Political Notebook: Transportation unity; CAO Thomas leaving

October 1, 2011 

It’s tough to get a bunch of politicians to agree on anything, so it’s noteworthy when it happens.

But 17 Middle Georgia politicians kept voting 17-0 on issues involving a regional transportation sales tax, which would pay for about $1.1 billion in 76 projects.

The closest thing to dissent came with questions about a $27 million item for rail improvements in Bibb and Monroe counties. The item is written in such a way that it could include Brosnan Yard upgrades, a rail bypass around Brosnan Yard, track improvements that could aid commuter rail efforts between Atlanta and Macon, or fixes for at-grade road and rail crossings. It’s not clear exactly which of those projects would be done.

Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker wanted to know why the item specified upgrades in Bibb and Monroe counties only and was told the Georgia Department of Transportation wanted at least some specificity in there. Monroe County Commission Chairman James Vaughn asked for a motion to change the item, and none was offered. In short, no dissent from 17 politicians.

The group wasn’t unanimous, however, because five of the 22 members were absent.

A safe bet: Voters won’t be quite so unified in deciding the sales tax. The referendum is scheduled for July.

Thomas hits the road

Macon Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Thomas spent Friday, his last day on the job, clearing out old files and cataloging his city-issued equipment.

He was Mayor Robert Reichert’s CAO for one month short of three years. Thomas is leaving to become city manager of Rock Island, Ill., a city of about 44,000 that’s a three-hour drive from Chicago and 90 minutes from Peoria.

Thomas’ daughter just started college in Chicago, and his wife’s family lives in Peoria. When he heard the Rock Island city manager was retiring after 24 years, the opportunity was too good to pass up, he said.

Reichert said his office was going to hold a going-away party, but Thomas said “Please don’t.” Instead, he’s getting a low-key “virtual” send-off with e-mails from co-workers, Reichert said.

The mayor said Thomas has done “admirably” in cutting city costs and improving departmental performance, painful as layoffs and insurance premium increases were.

“He has undertaken some very unpopular tasks that were nonetheless necessary for our long-term financial stability,” Reichert said.

Thomas said he’ll miss Reichert but hopes to build the same relationship with his new boss. Reichert returned the compliment.

“I hate to lose him, but I wish him well,” the mayor said. Until a permanent replacement is found, Finance Director Dale Walker will serve as interim CAO.

Bibb commissioners meeting Wednesday

The Bibb County Board of Commissioners will start its next committee meetings at 9 a.m. Wednesday, a day later than usual. The regular meeting begins at 6 p.m. Agendas and supporting materials are typically posted on the county’s website, www.co.bibb.ga.us, a day before the meeting.

Edwards reappointed to criminal reform post

Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards was reappointed to the National Association of Counties’ justice and public safety steering committee. Committee members explore innovative ways to prevent or reduce crime.

Collins may seek return to Congress

Former U.S. Rep. Mac Collins of Butts County, who represented much of Middle Georgia about a decade ago, is reportedly considering another run for Congress.

Collins said he’s likely to challenge U.S. Rep. Paul Broun for the redrawn 10th Congressional District, according to a report in the Athens Banner-Herald. The two have faced each other before: Collins defeated Broun with about 55 percent of the vote in a 1992 primary.

You know you’re in Georgia when ...

An invitation to a fundraising event for U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., included words not commonly found in such documents: “Contribution includes range fees, targets, and BBQ Dinner ~ additional cost of ammo for all participants.”

The fundraiser was held Wednesday at the Eagle Gun Range in Macon.

Writers Jim Gaines and Mike Stucka contributed to this report.

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