An Interview with Rick Pettitt
Snow crunches underfoot on my way into the county courthouse. Since it expanded into two locations, it’s quieter than I found it in the past. A cheerful mood hangs over the office. Rick Pettitt rises from his desk with a smile. We pull up chairs around his conference table and I ask him as a newly elected commissioner, what he wants to focus on going forward.
Rick leans back in his chair, his eye bright beneath his frosted hair. “I’m most interested in long-term planning and providing for growth,” he says. It’s important to think about how to finance better roads, and additional personnel. “Our county is no longer stagnant,” he says. “That brings up new issues such as zoning and regulations.” The commissioners want to focus on bringing them up to speed and streamlining them, so the local government can best serve the interests of its citizens.
Since Rick served as the county treasurer for eight years, he brings a unique perspective to the commissioner’s team — an understanding of the county budget and finances. “I feel those are my best strengths,” he says, “and my thirty-five years of living in the county and listening to its citizens. I also have the benefit of experience. I know what has failed in the past, so we can avoid making those same mistakes.”
His passion for Elbert County would be to introduce more light industrial commercial development. “Our main problem is that we do not have jobs for our kids,” he says. “They grow up and move away to find jobs and then move back here once they can afford it.” He would love to have a framework in place where our county youth could find work within Elbert County. “I would like to keep our children local.”
Rick says the focus of the commissioners in the first quarter is studying county facilities. “We are in old buildings,” he says. “They need upkeep. We want to evaluate them, get a sense of what needs done to keep them in safe working condition, and then budget for it so we’re not surprised.”
When asked about the work relationship with fellow commissioners Chris Richardson and Grant Thayer, Rick says, “I have known [Commissioner] Grant Thayer over twenty-five years. We have a good working relationship where we can discuss problems and find workable solutions. Chris is also easy to work with.” While they may not always agree, they can discuss matters and part as friends.In his spare time, Rick works with the local Lion’s Club. “Some of our recent projects have been our $1,000 scholarships for kids in local schools,” he says. “We also have a kid’s sight program, where we offer eye exams. We helped three kids at the Kiowa school get glasses.” They raise funds through pancake breakfasts. “This year we’re selling peaches,” he says. “We will collect names in June and place our orders for August deliveries.” He also enjoys spending time with his family, golfing, and hiking.