Although the responsibility is new and he expects a learning curve, he said the position is not entirely novel, since he has served as the planning commissioner for Ward 6 in Woodstock for about four years.
“I’ve provided leadership in planning and land use decisions, which is also one of the responsibilities of a county commissioner. The professional experience I’ve gained through my practice focusing on counties and cities throughout the state will also serve to lower the overall learning curve of my new position and shorten its duration,” Gordon said. “Listening is also a critical component of learning, which is part of the skill sets I’ve developed as an architect, where I must listen to the needs of my clients in the delivery of professional services.”
Besides his experience as a planning commissioner, Gordon said he’s preparing for the seat by establishing relationships within the county. After the runoff election results showed Gordon defeated his opponent Larry Singleton, he started reaching out to Chairman Buzz Ahrens, Commissioners Brian Poole and Ray Gunnin, Commissioner-elect Steve West and outgoing Commissioner Jason Nelms.
“I have also talked with several of the county’s mayors and council members and plan to continue to engage other leaders in the days ahead,” Gordon said. “To prepare to serve the citizens, I am currently in the process of setting up a dedicated phone number, email address and web resources so that the residents of District 4 will have multiple ways to contact me regarding their concerns and to voice their opinions.”
To engage more citizens, he said he also plans to schedule quarterly town hall-style meetings that will rotate to different locations within District 4.
Economic development a top priority
Once Gordon is sworn in come January, he says he plans to put economic development on the top of his priority list. He says the county’s economy is showing signs of improvement, along with its top-rated schools, outstanding public safety resources and low tax burden that makes Cherokee positioned for economic growth.
“We must continue to bring good jobs to our county and help our existing businesses succeed. The traffic congestion on Interstate 575 and other state highways will be reduced if more county residents are able to find good jobs closer to home,” Gordon said. “Economic development growth also increases our tax base and will allow us to continue to improve the quality of the services and resources that the county is tasked with providing.”
Gordon said decreased property values, failed businesses and foreclosures have been the top issues facing the BoC. Although the county has kept the tax burden low and service levels high during the recession, Gordon said it appears the county is not as competitive in staff compensation.
“Cherokee County is committed to training, especially with respect to public safety,” Gordon said. “However, we can’t afford to continue to lose the cost of our investment in training to other cities and counties that are willing to offer a better compensation package.”
Gordon suggests a solution to prevent county employees from leaving would be to revisit how the county gauges their position in the market with respect to staff compensation, and be willing to adjust to remain competitive. He would also like to give staff the opportunity to express concerns and opinions about their job comfortably.
“Whether the staff concerns are anonymous or direct, we can make sure that we are hearing and responding to those whom we ask to take care of us. In my business, we recently conducted an anonymous online staff survey, which was very beneficial. This method is one I will propose that we consider for the county,” Gordon said.
Having served on the public input committee for the county’s parks and recreation master plan and on the boards of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association and the Greenprints Alliance of Woodstock, Gordon expressed excitement to now play a leadership role in implementing the plan.
“We all know how great it is to live in Cherokee and more of us are beginning to work here as well. Having quality places to play is an important component of the live-work-play equation that results in balanced, healthy and vibrant communities,” Gordon said.
As Gordon prepares for the BoC role, he plans to revisit with County Manager Jerry Cooper and other department leaders to discuss what is working, what needs improvement and what they perceive are the greatest needs and biggest challenges.
“Early in the campaign, I met with those leaders, including the Office of Economic Development, Chamber of Commerce, numerous civic and neighborhood associations, our sheriff and public safety leaders in order to gain a ‘boots-on-the-ground perspective,’” Gordon said. “In the days leading up to taking office, as well as the days to follow, I will be repeating this process regularly in order to stay current, engaged and informed with the people who are on the front lines of service delivery.”