WARNER ROBINS -- He has never been a politician, but Randy Toms says he has slowly accepted that campaigning for the mayor’s job has put him in that category.
“I’m a politician, but I want to be a good one,” he said, adding that his wife and grandchildren depend on his being a good person first and foremost.
Toms was the first candidate to confirm he would seek the mayor’s seat, and he has developed a campaign centering on teamwork with the slogan “Together we can do better.”
“It didn’t start out as my slogan, but it just came along,” he said. “I really believe we have to work together to make this city the best it can be.
Toms, 53, was born in Americus, but grew up in Warner Robins. He graduated from Northside High School in 1979 and enlisted in the Air Force. He served three years, then took an early out in 1982 and got married.
For the next three years, Toms worked odd jobs until he began working for the Warner Robins Fire Department in 1985.
During his time with the department, Toms served as its chaplain. Then the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs asked him to be its chaplain too.
He also worked for the Houston County Superior Court as a bailiff for brother-in-law Judge Edward Lukemire’s courtroom. His community involvement has ranged from helping announce high school football games to taking part in the annual fundraiser for muscular dystrophy.
Toms retired from the fire department last year and recently took a break from the courtroom, but he still holds the chaplaincy position.
“My whole life has been serving this community and this community serving me,” Toms said in December, when he confirmed that he was planning to run. “I’m not ready at this age to give up serving this community.”
Charles Bond, a Warner Robins attorney who said he is not actively supporting any mayoral candidates, said he has known Toms for 12 years and attested to his abilities.
“He’s someone that cares about his community a lot, and he probably has done more working for the community than all the other candidates combined,” Bond said. “When Randy talks about his commitment to Warner Robins, there’s no doubt in my mind it’s there.”
The former firefighter has never run a city or managed a workforce as large as Warner Robins’, but neither have his opponents, he said.
“Anyone who tells you they managed 500 people, they’re either lying or they did it wrong,” Toms said. “I wouldn’t manage 500 people. I’d manage the department directors. And they would manage their staffs.”
Toms sees the mayor’s role as the person responsible for running the city’s daily operations, working with department directors and assisting and supporting organizations that work with Robins Air Force Base -- such as the 21st Century Partnership,
To run the daily operations, Toms wants to make sure the mayor has the necessary authority to do so effectively. (Current Mayor Chuck Shaheen has said that over the years, council has slowly chipped away at the mayor’s ability to do much without council approval.)
Toms said he knows of promotions that have languished while waiting for City Council approval. He said the mayor should be able to hire, fire and give pay raises and promotions to city employees, as well as make other such decisions when needed.
Still, he said he would not keep council in the dark.
“I don’t want a dictatorship,” Toms said. “I would feel weird about doing something without talking to the six council members who were elected just like I was elected.”
Toms also wants to include department directors in crafting the best vision for the city. They would also help him develop a five-year plan.
“They are all good at what they do,” he said of the directors, “but they’re all different. I want to get them to work together and talk about how each of their strengths can help each other.”
The directors would also be included in the budget process. Each department director would meet with Toms and council members to discuss their budget needs, because not all of them can cut their budgets by a certain percentage without impacting city services.
The budget discussions would be open to the public, as would any other session involving city business that doesn’t require a closed session.
“Some people say it’s my weakness or my downfall, but I just want to be honest,” he said. “Even if I don’t know the answer, I want to be transparent and say, ‘I don’t know.’”
One of the topics Toms openly admits he doesn’t yet know the answer for is public transit. A public transportation system could drain money from the budget, but residents -- especially base workers -- need the option, he said.
Communication with council members and the region’s leaders will also be open and honest, he promised. Toms pledged to meet with each leader to see how they can work together.
“I would have to find what we have in common,” Toms said of council members. “The one thing we should all have in common is our love for Warner Robins.”
Regional cooperation is just as important as that in City Hall because Warner Robins residents benefit from the jobs offered with employers in nearby cities.
“I want it all to come to Warner Robins,” he said. “But it isn’t always going to happen.”
Recreation, revenue ideas
As for Warner Robins itself, Toms said, it’s high time the city finished some of the projects on its plate. He wasn’t sure exactly what these projects -- such as the sports complex -- should look like, but he said the starting point would be prioritizing what can be accomplished quickly and then what needs to be done about the ones that can’t.
“I just want to make sure we do it right,” Toms said of the long-awaited sports complex.
Whatever comes of the complex, the Warner Robins recreation department must expand beyond Little League baseball for its residents.
“Just like there’s people who are never going to work on the base, there are people who are never going to play Little League baseball,” he said.
While most candidates have listed ideas on how to work through lower-than-projected collections from the 2012 special purpose sales tax for recreation, Toms said he intends to first help revenue pick up.
“We got to bring in new businesses,” he said, thereby generating more sales taxes revenue.
As a former firefighter and a bailiff, Toms talks passionately about public safety. He said the police department needs more employees, though not as many as some have indicated. Both the fire department and police department need the ability for the chiefs to run operations as needed.
“Our public safety needs someone in the mayor’s office that understands what they do,” Toms said. “Their motivation isn’t money.”
And his motivation for running is to bring the common man’s perspective that he says Warner Robins needs in a leader.
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.