77, has been married to Robin Moran Bennett for 22 years; they have 6 children and 10 grandchildren.
After graduating from Valdosta High School, Bennett earned his Business Administration degree from Valdosta State University, then he completed a master's program at Florida Atlantic University.
“I have 40 years of business experience in the paper industry,” Bennett states. “I began as an hourly employee and worked my way up to top management in Safety and Human Resources (at PCA).”
Bennett served on the boards of the United Way, Heart Fund, March of Dimes, Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations over the years.
“I served our country for three years in the United States Marine Corps,” Norman states. “I also served two terms on the Valdosta State University Foundation and recently served on the Valdosta – Lowndes County Industrial Authority for about five years, until my announcement to run for district five.”
Bennett entered into the district five race because, to him, it is all about the timing and series of events.
“There has been quite a turnover on the Commission as candidates decide not to run or to run for seats at the state level,” Bennett stated. “Plus, my 20 years on the County Commission have given me the skills that are needed to lead.
“My goal is to see that Lowndes County is managed in a conservative, cost effective manner with low taxation and to truly represent all the people,” Bennett said.
Bennett sees four factors affecting the area — education, economic development, transportation, and community structure.
For economic development, Bennett plans to continue supporting small businesses, existing industries, and work together to bring new companies to the community.
Bennett believes, “Transportation is a vital need because you have to move people and/or products.” He said during his time on the commission, he and other commissioners worked to improve transportation by constructing the facilities on Perimeter Rd., the overpass downtown, and by making South 41 and Lakes Blvd. four lanes.
Clay Griner, 39, and his wife of 16 years, Mendi Ray, began dating when they were students in high school. She went to Valwood and he went to Lowndes, and they both graduated from Valdosta State University. They have three children.
After graduating from Lowndes, Griner earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1996 from VSU, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. He began working at Griner Automotive Group and over the years, has worked his way up from a sales representative position to a sales management position. He became the general manager of Griner Chevrolet in Quitman, until the dealership was sold, and now, Griner is vice president of Griner's Nissan and Cadillac locations.
His extensive business background is something Griner takes pride in.
“I have never held a public office, but I have 17 years of management experience with Griner Automotive Group,” Griner said. “My motivation for entering this race was the desire to make a difference in Lowndes County. I believe God has given everyone certain gifts and that we should use those gifts to honor Him and contribute in our communities.”
Griner believes that he is the best candidate for this position because of his knowledge of accounting and finance.
“I can help Lowndes County efficiently and effectively utilize tax dollars to provide the needed services to Lowndes County residents,” Griner said. “I have three goals for Lowndes County. The first is to promote a business friendly atmosphere to entice new business and industry to come to Lowndes County to provide well-paying jobs. The second is to help develop a long range plan to support growth in Lowndes County. My last goal is to promote a cooperative and positive interaction between city, county, state and federal governments.”
Gretchen Quarterman, 55, married her husband John on his family farm 20 years ago and they reside there today. They have two daughters.
Quarterman earned her Bachelor's degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton, and her Masters from the University of Buffalo.
She co-founded a technology startup company, and worked as a self-employed freelance consultant. Since she lives and has worked on a farm, Quarterman has agricultural experience as well.
“As a farmer and business owner, I am aware of the challenges that face our community in providing opportunities for economic development, in providing government services with limited resources, and with keeping citizens informed about these opportunities and services,” Quarterman states. “I chaired the South Georgia Growing Local Conference this January, bringing people here to promote local food and the local economy.”
Being involved in the community is something Quarterman takes seriously. She has served on the Zoning Board of Appeals, she is a UGA Master Gardener and regularly volunteers at the Lowndes County extension office, she's a member of the Valdosta Rotary Club, the Valdosta Chamber of Commerce, the Lake Park Chamber of Commerce, the Valdosta Civic Roundtable, and the WWALS Watershed Coalition.
On a regular basis, Quarterman attends and films most Lowndes County Commission meetings, the Greater Lowndes Planning Commission, and the Valdosta – Lowndes County Industrial Authority meetings.
She films and posts these videos to YouTube because Quarterman believes in governmental transparency.
“Government transparency is a fundamental building block in making sure that citizens have open access to the government and that the government is being good stewards of available resources,” Quarterman states. “In my observations of our local county government, I see many things that we do well as a community and many that we can do better.”
Her love for Lowndes County is why she entered into the district five race.
“I have a real love of Lowndes County,” Quarterman states. “Performing service to the community is an important part of citizenship.”
Quarterman believes that a more open and inclusive government would increase its effectiveness as well as the confidence of the citizens.
Her goals for Lowndes County include making the local government and local boards more transparent and accountable, ensuring that local officials are good stewards of taxpayer's money, and standing up for property rights.