Two more announce runs for new commission seats

pramati@macon.comFebruary 22, 2013 

Two more candidates declared their intentions Friday to seek commission seats in the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated government.

Bibb County Commissioner Gary Bechtel, who currently serves in District 3, said he intends to run for the newly drawn District 1 seat in north Bibb County.

Meanwhile, political newcomer Brandon Carlisle plans to run for the District 2 seat in the new government. Carlisle said it’s time for new voices to be heard with a new government coming.

Bechtel, who previously served 12 years with the Bibb County Board of Education, said he ran for his current commission seat with the idea of helping the current county government transition into the new one.

“I ran for commission supporting consolidation, knowing it’d be a one-year term if it passed,” he said. “I wanted to prepare the county government for consolidation, and I’m drawn to serve in the new government. I look at it as one four-year term.”

Bechtel said the next two years will be crucial to get the new government started on the right foot. This year is important for the transition, while next year will be important to prepare the fiscal 2015 budget -- the budget from which the new commissioners will have to begin paring 20 percent over a five-year period.

“That’s the biggest hurdle, because it will dictate what happens the next four years,” he said. “We’ll start having to cut 5 percent each year off that budget.”

In addition, the new government will have to show the community it can work together -- something that hasn’t always been the case with the city and county.

“The new commission needs to establish a high level of transparency and accountability from the outset,” Bechtel said. “This is a chance to hit the restart button.”

In addition, Bechtel said he wants to make certain that all of the current special purpose local option sales tax projects are completed.

Bechtel said that commissioners from across Georgia have told him that they are keeping a close eye on how the consolidation process goes in Macon.

“If we can do this right and the citizens feel we’re doing it right, then it’s something we can sell to companies to bring jobs to Macon,” he said.

Carlisle, 27, is an independent contractor in the construction business. He said he no longer wants to sit on the sideline as the community struggles with issues such as crime and lack of jobs.

“I’ve just watched the steady decline in the economy and the increase in the crime rate,” he said. “I think we can prevent crime if we give young people the opportunity to work for the community rather than work against it.”

Carlisle said he wants to sit down with local business owners to get their input as to why they brought their businesses to Macon and what can be done to attract other businesses here.

“I want to see what they think can encourage new growth,” he said.

Carlisle said he spoke with District 7 candidate Eric Arnold, another political neophyte, about running. He said his lack of previous experience can work to his advantage.

“If we keep electing the same people, we’re going to get the same results,” he said. “The people of Macon want something different.”

Carlisle will face Macon City Councilmen Larry Schlesinger and Henry Ficklin, both of whom have announced they will run for the District 2 seat. So far, no one besides Bechtel has announced running for the District 1 seat.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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