We Never Missed a Beat

Steve Taylor’s Hands-on Approach to Government

We Never Missed a Beat

Grey Olson, Writer

Steve Taylor smells of smoke.  As we sit at his dining room table, he asks if I will excuse his hazy aroma. “I was burning brush piles at the farm,” he says, referring to his property in rural Bartow County that serves as his Little White House. It’s where he goes on the weekends to get his hands in the dirt of the can-do, problem-solving attitude of everyday Americans noted by foreign scholars as far back as Alexis de Tocqueville.  His rancher persona quietly but firmly fulfills the Charles F. Browne quote, “We can’t all be Washingtons, but we can all be patriots.” Taylor, though, might not be the best representative of that quote.  As commissioner of Bartow County, he has a little more “Washington” in him than one might first assume.

For five days a week, the 64-year-old sits in his office at the Bartow County Courthouse, where he governs his constituents.  For the most part, this “governing” consists of setting meetings with people ranging from concerned citizens to Governor Brian Kemp and Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.  That is not to say he is incompetent; under his leadership, many projects have leaped from the page to perception, including opening the new Cass White Road this week and his personal favorite, the expansion of Hamilton Crossing Park. “We’ll add a children’s playground, walking pathways, a dog park, baseball, soccer, football fields, tennis courts–that sort of thing,” adding, “We plan to have it finished by about 2023.”  These projects may seem monumental to any citizen of Bartow County; for Taylor, it’s par for the course.  When I compliment him on these achievements, he’s apprehensive about taking too much credit.  “I would not be qualified without the staff and the people I’ve got surrounding me,” the two-term commissioner states.

This network Taylor refers to includes the Bartow County government’s approximately 750 employees, ranging from tax offices to road department workers and security guards stationed at the courthouse’s entrance, all of whom were left vulnerable to the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic this March.  “Since we first realized COVID was in Bartow County until now, we’ve made several adjustments…some of the offices inside our courthouse closed, like our tax offices and probate courts, but our essential workers came in, and we never missed a beat.”  However, Taylor was quick to mention the human toll left by COVID-19.  “Last week, we lost our first county employee, which was very unfortunate.  But, in March, if someone had told me how deadly this virus could be, I would have expected to lose a few, but I am still saddened by the fact someone lost their life.”

As for a mask mandate, a hot-button issue around the country, Taylor states Bartow will not see one anytime soon.  “I believe in individual responsibility, and we have a responsible group of folks that work at the courthouse.  We offer masks to anyone that wants one and have a temperature check outside our building, but I see it as a personal choice and not something that should be a government mandate locally.”

A much more pressing issue for Taylor and the rest of the Bartow County government is the upcoming elections.  “On opening day, we did have some problems with our computers since they are part of a state network, but the state corrected the issues, and it seems to be going very well.”  To accusations of voter suppression, the commissioner states, “Every election, no matter who you’re voting for, is run by a county board, and I don’t anticipate any election problems in Bartow County.”

Voters will not see Taylor on the ballot; he went into the primaries unchallenged and begins his third term in 2021.  While Bartow County is the largest United States county with a sole commissioner and faces a host of new difficulties handling a winter COVID resurgence, Taylor isn’t worried.  “It’s challenging, but I think I’ve got the best staff of any county I know, and I couldn’t do it without them.”