Three vying for Macon Water Authority chairmanship

pramati@macon.comApril 28, 2014 

  • Macon Water Authority chairmanship candidates

    David Cousino
    Age: 53
    Occupation: Home security
    Political experience: Won the Republican primary but lost in the general election for Macon mayor, 2007; lost Republican primary for Bibb County Commission chairman, 2008; lost a write-in candidacy for Macon mayor, 2011; lost in nonpartisan race for Macon-Bibb County mayor, 2013.

    Sam Hart
    Age: 72
    Occupation: Educator
    Political experience: District 1 Bibb County commissioner, 1997-2007; Bibb County Commission chairman (two terms), 2009-13.

    Stephen Rickman
    Age: 65
    Occupation: Owner of Heritage Realty
    Political experience: District 3 representative on Macon Water Authority, 2006-14.

Though the three candidates to become the next chairman of the Macon Water Authority all have similar goals, each of them carries a different approach to the job.

Stephen Rickman, Sam Hart and David Cousino are seeking to replace Kirby Godsey in the May 20 nonpartisan election.

Godsey, the former president of Mercer University, was selected in November 2012 to fill out the term of the late chairman, Frank Amerson. Godsey’s term ends Dec. 31. The position pays $5,400 a year.

All three candidates said they want to maintain the foundation that Amerson built for the authority, but they also want to see it grow.

Each candidate said his background makes him the most suitable for the position.

Rickman, 65, served seven years as the District 3 representative on the water authority and said he brings the most experience in knowing how the authority works. Rickman, who still had three years to serve on the board, had to resign his post in order to run for chairman.

“After talking with the other board members, I got their support to do this,” he said. “We all felt that you had to have someone with experience on the board to serve as chairman.”

Rickman, who owns the property management company Heritage Realty, said he knows how to run a business successfully. He takes pride in the national recognition the Macon Water Authority has received, adding that the most important responsibility for the chairman is to maintain that track record and level of service.

“It’s hard to improve upon perfection, but I’m constantly looking at ways to improve the water authority,” he said. “We’re nationally recognized as one of the best water authorities in the nation. We have cities from all over the nation come to Macon to see how we do things.”

Rickman said he wants the authority to remain proactive in maintaining its infrastructure, noting that Macon is one of the most “aggressive” water authority in the Southeast in doing so by re-investing profits into new technology and maintenance.

Hart, 72, is the most recognizable candidate among the three, having served two terms as Bibb County commission chairman before the county merged with Macon Jan. 1.

While Hart hasn’t served on the MWA board, he said he worked closely with the agency during his county commission days, so he is familiar with the role that Macon’s ample water supply has played in attracting new industry to the county.

“The thing that motivates me to run is my interest in the community,” Hart said. “I want to make sure the community progresses, and one of our strengths is water. We can use it for economic development as well.”

Hart said the infrastructure the MWA has developed over the last three decades has not only created the country’s best-tasting water -- yes, there’s a contest -- but also some of the cleanest.

And with such a large supply of it in the reservoir, it’s attractive to companies looking to relocate here.

Hart also wants to continue to add nearby cities and counties as customers, as the MWA already has done with Monroe County and Perry.

Cousino, 53, who owns a home-security company, has made a name for himself as a political outsider, having run for mayor three times and county commission chairman once since 2007.

He said he’s the only candidate who knows how most of the MWA’s equipment works, and he said he’s not beholden to any outside influences seeking contracts with the authority.

Cousino has never captured a large number of votes in any election, but he noted he’s always run against candidates with vast political backgrounds -- and funding.

He has said during previous campaigns that he wanted to dredge the Ocmulgee River so that it could be used for riverboats.

Though Cousino said he wants to use the river as a “second reservoir,” MWA officials said the river already is the main source of water for Macon’s reservoir. To do anything with the river beyond that would exceed the MWA’s charter.

Cousino said he would use grants and other funding methods to make the river even more profitable for the authority.

“Water is the next blue gold,” he said.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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