Fort Valley voters oust longtime mayor

mlee@macon.comNovember 5, 2013 

Fort Valley’s Barbara Williams will move from the City Council to the mayor’s office, after besting incumbent Mayor John Stumbo in a 643-573 vote.

Williams and Stumbo have both been in office 16 years.

“I think from what we have been hearing, people are kind of ready for a change,” said Williams, 63, speaking at a celebration for her supporters just after the unofficial results were announced Tuesday night.

“Some things are going to be the same and some things are going to be different,” she said. “We will include the council a little bit more in our decision-making. ... That has not always been happening.”

Williams, a retired educator, has campaigned on a platform of bringing more industry to the area as well as Fort Valley having more choices for sit-down restaurants and recreation opportunities for residents of all ages.

Stumbo, 73, said he will remain involved with the city he loves.

“I probably would be more oriented toward the education community or the nonprofit community,” said Stumbo, a retired lawyer.

He campaigned in part on road and sewer upgrades, as well as relatively moderate tax increases and touted the creation of the Fort Valley Festival Park and the transformation of an old textile plant in the city to a Blue Bird bus fabrication facility among his successes.

The last 16 years “have been a blessing to me,” he said, pledging to help make Williams’ transition as smooth as possible.

Williams’ vacated at-large council seat attracted three candidates, all new to public office.

Duke Lane Jr. won the seat Tuesday by a comfortable margin. The peach magnate has said jobs are his first priority and that more city-Fort Valley State University cooperation is essential to economic development. Lane’s 525 votes beat LeMario Brown’s 390 votes and Alonzo Allen’s 284 votes. Fort Valley voting rules make the first-place finisher the winner. There are no runoffs.

West Ward voters chose to keep Councilwoman Melba Hester in office over challenger Anthony Clark by 440 to 264 votes. She campaigned on a pledge to protect the city’s sound finances.

Familiar faces also will stay on the city Utility Commission. At-large Commissioner Jo Ann Dankel took 611 votes to challenger Teresia Dennis’ 555. In the East Ward, incumbent Billy Jones beat back challenger Minnie Marks Jones by a 304 to 176 vote margin.

Voters also raised a glass to Sunday sales. By a vote of 749 to 419, they approved a measure to allow legalization of the sale of wine, beer and spirits on Sundays.

To contact writer Maggie Lee, email her at mlee@macon.com.

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