With three of his four children grown and out of the house, John Thomas said he has more free time now.
"I've always wanted to serve the community, and I felt like this was a good time to do that," said Thomas.
A Whitfield County native, Thomas served on the Whitfield County Board of Education from 2007 to 2010 and has served on the Dalton-Whitfield County Planning Commission for the past two years. Planning commission members are appointed by the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners and the Dalton City Council and hold hearings on and make recommendations on zoning requests.
Thomas is one of five candidates in a March 16 special election for the District 3 seat on the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners. The others are:
• Jonathan Bagley, director of procurement for chemical company Polyventive in Calhoun.
• Shannon Bearfield, a U.S. Air Force combat veteran who works in a medical lab.
• Shane Day, global sales director for Tiarco Chemical in Dalton.
• Chad “Bubba” Young, an insurance agent and former University of Georgia football player.
The winner will complete the late Roger Crossen’s unexpired term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2022. Advance voting continues Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until March 12 at the Board of Elections office in the county courthouse.
Thomas graduated from Northwest Whitfield High School in 1982. He graduated from Dalton Junior College and attended Reinhardt College. He has been a local realtor for the past 21 years and co-owner of Coldwell Banker/Kinard Realty since 2007.
Thomas said commissioners need to continue to work to diversify the county's economy so that it isn't so reliant on floorcovering.
"There's still land remaining in (the Carbondale Business Park) that we can offer to attract some of these companies," he said.
Thomas said he cautiously supports a referendum on the March 16 ballot that would allow commissioners to create tax allocation districts (TADs) that might help lure more development.
TADs freeze the value at which a property can be taxed for general revenue. Taxes collected on additional value created by improvements to the property are dedicated to pay for infrastructure, public artwork or other amenities to attract a developer or developers to that area.
Thomas said the concept of TADs is good but commissioners need to be careful how they are used.
"I'm in favor of incentives, but we have to be really sure before we approve anything that it benefits the county as a whole," he said.
He said in addition to commercial or industrial development they might be used to attract more housing.
"There's a need for more business and more residential development," he said.
Thomas noted there are large apartment complexes totaling 400 units currently under construction near Hamilton Medical Center, in Crow Valley and at other places. But he said there's a need for houses and townhouses for young professionals with families.
"I know from experience that there are people out there looking for homes and they just can't find anything available that meets their needs," he said.
He said TADs might be used to help spur some development to meet those needs.
County commissioners last spring required the use of masks in county buildings to prevent or reduce the spread of COVID-19 but allowed that requirement to expire. Commissioners voted in December to again require masks in county buildings but overturned that requirement in January.
"Personally, I think when you are in a government building you should wear a mask, if not to protect yourself, to protect the people working there," Thomas said. "I strongly suggest people wear a mask. I wear a mask to protect others."
But he said he does not support mandating masks in county buildings.
"This county is doing a very good job of getting the (COVID-19) vaccine out there," he said. "As people get the vaccine, they aren't going to want to wear a mask. How do you deal with that? And I really believe that as we get more people vaccinated that this thing is going to be over sooner than later and we won't need a mask mandate."