Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown says he was drafted into the job.
Brown, who will have served as sole commissioner for 21 years when he retires next year, said his phone rang off the hook from residents calling, urging him to run when former Commissioner Frank Moore passed away in the middle of his term.
He was elected to finish the 16 months left in Moore’s term, was sworn into office in August and had to qualify to run for a full term the following April.
“I didn’t have time to think,” Brown said. “It was like a rollercoaster.”
However, Brown said he never expected to serve as the county’s chief officer for 21 years.
“I just kept running,” he said.
Among Brown’s many accomplishments, all of which he said he can’t remember, are improvements to the Cartersville-Bartow County Library, roads and infrastructure improvements, along with ball fields and getting Georgia Highlands College to build a location in Cartersville. Brown said he knew the college would be a big boost to the economy.
“We had people who were coming, and when they come and spend millions of dollars to locate their industry, they want to know about the people and their education,” he said. “That’s the first thing they’re going to check out, the school system. If you have a college there that can give them special training for their company, that goes a long way with industry.”
It’s also a benefit for students as a way to attend classes without leaving the county.
“It’s more important right now with gas prices the way they are,” Brown said.
Among Brown’s other accomplishments is fixing the water lines to alleviate issues of low water pressure and lack of water that plagued the county when he first took office. While Brown said that subject was the reason for most of the late-night calls he received, the one he remembers the most was from a diesel mechanic.
"[He said], 'Think about that. I’m sitting on the sofa. I shouldn’t be sitting on the sofa in these kinds of clothes. But you know what? I can’t take a bath. I don’t have any water,'" Brown said.
The issue stemmed from everyone being allowed to tap onto water lines when they were first installed. Brown remedied that problem by requiring tests to be done on the water lines to check the flow when developers applied for permits to build new houses. If the test failed, zoning requests wouldn’t be granted, Brown said.
“We’re never going back to where we were again,” he said. “It’s going to be able to handle it. That was a huge improvement.”
None of the projects accomplished during Brown’s tenure would have been possible without passage of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, he said. The first SPLOST referendum he asked for was earmarked for the county landfill. The project, which included moving the mountain, digging the landfill, putting in the liner and special soil, and installing a drainage system cost millions of dollars.
“I’m always surprised that the people voted for it because how are you going to tell them you want $10 million to dig a hole in the ground to put your garbage?” Brown said. “How am I ever going to sell that to the people?”
“That was a darn good feeling,” he said.
But, what really mattered was everything he was able to do for the county.
“That’s really what keeps you going,” Brown said. “You accomplish something, and that’s better than money. The feeling is better than money.”