Due to the social distancing guidelines, we have converted our traditional AllOnGeorgia candidate video interviews into short questionnaires. Each candidate in the race was provided an identical questionnaire with the same deadline. (Questionnaires were emailed to the email address listed on the qualifying paperwork) Candidates were told their answers would be blank in the event that they did not respond. Answers were not edited in any way.
The Primary Election was moved to June 9th.
Early voting begins May 18th.
To sign up to volunteer as a poll worker, click here.
Please provide a brief bio on yourself.
My name is Curt Deal and I am seeking to be re-elected to Seat 2A on the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners. I graduated from Statesboro High School in 1990. After attending Georgia Southern, I earned a mortuary science degree from Gupton-Jones College of Mortuary Science in 1994. During the past 26 years, I have served the funeral industry as both a sales consultant and a funeral director.
I am a member of First Baptist Church and an active member of the media ministry team. I have served as a deacon, on the finance committee and a ministerial search committee. I have been married to Jenni Groover Deal for 26 years. We have 3 children, Hannah, Harrison and Halli.
What are 3 strengths of which our county can be proud? Why do you see these as strengths?
First, would be our county’s stable financial condition. In 2019 we reached a sufficient level of rainy-day funds. With the current Covid-19 pandemic our financial strength will be put to the test. On March 14, Bulloch County was able to initially set aside $100,000 for the Bulloch County Health Department for emergency purchases due to the pandemic.
Second, the renewal of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and the passage of the Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) in 2018 now provide the County and its cities sustainable funding for capital projects for several years to come, without the dependence on our property taxes.
Third, our judicial system is operated effectively by responsible judges, clerks, and attorneys whose number one priority is fair and responsive justice. Sharing resources with Effingham, Jenkins, and Screven Counties, we have added two new part-time juvenile court judges to fill a serious void. We also expanded a previously local mental health accountability court and regionalized the scope to add felony drug clients. These initiatives were achieved at little cost and will help keep people out of our County Jail in the future.
What are 3 needs that must be priorities for Bulloch County to address?
Currently, addressing the current pandemic must prevail. However, under normal circumstances my three priorities are below:
First, we must consider shifting resources to dirt-road maintenance. With over 750 miles of dirt roads, we continually face multiple challenges such as finding and keeping qualified machine operators, and experiencing increased maintenance demands due to more significant road traffic and adverse weather. We possibly need to consider transferring the use of personnel and machinery from internal special construction projects to more intensive dirt road maintenance until some of the problems have been overcome.
Second, during the next term, Bulloch County will need to address and plan facility expansion for detention and justice services. Jail overcrowding is present and persisting, and judicial facilities are both aging, dispersed, and space deficient. Some limited measures are available to minimize the challenges in the short-term. However, the critical issue will be how to pay for these new facilities and keep their operational costs affordable. Also, deciding what to do with any abandoned judicial space should be considered. The County will likely have to devote a considerable share of future Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax proceeds to these facilities without alternative resources.
Finally, public safety exceeds half of the County budget. We cannot ignore the needs of this function with a growing population. We must continue to work with the Sheriff’s Office on expanding school resource officers and road deputies in an effort to reduce the amount of overtime. Also, we need to continue the work of expanding the Rural Fire District. This would improve our ISO rating resulting in a reduction to our homeowner’s insurance rates.
An individual commissioner has no authority; only the board as a whole can make decisions for the district. What skills or traits will allow you to contribute to effective operations of the board as a whole and how do you overcome disagreement?
Bulloch County does not have single member districts. We have one district with four commissioners (which I hold a seat in) and one district with two commissioners and a countywide elected Chairman. I believe that this kind of arrangement discourages territorial or distributional disputes and promotes teamwork. That isn’t to say that there aren’t disagreements or conflicting votes. Rather, the Board of Commissioners as a whole are not quarrelsome and there is no acrimony or grandstanding. The skills or traits that allow me to contribute effectively and to avoid disagreement include keeping up to speed with issues by talking to citizens, staff and department heads, being prepared for meetings and presenting persuasive arguments or points based on rational and factual information.
If (re-)elected, what would you hope would be key accomplishments of the board during your years of service?
We need more high-quality private sector jobs and investment. We must improve our brand and boost efforts to diversify our local economy, to make our commercial and industrial districts attractive to investors, while promoting the advantages of doing business here. Growing this kind of tax base provides taxpayer relief.
Current construction and development are occurring at a pace which existing personnel and other resources cannot keep up. Our development ordinances must be updated for consistent application of our comprehensive plan and so that we can reduce confusion caused by the overuse of conditions in zoning decisions.
We must maintain high standards for parks and recreation functions, which leverages public safety and economic development for our community.
What are your views on the county’s current budget and spending practices? Do any departments need additional appropriations to better serve the citizens?
The County’s financial condition is stable. We have met a key goal in our five-year plan for a sufficient level of rainy-day funds. These rainy-day funds allow us to maintain liquidity, give us the ability to weather emergencies, and improve our credit worthiness. Our budget process and presentation, and we hope soon our financial audits, are now recognized as award winning by public finance experts. We have a very robust financial management system.
