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News Candidate profiles for District 1 commissioner

Jim TateTwo Republicans reveal reasons for seeking the seat.

With the conclusion of the filing period for the 2014 election, candidates are gearing up for the campaign season. While many candidates will not see their name on the ballot until the November general election, several local and state offices will have a primary in May to decide between candidates of the same party.

The Macon County News will present candidate profiles on all primary candidates between now and May, and will then profile candidates vying for seats in November.

The Macon County Board of Commissioners District I seat is one office that voters will take to the polls in May to decide which candidate will move on to the general election in November. The winner of the May primary will face Democrat challenger Michael Rogers in the November general election.

Incumbent Commissioner James Tate has filed for re-election to the position he has held since 2011, and this year will face Republican challenger John Shearl.

Both Shearl and Tate were asked the same questions for their candidate profiles.

Give me a brief bio of yourself, personal, educational, professional and political.

Commissioner James (Jim) Tate: Tate is a fifth generation native of Macon County. After graduating high school, Tate attended Southwestern Community College where he studied to become an Emergency Medical Technician. He then went on to receive his Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Georgia.

Tate is currently the president of Tate Landscaping Services, Inc. He is a member of the Highlands United Methodist Church and has served on the Highlands Fire and Rescue Department for 15 years. Tate served 13 years as an officer of the Highlands Fire and Rescue and is currently serving as a Rescue Lieutenant. He was a 14-year employee as an EMT-I for Macon County Emergency Medical Services.

Tate was first elected to the Macon County Board of Commissioners in December 2011. He has served on the Highlands Cashiers Land Trust as a past member of the Board of Directors, is a present member of the Highlands Rotary Club, and has served as past chairman of the Highlands Zoning Board of Adjustment, Highlands Planning Board, Highlands Appearance Commission and Highlands Land Use Committee. Tate was past vice-chairman of the Macon County Republican Party, and is a past member and current liaison to the Macon County Planning Board.

In 2012, Tate received Duke Energy’s Citizenship and Service award for Macon County. Tate and his wife Allison currently reside in Highlands with their two children, Ethan and Eliza.

John Shearl: After graduating from Franklin High School in 1987, Shearl went on to become a Macon County business owner. He currently owns and operates two small businesses, J&J Lawn and Landscaping Services, Inc. in Highlands and Shearl Produce in Otto.

John ShearlShearl has served the community as a retired firefighter from Highlands Fire and Rescue and former president of Highlands Little League. He is a past board member of the Highlands School Booster Club and a former assistant baseball coach for Highlands School.

Shearl currently serves Macon County as a member of the Macon County Planning Board. Shearl and his wife Lila live in Highlands and have three sons, Allen, Michael, and Jared.

2) Why do you want to be commissioner?

Tate: “My answer may sound simple, but Macon County is my home,” said Tate. “I am the fifth generation of my dad's side of my family to choose to reside in Macon County, and as a commissioner, I can help ensure that it will continue to be a great place to live. Public service is a calling that I have had since finishing college as evidenced by my continuous flow of volunteerism and service to numerous boards. I want to apply my knowledge, my work ethic and my skills to ensure that Macon County will be a place that all of our children will be proud to call home as well.”

Shearl: “I am a conservative-minded person and I think that it is critical that our government is closely monitored by true conservative people to protect our tax paying citizens,” said Shearl.

What do you think is praise worthy for the way the county is being run?

Tate: “Macon County is in the industry of 'serving people' and I think our greatest asset is the people that we employ who make this happen,” he said. “Our county staff has been able to provide friendly and efficient services while maintaining some of the lowest taxes in the state and country. I am definitely proud of our Macon County team's day to day efforts. I recently attended the National Association of Counties conference where I was able to discuss items of interest with commissioners from all over the United States. I didn't meet a single representative whose county had as low a tax rate as our tax rate. For us to be able to offer similar services for much less money is definitely a point of pride.”

Shearl: “The one thing that comes to my mind is that you have two commissioners on the board of five commissioners that is trying to protect the tax payers by voting 'no' on excessive spending,” said Shearl.

What do you think can be improved on?

Tate: “Some of our county services are provided by companies in different counties and in different states,” said Tate. “The most basic principle of economics teaches us that it is better to keep our funds local rather than to outsource them. I have been and will continue to work on solutions to ensure that every tax dollar that must be spent, will be spent in Macon County.”

Shearl: “I would like to work on the policies for economic development,” he said.

If elected, what is one thing that you would hope to see accomplished during your term?

Tate: “The most important tasks to me are staying fiscally responsible, keeping our communities safe, providing the necessary facilities and tools for our children to be successful, and ensuring our county services are provided in an open, friendly and proficient manner,” said Tate.

Shearl: I would like to make sure our county government is running efficiently and we offer our citizens the best services possible, while being mindful of taxpayers’ dollars,” said Shearl.

What do you see as being the greatest challenge as commissioner?

Tate: “I think the greatest challenge is time management,” he said. “There are weekly meetings, daily phone calls and numerous emails that deserve my full attention. Juggling this with family and work can be a momentous task at times. My sincere appreciation goes to my wife Allison for helping me accomplish the needs of my day to day life. We really make a great team.

"Another challenge is having patience. I understand that government is sometimes a slow process and my efficient working mentality wants to speed up the process so that immediate results can be seen. It has taken some time, but I am finally learning how to master my patience with government, so that expected results can and will prevail.”

Shearl: I think being elected to the Board of Commissioners is the first thing and then having the commissioners work together as a whole board,” he said.

Any additional comments you would like to make?

Tate: “My record shows that I believe in civil discourse, honest leadership and a commitment to our mountain heritage,” he said. “I consider it an honor to be a Macon County Commissioner and I still have a deep desire to continue working for the people of Macon County.”

Shearl: “There is only one contested commissioner race this year in the primary election on May 6,” said Shearl. “This race is between Commissioner Tate and John Shearl as the challenger. I would like the voters to know I am not running against Commissioner Tate. I am simply giving the Republicans and unaffiliated voters a choice between, [in my opinion] two totally different philosophies and candidates from the Republican Party. As an appointed commissioner and then as an elected commissioner, [to my knowledge] my opponent has not voted against any spending measures since his time as a county commissioner. The budget has increased and the county borrowing has continued on the backs of the taxpayers when a lot of our citizens are struggling to pay their own bills. I completely disagree with this philosophy.”

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