Mayor Robert Reichert made it official Thursday morning: He’s running for the new office of countywide mayor in Macon-Bibb County.
Speaking to about 20 supporters in the lobby of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, Reichert’s announcement was replete with biblical references.
“Like Nehemiah, I have been moved by the condition of my hometown, Macon,” he said. Nehemiah was credited with rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls and restoring the ruined city over great opposition.
Reichert, 64, is in his second term as mayor of Macon. He touted his experience in that office, his ability as an attorney, his record as a Vietnam veteran and 10 years as a Georgia state representative as fitting him to manage the consolidated city-county government beginning in January 2014.
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Among his accomplishments and initiatives he listed the Second Street revitalization project, which seeks to develop a pedestrian-friendly corridor lined with new businesses through downtown and connecting to Mercer University; and the ongoing push for a Sardis Church-Sgoda Road connector to more closely link Middle Georgia Regional Airport to Interstate 75.
That connector project, along with lobbying the Federal Aviation Administration to lengthen the airport runway, spurs hopes of greatly expanded industrial development at the airport: cargo traffic, aircraft repair and warehouses, Reichert said.
City finances have recovered substantially under Reichert, despite the national financial crisis, but the mid-year financial report just showed that sales tax receipts are likely to come in about $4 million below early estimates.
Reichert’s relations with Macon’s current 15-member council have often been acrimonious. He’s been able to muster a majority vote for most of his initiatives, but in the last year and a half he has faced several rebuffs.
In the new government, the mayor will preside directly over a nine-member commission -- though only voting in case of a tie -- a change Reichert calls “very positive.”
He drew heavy council criticism in late 2011 when found to be charging his Idle Hour Golf & Country Club membership, frequently unused Grand Opera House tickets and bar association dues on a city purchasing card. Council demanded a stop to those expenditures, but this week found that Reichert is still charging his $489 annual American Bar Association dues to the city.
He’s likewise been assailed by protesters in the wake of a Dec. 21 fatal shooting by a city policeman. Reichert has consistently called for patience during a state investigation.
Reichert has endorsed the Macon Promise Neighborhood plan as being much more than the Bibb County Board of Education’s troubled Ballard-Hudson Middle School deal. That financial controversy he has referred to as “collateral damage from the dysfunction at the Board of Education.”
Reichert is a Democrat, but even during the last Macon mayoral campaign endorsed nonpartisan elections. Whoever wins the new countywide mayor’s seat will serve an initial term of three years and would be eligible for a second four-year term, but no more. Reichert, elected in 2007 by a wide margin, won a razor-thin runoff victory against former Mayor C. Jack Ellis in 2011 for a second term.
Ellis formally announced Thursday that he will also run for countywide mayor. Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart did likewise last week, while Commission Vice Chairman Joe Allen, former Bibb County Commission Chairman Charlie Bishop, community activist Al Tillman and perennial Republican candidate David Cousino have all talked about running.
To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.