Our spending practices are sound that include a disciplined and modernized pay plan, frequent competitive purchasing and bidding, and strong monitoring of capital purchases and construction projects. There are few departments that would say that they did not need additional resources, but we do our best to determine needs versus wants which are carefully vetted first by the budget staff and then by the Commissioners.
If times were normal outside of the pandemic, I would say that most public safety functions will need additional appropriations, especially the Sheriff’s Department and we have to improve dirt-road maintenance. However, with the County’s responsibilities to provide other state-based services we are limited in reducing services in one department and giving it to another. Our only recourse is manipulating the property tax rate which is not popular or wanted.
Are county taxes too high, about right or pleasantly low?
I think our property taxes are about right. However, after backing out the Board of Education tax rate, the County tax rate is comparatively low within Georgia. We are fortunate the citizens passed the SPLOST and TSPLOST. Without the passage of the two sales tax, we would have probably had to consider an increase to the millage rate to meet the capital needs of the budget.
Describe how you see a county commissioner’s role in the daily operations of the county government and what kind of oversight should the Board of Commissioners have over county employees?
Legally, the Board of Commissioners is a legislative body with executive authority that represents the interests of all citizens to create and manage county laws and policies. Technically, it is a part-time job but with full-time responsibilities. We have had a County Manager system for 30 years which allows us to delegate some of the executive responsibilities which is necessary for a county of nearly 80,000 people and with an $80 million annual budget. We have to employ responsible professionals in management and supervisory roles to help oversee a complex organization. Yet, it does not absolve a county commissioner from being proactive.
Meanwhile, we have limited powers in relation to other county elected officials such as the Sheriff, Tax Commissioner, judges and others. Generally, we provide these officials with a budget, but cannot dictate to them how they operate by law. However, the operational policies we have in place, and that are updated as needed, for personnel, finance and other oversight matters are cooperatively implemented thanks to the trust that has been built over the decades between all county elected officials and employees. The Board of Commissioners has always had the latitude to influence oversight over county employees under the system we have. If we see a problem with oversight of daily operations and county employees, the authority exists to address it.
How can the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners be more transparent about activities and finances?
The transparency of the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners is displayed the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month. I, as well as fellow commissioners, encourage the citizens to join us at our bimonthly meetings. Monthly financial reports are made available by the county’s CFO. County departments frequently provide operational reports at public and informal meetings. There are many ordinances, policies and reports available on our website. The Board of Commissioners frequently discuss strategy at public meetings.
One improvement in transparency that we can make is improving our presence on electronic and social media. The Board of Commissioners does not presently have a dedicated employee position or contractor for this purpose which requires time and strategy to get out important and factual information. Making videos of our meeting are being discussed. Modern technology and societal changes are inevitably moving us in this direction.
Will any other employment or business venture in which you are vested present a conflict of interest for you as a Bulloch County Commissioner? Please explain your answer.
No. I have no employment or business ventures in which I am vested that presents a conflict of interest, nor do I foresee any.
a) In the event of an unforeseen conflict of interest arising in your official duties, how would you handle such a conflict to ensure maintenance of public trust?
It depends on the type of conflict that arises. Relying on the County Commissioner training that I have received covering various kind of conflicts of interest, I was taught that it is best to be able to recognize potential conflicts before they may occur in order to avoid them or prevent them. There may be some that are inevitable and unavoidable. For example, if I, or someone close to me, owned land that someone wanted to purchase and have it rezoned for a business or a subdivision, I would likely have to provide a disclosure and abstain from voting.
Is there anything else you would like the public to know about you? (This area may also be used to include a bio and offer information on where people can learn more about you?)
Anyone that knows me, knows that I love Bulloch County. I’m proud to have lived here for the past 34 years and marrying a native Bulloch County girl and high school sweetheart, Jenni Groover Deal.
Bulloch County has offered a safe and nurturing environment in school, church and recreation activities while raising our family. My oldest daughter, Hannah, is 22 and a small business owner (The Classic Monogram) after attending Ogeechee Technical College. Harrison, 20, is a sophomore at the University of Georgia majoring in Financial Planning and minoring in Political Science. Halli, our youngest child, 15, is finishing up her Freshman year at Bulloch Academy. First Baptist Church Statesboro has also made a huge impact on all our lives throughout the past 48+ years of serving and being members there. We are very thankful and blessed to call Bulloch County home and to be a part of this great community.
In serving the citizens of Bulloch County, my faith and Christian beliefs play a major role in how I respond and react as a public servant and business owner. Being a public servant is key in being successful, I believe. I chose the funeral industry because my heart was in helping others during the most difficult time of their lives. A servant’s heart is part of who I am and serving as a County Commissioner involves me doing just that as well as carefully making decisions that are best for each citizen I represent.
After being elected, I spent the first year attending classes to become a certified County Commissioner through the Carl Vinson Institute of Government sponsored by the ACCG and the University of Georgia. Transparency as mentioned earlier is important to me as well in keeping up to date with the concerns and needs of citizens. During my past four years as a commissioner, I feel like I have been available and open to talk individually when called upon. Thanks to all who have stood behind me and continued to support me while in office. I look forward to serving as your County Commissioner Seat 2A for more years to come.