Potential mayoral candidates weigh in on changing Warner Robins charter

chwright@macon.comFebruary 13, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- As City Council mulls a change to its form of government, two potential mayoral candidates say the outcome of the debate could impact their decision to run.

“I kind of wonder whether the Lord has had me not to jump out there too early,” said Chuck Chalk. “It would affect my decision. I’m not sure how.”

Chalk and Bob Wilbanks were the only potential candidates who could be reached Wednesday, but both said a discussion about whether to reduce the mayor’s job to a part-time position could make a difference in whether they commit to a mayoral bid in November.

Councilman Mike Brashear said at a town hall meeting Tuesday that council is considering changing the city charter to include a full-time city manager and part-time mayor.

Randy Toms, who enlisted residents to attend Brashear’s town hall meeting, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The former fireman is the only candidate who has publicly confirmed his bid for mayor.

Chalk, who ran for mayor in 2009, said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll run again, but a part-time position could prove difficult with his current schedule.

“I don’t know with my level of involvement with so many things that I could handle another part-time job,” said Chalk, who works at Robins Air Force Base.

Chalk said Brashear made “a good case” for the charter change, especially about Warner Robins having outgrown its original city structure. Over the past 70 years, Warner Robins has gone from a small town called Wellston to a small city of more than 66,000 residents.

“At some point in the future if we continue to grow, we’ll end up with a full-time mayor and a full-time city manager,” Chalk said.

Wilbanks, a former councilman who relinquished his post in 2011, said he hasn’t made up his mind to run for mayor, but a change in the job could cause pause.

He was adamantly against changing the charter to include a city manager.

“We’ve got professionals running the departments,” Wilbanks said. “Unfortunately, they’re not always used. I think the city would run just fine if the department heads were allowed to run their departments.”

Though he took a stab at what he said was Mayor Chuck Shaheen’s inability to follow through with council decisions, he fell in line with Shaheen on one point. Even if the city were to gain an operations manager, it would still need a full-time mayor, he said.

“For a city the size of Warner Robins, I think you need to have a full-time mayor,” Wilbanks said.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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