EDITORIAL: Warner Robins has a new leader

December 4, 2013 

After a general election with six candidates running for mayor of Warner Robins, Tuesday’s runoff came down to two local men with deep lifetime roots in the city. What is remarkable about the outcome of the election is the number of voters who just didn’t care for either Joe Musselwhite or Randy Toms, and their non-vote proved it. The runoff vote total was slightly more than half of the November vote total, with 4,821 votes cast in the mayor’s race and 4,759 in the Post 1 council race.

Toms will have a full plate when he takes office next month. There are several issues the mayor and new council will need to address. First and foremost is the city’s relationship with Robins Air Force Base. The leaders will have to decide what they can do to help the base survive the next Base Realignment and Closure process and the more immediate sequester that remains a real possibility. The present council has already taken baby steps in providing a reliable public transportation alternative. The new council will have the chore to expand the service because the competing air logistics centers are housed in cities that have transit alternatives.

Transit is something Warner Robins residents need, and the mayor and council will have to figure out the best way to pay for it.

The new city leadership will also have to deal with what can be called “quality of life” issues, and that includes recreation. The city, already deemed a great place to live, will have to do more on the economic development end. From a tax base standpoint, the city relies too much on residential property taxes and not enough on industry, not because the taxes on industry are lower but because there are few industries that could lighten the load on residential property taxpayers.

All and all, though, the city is poised for more growth. It controls the major utilities -- water, gas and sewer -- and with an aggressive stance on annexation started under Mayor Donald Walker, Warner Robins is in better shape than most cities. The new mayor will also need to focus on regionalism. All of the Middle Georgia communities and counties can benefit from more cooperation and the new Warner Robins mayor can lead the way, bringing prosperity to the entire region.

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