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Lee independent candidate qualifies for commission run

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Lee County Commission District 1 representative Dennis Roland will not, it turns out, get a free pass to his second four-year term on the Commission.

The Lee County Elections Board on Friday certified the 123 signatures collected in the district by Mary Egler, assuring her inclusion on the Nov. 2 general election ballot as an independent candidate.

"That's great news," Egler said when informed that the signatures had been certified. "It took a lot of hard work, but it's something I believe in. And I just thought the independent route was the best one to take."

As an independent candidate, Egler still had to pay qualifying fees and she had to collect signatures of at least 5 percent of the active registered voters in her district. Lee County Elections Supervisor Veronica Johnson said Egler needed 116 valid signatures to meet state requirements.

"State law -- and that's O.C.G.A. 21-2-170 and 171 -- says that independent candidates must get signatures of 5 percent of the total number of registered voters at the time of the last election for that office," Johnson said Friday. "In 2006, there were 2,310 active registered voters in District 1, and 5 percent of that total is 116.

"Ms. Egler has now met all the requirements for qualification, and she will be on the ballot Nov. 2."

Egler, who had previously run for a seat on the Commission as a Democrat, said she talked with voters in the northern Lee County district about her platform while collecting the required signatures.

"I plan to work for the betterment of Lee County and to work with the other commissioners to improve the northern part of the county," she said. "I don't understand why this can't be done. I'm not going to say that Mr. Roland doesn't try to do that, but it's going to be controversial and a struggle for whoever's the commissioner.

"I feel that the Commission is so interested in developing the southern part of the county they've forgotten the northern part. All we're getting from the county right now is garbage pickup. We're not asking them to run sewer and water out to us; but we want improved medical, fire and EMS services. And it wouldn't hurt to have a traffic light in town and some decently maintained dirt roads."

Egler said she's chosen to keep a low profile about her campaign until she'd met eligibility requirements.

"I didn't want to put the cart before the horse," she said. "But I intend to be the next Lee County Commissioner from this district. I'm not putting Mr. Roland down, but I think I can help our district."

Roland said Friday he's ready to campaign for his re-election.

"It's like the last time I ran: Mr. (Ed) Duffy found out he'll be in office in July, but I'll have to wait until November," Roland said. "Sure, it would be great not to have to campaign, but competition is what makes this country so great.

"There are a lot of needs in the northern part of the county: I'd like us to get a couple more fire stations -- out (State Highway) 32 where they're building new homes and on New York Road -- and there are a couple of roads I'd like to see paved. I've made it known that I'd like to see us put in an ag center in the county. Agriculture is our No. 1 industry, and we spend less than $60,000 a year on our children involved in agriculture."

Roland took a couple of shots at recent decisions made by the Commission.

"SPLOST (special-purpose local-option sales tax) is a good thing, but we're collecting around $3 million a month now and using $2 million of it to cover past debt," he said. "If we don't cut back on spending in the county, we're going to continue to have issues.

"It's really tough getting things in the northern part of the county when all the growth and attention is on the southern part. Like Mr. Duffy made the motion to pave one of our roads last year, but he also didn't mind throwing in three or four in his own district."

Johnson said the Elections Board also certified results of Tuesday's primary election Friday.