State Senator Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) was the featured speaker at Friday's quarterly Dade County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Lunch was hot dogs, and the topic was economic development. Mullis complained the hot dogs were everywhere--"The hot dogs were so good I thought I'd wear it today"--but the senator's remarks were a little all over the place as well.
"The most important thing is helping the existing industries grow," said Sen. Mullis initially.
He asked Dade commissioners whether Vanguard, the truck trailer manufacturer Dade took some pains to recruit, was up to 400 jobs yet. "No, not yet," said the county commissioner.
Whereupon Mullis said one of the problems neighboring Walker County faced in recruiting industry was its independent news-and-opinion website, The LaFayette Underground. "They're bad-mouthing each other," he said. "It looks like chaos."
Bad news discourages recruiting, said Mullis. "Many times we lose prospects because we don't get to meet them," he said. He then told the story of an industry not coming to Catoosa County because an executive's wife had read online that Catoosa had a methamphetamine problem, and she didn't want to live in an area troubled by meth.
Lunch was foot-long hot dogs catered by Miss Griffin's.
Mullis spent a little time on employment: Dade unemployment rates were low, he said. "Everybody who wants a job has one," said Mullis. And: "There are always people who don't want a job." And: "That's the biggest problem in America...is the workforce."
He said schools are working harder now to teach kids what they need to know, and drew attention to a new program whereby Northwest Georgia Technical College will offer courses at Dade High, potentially allowing students to graduate from high school with enough college credits for an associate's degree.
He congratulated Dade for its small-town quality of life and sense of community, and pointed out that Highway 136 had finally been resurfaced, commending local commissioners for their rapport with the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley (left) said that this had much improved in recent years. "We have a smoother relationship with GDOT than we ever have," said Rumley.
Answering a question from the audience, Sen. Mullis said his greatest problem was communication, both in general--"People think I'm in Washington, that's the biggest challenge I have"--and in specific--"If I answered my email, that's all I'd do in life."
He also fielded a question about why such a disproportionately large chunk of county tax bills goes toward the schools. "The public demands that education be a priority," said Mullis. "And I guess it should be."
The Planet questioned Mullis after the meeting about whether he had--as one Trenton city commissioner recently claimed--advised the city commission to change its charter to keep up with the times. Nope, said the senator.
"I would never do that without their asking me," said Mullis.
Trenton removed an elected office from the upcoming November ballot through local legislation it requested through Sen. Mullis. Mullis said he and local Rep. John Deffenbaugh had both had to agree to the measure, but had done so only at the local commissioners' request, with the understanding it was their unanimous desire.