Chris Cohilas and Gloria Gaines, who are vying for the Democratic nomination to run for Dougherty County Commission Chairman, greet each other at Darton State College’s D.I.R.T. forum Thursday night. (Staff photo: Brad McEwen)
Dougherty County Commission Chair candidates
Dougherty County Commission chair candidates Gloria Gaines and Chris Cohilas give their closing remarks Thursday at the Darton State College D.I.R.T. (Democrat Independent Republican Team) forum at the college. A number of candidates seeking local office spoke at the forum. The primary election will be conducted May 20.
ALBANY — One the more anticipated political races of the season is the battle to replace Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard, who will not seek reelection when his term ends later this year. Former County Commissioner Gloria Gaines and former Dougherty County Chief Assistant District Attorney Chris Cohilas addressed an audience of citizens and students Thursday night at Darton State College’s Democratic, Independent, Republican Team (D.I.R.T.) political forum.
Gaines, who vacated her seat as District 5 commissioner to run for county chairman, took the podium first, citing her experience as a commissioner as a plus voters should consider in the upcoming Democratic primary.
Having served on the commission for the past six years, Gaines said that the financial health of the community has been one of her biggest concerns and said she has worked in tandem with her fellow commissioners during that time to point the county in a positive financial direction.
“I was part of a team that maintained a positive financial position for Dougherty County,” said Gaines. “I have to give a lot of credit to my fellow commissioners in doing that. We all work together. We pull together to make sure that all the money you entrust us to manage was managed well. That was so important to me. If I’m elected chair, you can believe me that I will continue to focus on the financial health of this community.”
Gaines also cited her life experience as being important to how she will approach the position of commission chair, and said that she feels, much like Atlanta in the 1970s, the key to the county’s success is the success of downtown Albany.
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“In my lifetime I’ve seen mankind accomplish some big things, some good things and positive things,” said Gaines. “I was in Atlanta in the the 1970s and I saw Atlanta come back from the ashes. I saw the Sphinx rise. In the 1970s as capital started to leave downtown and flee to the suburbs, we saw the population decrease just as we’ve seen in Dougherty County. They reversed it because they had leadership with vision. I see now and I look at our future with great optimism. I believe that if we work together, if we share our vision, mankind can again accomplish great things and we can do it here in Dougherty County. I believe by focusing on the downtown, and creating an environment that young folk would want to be in, I believe that that will be the impetus for growth in this community.”
Cohilas, who is currently a partner with local law firm Watson Spence, outlined two major points of his campaign platform and addressed how his service as assistant district attorney had a positive effect on the county.
Cohilas said the biggest points of his campaign were public safety and jobs because those were the two things residents he’s talked to said they are most concerned about and that they feel can be improved.
“I find from talking to people across the community that our citizens’ needs are pretty simple; people want to work and earn a fair wage, and they want to be safe at home,” said Cohilas. “And currently if you look at how Dougherty County is performing, and we’re actually honest about how Dougherty County is performing, we are doing less with more as opposed to more with less.”
Cohilas pointed out that areas of law enforcement, such as the jail and the court system, were also the biggest items on the county’s budget. He said that his work within the DA’s office put him in a position to makes changes.
“I’m a big believer in that when you assess a candidate you look at results and you look at their experience and you look at what they’ve accomplished,” said Cohilas. “I worked in the system that comprises over 50 percent of the budget, that is the most expensive item in the budget, public safety. I worked within that system for seven years and I affected real change. I know the department heads in each of those respective agencies. I worked with them on a day-to-day basis…This community needs energy, it needs results, it needs somebody that is willing to roll up their sleeves and get after it and work hard. I’ve done it not only in the DA’s office, I’ve done it as a private citizen.”
In addition to Gaines and Cohilas, the forum also featured candidates from other area races as well, each given the opportunity to address the crowd with an opening statement and a closing statement, as well as a minute to answer questions posed by the floor.
On hand were U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Branko Radulovacki, U.S. House District 2 Republican primary candidates Vivian Childs and Greg Duke; State House District 151 candidate and incumbent Gerald Greene, State House District 153 Democratic primary candidates Carol Fullerton, Darrel Ealum and Muarlean Edwards; and State House District 152 Republican primary candidate Mary Egler.
Also present were Democratic candidates vying for the nomination to run for Dougherty County Commission District 4 seat, Pat Garner and Tracy Taylor, as well as incumbent District 4 Commissioner Ewell Lyle who is running unopposed in the upcoming primary.
Anthony Jones, who will be challenging incumbent commissioner Jack Stone for the Democratic nomination to run for Stone’s District 6 seat was also in attendance.
Closing the forum was a group of candidates vying for two open seats on the Dougherty County School Board. Challengers Melissa Strother and Aaron Johnson, both campaigning for the Democratic nomination to run for the District 4 seat that will be vacated by Carol Tharin at the end of the year, spoke, as did Democratic primary challengers Shirlette Davis-Marcus, Princess Milledge and Dean Phinazee, who are all hoping win the nomination for the Distric 6 seat that will be vacated by Ealum, who is stepping down from the position to run for Georgia Senate.