Warner Robins mayoral candidates speak at first forum

chwright@macon.comSeptember 10, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- The six mayoral candidates were all in one place Tuesday, answering questions at the first forum of the campaign season.

The Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted the one-hour forum at Central Georgia Technical College’s Warner Robins campus. Each of the six candidates gave an opening statement, answered two different questions each and a common question to close out.

Here’s a sampling of the questions:

Mike Brashear, who vacated his council post to run for mayor, was asked about public transportation. He said the service is needed, but the city cannot purchase the needed equipment.

“Warner Robins will not be in the public transportation business,” he said, adding the city would instead work with a Middle Georgia agency adept at providing the service.

Chuck Chalk, an employee at Robins Air Force Base, was asked how he would stimulate new jobs. He said the city should build on its proximity to Robins by promoting aerospace and logistics jobs.

“Things that we do well on Robins Air Force Base, logistics and aerospace,” he said.

Eva Folse, a retired educator, was asked what challenges exist for tourism and what the mayor’s role should be in those challenges. She said the government’s role is to create “an overall good face on this town.”

“We don’t have antique homes like Macon does,” she said of the challenge with tourism in Warner Robins. “But we do have other attractions.”

Daron Lee, current Post 5 councilman, was asked how he would work with the other governments in the county. He said he would hold regular meetings with the mayors of Centerville and Perry and work together on whatever possible.

“It’ll have to take on a respectful relationship,” he said.

Joe Musselwhite, who retired this summer as public works director, was asked how the city could better work with local businesses. He said the city currently does a good job supporting the businesses, especially with a city ordinance that allows bids to go to a local business with as much as a 5 percent higher bid than an out-of-city company.

“I don’t have a problem going to them and saying,” a company in Oklahoma has a lower bid. “Do you mind lowering your bid?” Musselwhite said. When sealed bids are required, the city’s ordinance doesn’t permit negotiations.

Randy Toms, a former city firefighter, was asked how he would work with areas outside of Houston County for the benefit of the city. He said he would apply his motto of communication, cooperation and collaboration to work with local, state and national lawmakers.

“What happens at Robins Air Force Base has a direct affect on so much (for) not only just Middle Georgia but so much of Georgia,” he said.

First 100 days

Candidates were allowed three minutes for their final question to tell the audience what issues or tasks they would tackle in their first 100 days as mayor. Most candidates listed more than three.

Brashear said he’d meet with police Chief Brett Evans to figure out how to better public safety; he’d talk to the 21st Century Partnership about how to help the Robins booster organization with operating costs; he’d talk to Houston County schools Superintendent Robin Hines about helping improve education; he’d talk to the information technology department about setting up better transparency; and he’d partner with regional economic development groups.

Chalk said he’d hold a meeting with council and department heads to plan the vision for the city; he’d work on the city’s transparency; he’d try to figure out how to hire up to 30 new police officers; and he’d work on a regional approach. Overall, he said, he’d develop a vision and set goals to work toward it.

Folse said she would work on improving infrastructure in the older parts of town, analyze the city’s health care plan, and work on retaining police officers the city often loses in a short time after training. Overall, she said, she’d work to be a good face for the city with plausible solutions.

Lee said he would work to remove micro management of department directors and expect results from them being allowed to use their talents; he’d work on unfinished projects to give the city things to market; and he’d work on regional marketing.

Musselwhite said he would learn the current state of the city. He would meet with department directors, look at contracts, talk to the Board of Education about swimming pools, plan utilities, explore better parks and above all, push transparency.

Toms said he would work to complete unfinished projects, meet with state legislators to return Warner Robins to an official strong mayor form of government, and form a team of former and current government leaders.

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

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