Editor's Note: Retired businessman Larry Savage is one of four Republicans running for Cobb commission chairman, the others being retired Marine Mike Boyce, former Cobb Chairman Bill Byrne, and incumbent Tim Lee. With no Democrats in the primaries, it appears the GOP winner will take office. Primary elections are Tuesday.
What are the most important issues facing Cobb in the coming years?
Expectations for government services have been built to an unrealistic level. Cobb government and political leadership seems to encourage people to believe that government can do anything it wants to do.
We create plans for development and redevelopment that are very unlikely to produce results that will match the expectations that have been developed. We have created expectations for some amenities that have crowded out funding for unglamorous basics like timely maintenance of roads and facilities. All this puts us in a spot that requires never-ending SPLOST taxes.
We also have the issue of the annual rollover debt of about $100 million. If future interest rates escalate significantly, the interest expense will put new pressure on the operating budget.
We must restore confidence in the Cobb County government and get back on track with long-term, conservative fiscal policy. Last, we must establish transportation policy that addresses actual needs of Cobb County.
What's your position on TSPLOST?
I've studied this for two years, since the bill was signed into law. The law itself is seriously flawed and substantial revision is needed. We need protection of Cobb County's sovereignty and independence.
The current T-SPLOST project list does not produce the needed results in traffic congestion relief for the money invested. The plan in total does not deliver the intended result of a regional transportation system. It's a regional tax plan for parochial projects.
The county has cut services and increased the millage rate recently. Do you see the budget situation improving? If so, will you restore services? If not, how will you balance the budget?
The county should have made more reductions earlier. They waited until it was clear there wouldn't be enough money to operate. The economy will eventually heal but it will be long and slow.
The county already is operating as though the trouble is past. They are hiring and expanding when there is no clear evidence that we are definitely gaining strength.
Balancing the budget is a matter of controlling expenses to a level below or even with revenue. I would prefer planning for a surplus each year by keeping expenses below revenue expectations.
What have you accomplished that you're most proud of?
In my professional career I would point to my role in a turnaround of a declining business at Loctite and Henkel Corp. This business unit was in decline and would likely have been abandoned.
I created a business plan with significant changes in the business. It was implemented under my control and the business unit returned to growth and significant profitability.
I also take pride in certain technical achievements while at General Motors that led to new manufacturing controls that eventually produced significant improvements in product quality that continue to this day.