As the chief executive officer of the North Fulton County Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Handel said, she brought the organization back from the brink of bankruptcy. As chairwoman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, she said, she inherited a major budget shortfall but balanced that budget without raising taxes.
Though many of her gubernatorial opponents have good intentions, Ms. Handel said, Georgia's next governor will need someone with crisis-solving experience.
Georgia's tax code is in desperate need of reinvention, she said.
True tax reform, Ms. Handel said, is more than making cuts at a state level that force counties and school boards to shoulder the burden of recouping lost revenues.
"That's not tax reform," she said. "That's called a shell game."
A strong advocate of charter schools and technical colleges, Ms. Handel said officials need to examine what is working in the education system and build on it.
"We have a responsibility to ensure that young people are staying in school and that they are well-prepared for what is awaiting them," she said.
Despite a Wednesday announcement from state officials that Georgia is no longer in a drought, Ms. Handel said it is only a matter of time before a drought returns.
The state needs to prepare now by engaging into public-private partnerships to build reservoirs and officials need to develop a comprehensive water management plan.
Ms. Handel is one of about a dozen candidates seeking the state's top government job in the 2010 election.
Thursday's speech was the second time Ms. Handel had spoken to the Columbia County Republican Women inside a year.
Other gubernatorial candidates who have visited Columbia County in recent weeks include Republicans John Oxendine and Austin Scott, and Democrats Thurbert Baker, David Poythress and DuBose Porter.
Republican candidate Nathan Deal will speak at a June 27 meeting of the Columbia County Republican Party at Fatz Cafe on North Belair Road.
Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.