20 March 2016

[tpc] A Convo with Syphoe

The Piedmont Chronicles

~ est. 2010 ~

[State of Georgia]

[Newton County]

- A Convo with Syphoe -

As reported in The Covington News and other outlets, Michael D. Syphoe has qualified to run as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Newton Co. as a Democrat. He joins Phil Johnson and Marcello Banes as qualified candidates for that position on the Dem side. Last week I wrote about the GOP side of things with this race. 

A self-described "visionary urban planner," Mr. Syphoe said in his press release: "let's be the team that reignites the economy of Newton Co. and implement sustainable work force development initiatives." He also said that his candidacy is "the start of a movement to change the political culture of Newton." 

Well...he's got the corporate buzzwords down, for sure. He was just missing "synergy." In terms of ranking all five BOC candidates based on the buzzwords, Tonto has Syphoe and Levie in a dead heat... 

The big question a lot of folks have about Syphoe is this: Where has he been? Also, there was a lot of noise and word on the street about him being a possible Craig candidate, or a Slate-of-8 guy. Or both. I decided to track down his number to talk to him. He answered. We talked. For about 40 minutes. More on that later. 

Let's cover the basics: 

- He is originally from Newton County. I verified this and have actually talked to two folks who went to NCCHS with him. I believe he was class of '73. 

- His family is from around these parts, and he's multi-generational, at least from the Social Circle area. I believe that's where his Grandparents lived, and he is born and bred Newton Co. 
Covington News

So, for the record, he hasn't just swooped in out of nowhere. But still, a lot of questions remain. From my documentation, he didn't register to vote in Newton Co. until February 1, 2016. And just how long has he actually resided in Newton Co.? Has he been in touch with Wm. Thomas Craig? What happened in Albany? Why is running? Who is this guy? Well, here's what I could gather based on the phone call. Let's go with bullet points: 

  • When did he move back to Covington? According to him, he's lived in Covington since September of 2014 when he came home to help look after his sick parent.
  • Has he been in touch with Wm. Thomas Craig, Esq.? No, he said. He said he's talked to Tommy Craig twice in his life. Most recently he chatted with him for a couple of minutes before the last BOC meeting. He said he talked with him one other time years back about a something. Can't remember, but it was something in passing - no business involvement. He said he doesn't really know Tommy Craig at all and stressed that he has no involvement with him. At all. 
  • Albany. He said it was all politics. Syphoe has been involved with Charter schools in the past (verified by MBM) and between that and a couple of other things, he felt like the offer was rescinded. He said there was nothing bad in his character or record that led to it. It sounded like he was still pretty PO'd about the whole thing. He stressed to me and anyone else to do the research and he was confident it would put him in a positive light. 
  • We also briefly touched on the Clayton Co. charter school issue as well. Didn't really get a cohesive answer on that one, and I'm still not sure what exactly was involved with that one. 
  • In terms of where he's been the last few years as many in the home county have been fighting hard to be the team to change the culture that he's describing? He says he's been to multiple BOC meetings over the years. I don't remember seeing him any, nor has anyone else I've spoken with, but honestly - I wouldn't have known what he looked like anyway. So...who knows? 
I think he may have gotten a bit irritated a time or two during the course of our interview, but he was really nice and gave a lot of information. He said he's been answering the Tommy Craig question multiple time per day, everyday, for several weeks now. He said he "gets it," though. He said "there's a lot of mistrust out there." He also said it was natural for people to feel that way and to "go off on tangents."

When I asked why, exactly, was he running, he responded with this basically: "I grew up in Newton County...it's home, and I love it." There are parts of the county that still get treated the same as they did in the 70's with the same lack of services. He believes there has been people in the position to change things who were too concerned with looking out for their friends or themselves rather than trying to work to improve things for everyone.

Now, on that particular point, this editor is in full agreement. That's the truth, in my estimation.

On a final note, I really enjoyed talking with him. He's a fun guy to talk to. Very intelligent, as his impressive resume would indicate, he seems to have a pretty good grasp on the issues, though perhaps none completely specifically. We made plans to try to meet up in person and talk some more.

Still some questions, though. We'll keep an eye on it.

I hope to have interviews with Phil Johnson and Levie Maddox fairly soon. I can't get Marcello Banes to answer my calls. I'll try to track down Aaron Varner at some point soon.

Til next time.