James Don Bates, 73, a Democrat, was born in Highlands County and graduated from Lake Placid High School. He left in 1954 to attend college, followed by three years in the U.S. Army. He worked in a non-profit research company in North Carolina for 15 years. He was promoted to survey research director, with a nationwide staff. He returned to Lake Placid in 1977, and has lived in Highlands County for 50 years.
His qualifications include owning and operating a business for more than 30 years, service on county committees and organizations, and activity in the local community and church. He is running for the District 3 seat on the Highlands County Commission.
You'll hire the next county administrator. What will you look for?
Management experience, leadership, a motivator of county employees and key staff, community commitment, and ability to work within county government parameters.
What should be a commissioner's priorities in cutting the budget?
County departments establish a budget sustainable from year to year, geared to providing services that can best be delivered by a local government. The commissioner's role is to foster input and then make decisions to arrive at a balanced budget.
Is Highlands an urban county or a rural county?
Outside the rather narrow U.S. 27 corridor, Highlands is clearly a rural county in a fairly slow transition toward urbanization. The controversy arises when the majority of Highlands County residents view infrastructure requirements for rapid future growth.
What is the most important issue affecting Highlands County?
The lack of employment opportunities for residents. From a county government perspective, maintaining our current the existing level of services including public safety, recreational and library facilities.
Which decision of the commission would you have made differently?
Countywide garbage collection. Commission review at the appropriate time in the process did not occur. The commission failed to provide adequate input and direction.
DCA defines Blue Head and Lake Placid North and South as sprawl. What's your opinion?
I do not consider either Blue Head or Lake Placid North or South to be urban sprawl. Each of the three contains one or more attributes that do describe urban sprawl. However, you must consider all attributes together to define any of the three as sprawl.
The commissioners were criticized for the way they fired Mike Wright. What should they have done?
The lack of specific direction from the commission as a board, coupled with the failure on the part of the administrator to adequately communicate to the commissioners, led to the deterioration of confidence and trust that resulted in the action taken.
Highlands County owns an asphalt plant. What should be done with it?
Exactly what we are now doing. The commission and staff, with considerable public input, established a period of 12 months in which careful production records pertaining to costs and to utilization of the asphalt plant be meticulously maintained.
The library loans DVDs, CDs, popular novels and shows movies. Which services should libraries provide?
Many citizens do not have access to DVDs or CDs in their homes and cannot afford to go to local theaters. Additionally, many do not have home access to computers. The provision of DVDs, CDs and computers is entirely within the scope of our libraries.