After receiving 52.58 percent of the votes in the Aug. 7 primary election, Don Baragary feels ready to take on a second term as presiding county commissioner.
“I was just thankful to all my supporters, and humbled by the amount of supporters I had in the campaign,” Baragary said.
Baragary has several priorities lined up for this upcoming term. Topping the list is supporting the proposed gas tax on the ballot in November. If approved, the gas tax would increase by 10 cents over the next fours years. The additional funding would pay highway patrol costs, allowing cities and counties more money to build infrastructure like highways and bridges.
“The gas tax, I think, is a good thing going forward for the state infrastructure,” Baragary said. “It’s also going to help local citizens a lot.”
Additionally, Cooper County anticipates finalizing payments on the Cooper County Detention Center this year. This could possibly allow the county to fund improvements on the facility.
Baragary also plans to work to increase courthouse security in this coming term. After years of deliberation, the Cooper County Commissioners approved a mass upgrade of security measures for the Cooper County Courthouse this spring. This included installing electronic locks on the exterior doors of the courthouse and limiting public access to the High Street door.
“Down the road, [the court] could be like others counties, with a metal detector,” Baragary said. “We are not immune to something happening here.”
Throughout his campaign, Baragary stressed his belief in running the county like a business.
“I think we’ve already set the stage for running the county like a business,” Baragary said. “The county has good financial stability. We intend to grow and maintain that. In time, you can decrease taxes or increase services. I think we’re going to be looking at a hybrid of doing both.”
Keat Catlett, outgoing Cooper County Clerk, has worked with Baragary and the other commissioners for the past year.
“It’s been a good working relationship,” Catlett said. “He cares about what he does immensely. He’s never really satisfied with the status quo and is constantly working to improve.”
Baragary is well aware of the criticism he received from a segment of the population concerned with concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the county.
“On issues like that, you’re always going to have people who don’t agree,” he said. “It’s somewhat similar to the abortion issue. It’s hard to change people’s minds. As we move forward, I think people will begin to realize that we’ve had CAFOs, there have been no issues, and we foresee no issues.”
Going forward, Baragary said he plans to work with other elected officials to accomplish these goals.
“Everybody needs to have the same goal in mind, and that’s that the stakeholders are the taxpayers,” he said. “If everyone comes into office with that goal in mind, it will not be a problem.”