NORMAN PARK, Ga. – Bruce Norton is currently mayor of Norman Park, a position he has held for 12 years. Prior to that, he served on the Norman Park Town Council for three years.
Norton said he saw his neighbors, friends and co-workers struggling — just like people in many small towns — and felt he had to be part of a solution.
“They came to the house and begged me to do it [run for mayor] but I didn’t really want to. Like everyone else, I saw people all over the city suffering like many small towns in Georgia,” Norton said in an interview.
Shortly after taking office as mayor, Norton attended a mayoral conference where the then governor. Sonny Perdue spoke.
“He said 80% of the towns in Georgia had less than 5,000 people,” Norton recalled. “So there are a lot of small towns. In this sense (the state) had written many laws to give us a lot of leeway to run and manage the city ourselves.
Norton said these state policies, grants, special use local option sales tax and the Archway partnership are just some of the things that have helped him improve the lives of Norman Park residents. . Early in his tenure, Norton planned to improve Norman Park’s main street.
“I had a vision and I knew what I wanted to do. Like many small towns, we have a main street. We wanted to do that,” he said.
Along with Archway, the county development authority, and the University of Georgia School of Art, he designed the downtown lighting, greenery, and structural improvements. He said another part of the improvements included setting up a private clinic.
“We thought a clinic would be a good idea. Well, we didn’t have any land and we didn’t have a building. Everywhere we turned we heard, ‘no, no and no.’ Finally, a family donated the building to us. But now we have an old building and land,” he said.
He went to development authority, where he has since served as a board member, and it helped secure a new building for the clinic. It was all during his first year as mayor.
Along with improvements to the town centre, Norton and his staff helped facilitate the sale of the old college in Norman Park. He also oversaw improvements to utilities, sewers, and water mains, and helped secure a new water tower for the city. He said many improvements around Norman Park took place throughout his tenure as mayor and were funded by state grants.
“We’ve done a terrific job with the grants,” Norton said. “We needed subsidies, there’s no doubt about it; with a dilapidated sewage system and water system and which includes a new water tower. We’ve made this town something we’re most proud of…so I feel like I can do the same with the county.
Norton said he cut taxes three times throughout his tenure as mayor, and that’s something he would like to repeat if elected to the position of chairman of the council of commissioners.
He said his campaign was based on progress.
“Progress in Colquitt County is a big thing. There are a lot of things in this county to track and use to develop the right kind of progress. Colquitt County has always been ahead of the curve,” Norton said.
He cites Colquitt County’s history with agriculture as a beacon of progress. There have been changes in the agricultural landscape of Colquitt County from cash crops to ranching in recent years. Now he would like to focus on exports of agricultural products and other untidy crops.
“The history of agriculture here in the county is wonderful. We have seen the transition of so many forms of agriculture. It’s our biggest industry. It’s huge today. I see developing these options even more. They can be things like wrappers on the shelves, showing people what Colquitt County offers the country. I can see the tax burdens lifted for those who work in crops. There is so much we could do for the people of Colquitt County,” Norton said.
Norton will face Denver Braswell, current chairman of the Colquitt County Board of Commissioners, in the May 24 Republican primary. Early voting takes place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday through May 20 at the Colquitt County Courthouse Annex. Voters who do not vote early will do so on May 24 at polling stations in their constituency. The Republican winner will be unopposed in the November general election.