Preserving and enhancing the quality of life in Cobb County is the primary reason Kevin Nicholas said he’s seeking a seat on the Cobb Board of Commissioners.
That task figures to be more formidable in the wake of vast economic damage that’s been done due to business shutdowns stemming from the COVID-19 crisis.
Nicholas, an East Cobb resident of more than 20 years, said he’s running because the retirement of Bob Ott, the District 2 commissioner since 2009, has “created a void where we have to provide good leadership. We need to have good solutions, and I have good credentials.”
Nicholas is a business and technology executive who is Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce’s appointee to the Development Authority of Cobb County.
On the June 9 primary ballot, Nicholas will be one of three Republican candidates, along with retired business executive T. Fitz Johnson (profile here) and former Cobb Planning Commission member Andy Smith (profile here).
(Nicholas’ campaign website is here.)
This is Nicholas’ second attempt at seeking public office. In 2014, he ran for the Cobb Board of Education, but was defeated in the GOP primary by then-incumbent Scott Sweeney.
Nicholas has been touting his business experience in his campaign, which like others has had to change course due to the virus. He said he made 2,000 visits campaigning door-to-door and now with online and phone contacts, he said he’s reached about 10,000 potential voters.
One of the biggest issues he’s heard about from citizens in the East Cobb part of District 2 is cityhood.
Nicholas said he’s flatly against East Cobb Cityhood. An incorporation bill introduced in 2019 was put on hold in the legislature for this year.
“This was my view before the campaign,” he said. “I do not support an extra layer of government. The services we get in East Cobb are very good.”
New police and fire departments, he said, would not be any better than what’s provided now by Cobb County.
Providing better support and pay for public safety employees is a high priority for Nicholas. The county has taken initial steps toward implementing a step-and-grade salary structure, and he suggests that for more tenured officers and personnel, there could be an additional bonus structure for retention purposes.
“We’re paying more right now when we lose officers” than in additional salary increases might be in step-and-grade, he said.
Those additional costs figure to be a factor in the coming budget crunch due to declining tax revenue from the COVID-19 shutdowns. Nicholas said it’s hard to predict now how much of a downturn the county will be facing.
“This is why we need someone with a good business mind,” said Nicholas, who is adamantly against raising the property tax millage rate. “We really have to be careful here. We need to focus on our expenses first. You don’t have an unlimited budget.”
SPLOST receipts will be down, and Nicholas said he advocates for SPLOST reform, and in particular how to fund road maintenance.
Ott has warned repeatedly about Cobb’s heavy reliance on SPLOST to provide most of the funds for road projects.
Nicholas said a HOST (Homestead Option Sales Tax) in lieu of SPLOST would offer more flexibility to fund capital improvements, and that he would advocate it as an idea, an option to consider.
In zoning and development matters, Nicholas said it’s imperative “to keep high-density development in check. I hear that all over.
“I have concerns about it, and the way to manage it is to uphold the land-use plan. It’s there for a reason.”
As a member of Cobb development authority, Nicholas voted down tax incentives for redevelopment projects, including the Kroger at the MarketPlace Terrell Mill and a proposed hotel near the Cobb Energy Center, saying they would set a bad precedent.
“They need to be for companies that are bringing high-quality jobs” and not primarily service-industry jobs.
Nicholas is a member of and Stephen Minister at Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church and also has served as Ott’s appointment on the Cobb Neighborhood Safety Commission. He also was a board member of the Powers Ferry Corridor Alliance, a civic group.
“We need a commissioner where you know what they stand for,” he said. “I believe I have the credentials and background, and you have to have a good relationship with the community.
“As a commissioner, I’ll continue to do that,” Nicholas said.
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