Monday, August 3, 2009

Gubernatorial candidate Carl Camon focuses on education, the economy

A gubernatorial candidate who recently visited Cartersville said the most important issues he wants to focus on are the economy and education. Carl L. Camon, the fifth-term mayor of the 200th smallest city in Georgia, spoke at city hall on July 21.

"We're working along with the department of industry, trade and tourism to help stimulate jobs, to put packages together. We see other states doing the same thing. They're working hard to get companies that will pay more than minimum wage. They're working hard to negotiate with companies over seas that want to relocate," he said in a Thursday interview with The Daily Tribune News.

"Our focus is going to be putting an emphasis on [education] to ensure that we can get those high-tech companies in Georgia to try to stimulate the economy by putting people back to work."

The current mayor of Ray City, which has about 1,000 residents, and educator of 14 years who has taught American government and special education, said education would play an important role in lowering the unemployment rate.

"There's no reason that our University of Georgia system could not prepare our citizens for companies that would like to locate here in Georgia," Camon said, adding that he also wants to restore primary and secondary education in the state.

"We've heard so many different rankings and categories that the state falls in and all of those have been at the lower levels," he said. "That's unacceptable. If given the chance to be governor, I'm going to make education my main focus. We want to do everything we can to return authority back to the classroom teacher. We want to allow teachers to be creative in the sense of working with students and giving the students the tools they need to be successful.

"We don't need to continue to cut education because if we cut education, that's like cutting the future way from our state. All the problems that we face in our society, the majority of them can be linked back to a lack of education.

"[For example], look at the crime rate. People are out committing crimes and you talk with a lot of them. [They say], 'I dropped out of school. I can't find a job. College wouldn't accept me. I was raised in a bad neighborhood.' We can link those things back to a lack of education. You find that the majority of people who have a good education do not go out and live a life of crime. They have great jobs, good opportunities and know the value of a good education."

The military veteran, who served in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force reserves for a total of more than 10 years, said there are three other important issues -- transportation, support for law enforcement officers and other emergency response agencies, and families. Camon, who entered the governor's race as a Democrat, said he would like to look at the possibility of a high-speed rail system in Georgia.

"To be honest, Georgia is behind in that area. We have great roads, but I believe considering the gasoline crisis and accidents, I think that we could lower the number of accidents," he said. "Europe has an excellent rail system and I've had the opportunity to experience that. It would be great to have."

The first African-American mayor of Ray City, who also served a four-year term as chairman on the state's County and Municipal Probation Advisory Council and on other regional and state boards, said he would like to ensure Georgia's law enforcement officers and emergency responders "have the tools to do their jobs.

"I will work hard to ensure that Georgia's law enforcement officers are not out-gunned by criminals who chose to live a life of crime," he said. "I think that drug use and abuse has increased all across our state. We had a problem in Ray City at one time with people coming in our community selling drugs.

"Instead of sitting around, we did something about it. I applied for a grant for a surveillance system and received $30,000 ... We have a system that monitors these trouble areas, [and] as a result of that, drug dealing has been curtailed."

Camon, who said he has 15 years of local government experience, several years of state-level experience on various boards and councils, and national experience with the National League of Cities, said he would also like to strengthen families.

"A lot of the problems we are facing today stem from the lack of a strong family," he said. "We're going to work with Georgia's families by educating them, [for example] to offer incentives for financial counseling. Maybe we could give a certain incentive, maybe a tax break if you would go get financial training so you would know how to balance a check book, know how set a budget, know how to train your children. Not only financial things, but a reduction in domestic violence and child abuse."

His experience as a mayor and an educator would make him the best choice for governor in the 2010 election, Camon said.

"What better person to represent education and educators than one who has spent time in the classroom, one who has experience in the classroom," he said. "In Ray City, you have first-hand experience and that's what small-town America is all about. You have people with real concerns, with real ideas and they want to be heard. And you can't hide behind big skyscrapers in Ray City, Ga. -- We don't have any. You have to meet the people head on and I think that's going to be a positive. I think I'm the only [candidate] whose been a mayor and I think I'm the only educator. I'm also the only person, other than one, who has served in the military.

"I want to bring a bold, new approach to government in the state of Georgia. I want to be able to bring government back home to the people, where everyday, hardworking Georgians can relate, can communicate with me and I can communicate with them. I've made a commitment -- over a four year period, I want to teach one class in every county during my term as governor. I've also committed to doing one other thing -- I'm going to commit $5,000 per year from my salary toward scholarships for high-school graduates just as an incentive. I believe in Georgia's children that much.

"The only promise I will make is whatever resources are available to me, I will use those resources to put citizens first."

Sixteen other people have thrown their hats into the ring, filing declarations of intent to accept campaign contributions for the 2010 Georgia governor's race, according to the State Ethics Commission. They are Daniel Emanuel Alvin, Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker, former governor Roy E. Barnes, current Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, Secretary of State Karen Handel, Robert Francis Ingram, Matthew Jamison, State Sen. Eric Johnson, Thomas R. McBerry Jr., John H. Monds, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, Berry LaSalle Perkins, State Rep. DuBose Porter, David Bryan Poythress and State Rep. James Austin Scott.

Editor's note -- The Daily Tribune News will cover first visits of gubernatorial candidates to Bartow County when notified in advance. Interviews will be conducted on site or at our offices.

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