Today’s Courier Herald Column:
I first met Robert Stokely in 2000. We spent a day riding around Coweta County campaigning with Congressman Mac Collins for his re-election. I say riding very specifically, because Congressman Collins drove. For some, that would be quite unusual. For the former truck driver, Congressman and self described “roads scholar” it seemed quite natural.
Robert and I had a full day to be chauffeured and allowed us to get acquainted in short order. He was and is the Solicitor for Coweta County, which means he is responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor offenses similar to the District Attorney’s responsibility is to prosecute felonies. Now ending his fourth term, he is keeping his pledge to term limits. But he’s not giving up politics.
I must say I was quite pleased to get a note from Robert last week letting me know he would be seeking the State House seat for central Coweta County. The seat is currently held by Representative Billy Horne, also a good friend, who is retiring. Billy has the dubious distinction of having attended high school with me. Luckily, that didn’t hinder his political career.
He’s been a thoughtful and direct representative for the people of Coweta County and those who champion limited government. He has also decided that time spent in Atlanta is time spent away from his young children. I’ll miss having him under the Gold Dome, but his family will be the beneficiary of his absence.
Should Robert be successful in taking his place, the voters of House District 71 will be getting a man who I’ve enjoyed getting to know over the last 12 years, and will bring a common sense perspective with him to Atlanta. One of the reasons I’ve always liked and respected him since our first meeting is that he’s quite comfortable in his own skin.
Many politicians have difficulty in expressing true opinions, choosing words so carefully so as to not offend a potential voter. This is not a problem shared by Robert. He’s direct. He’s blunt. If you question where he stands on an issue, you’re probably not paying attention.
Yet while having strong opinions, he’s also quite open and a good listener. He made it clear as we talked this week that if elected, he’ll be representing ALL the residents of his district. A conservative and running as a Republican, he wants to hear from everyone.
He also is clear that representative government means he ultimately has to decide what is best when casting votes in Atlanta. His website draws this point home saying “But don’t be surprised if I eventually say something you don’t like. Even if it makes you not want to vote for me.”
He’s fairly direct about ethics in government. He pledges “no gifts from lobbyists, special interest groups, etc. I will only accept gifts that are usual and customary between friends and family on special occasions.” For meals, “If I can’t afford to pay for my own meal I will not eat.” For trips “If I can’t afford to go, I will not let someone else pay my way.”
On one of the issues of the day, he suggests he’s in favor of drug testing for those who receive public assistance. But, unlike many who supported that bill this season, he also adds that politicians shold lead by example. He pledges to be first in line for a test.
Beyond specific issues, there’s also a level of understanding of public service with Robert that extends far beyond his own personal involvement in the community. Robert has made a much bigger sacrifice than his time and talents to the citizens of Georgia. On August 16th 2005, Robert’s son Mike was killed by a roadside bomb near Yusufiyah Iraq while serving in Georgia National Guard’s 48th Brigade. He understands commitment at a level that goes far beyond 40 days spent in Atlanta.
Robert has been through some of the worst that life can throw at a man, but has endured and remained true and focused. His character has been tested, and he has remained committed.
As such, I look forward to Robert being in Atlanta. The House could use him and a few dozen more like him. While I can’t vote for him, I have a mother and sister who can. I’ll be asking them to support him.