If the consolidation of Macon and Bibb County is going to be successful, it’s going to require the community to come together.
That was the message Thursday morning at the home of former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis as he formally announced his intention to run for mayor of the new Macon-Bibb County government.
“Now, it is truly a new beginning for a new Macon,” Ellis said. “Perhaps in this campaign, we should adopt a slogan, ‘A new beginning for all, one city with one future.’ ”
Ellis said that slogan echoed the one he used in his unsuccessful 2011 bid for mayor, when he lost to incumbent Robert Reichert in a runoff by about 500 votes.
Now, he’ll face Reichert again, as well as Bibb County Chairman Sam Hart, who have both publicly announced plans to run for mayor.
Ellis, 67, who served as Macon’s mayor from 1999-2007, originally declared his intention to run last July after voters approved the referendum for consolidation.
He said he expects that with Reichert and Hart being the de facto incumbents running for the office, they might have more opportunities for fundraising.
“I’ll put my record against any of them,” Ellis said. “That’s not disrespect towards them. But I have a proven track record. ... We’re going to run a grassroots campaign that’s going to reach out to all sectors.”
Ellis spent much of Thursday’s news conference saying that in a new, unified government, residents and politicians need to look to the future.
Ellis, who currently works as a consultant for several firms, touted his experience in office and leadership skills, and he listed the construction of a convention hotel, the elimination of hundreds of dilapidated homes and the refurbishing of Terminal Station among his accomplishments in office.
While mayor, Ellis had his share of controversies, too. The city’s bond rating dropped, and the city lost sales tax revenue when he negotiated the service delivery strategy with the county. There were local grand jury and federal investigations into Terminal Station renovations, though nothing came of them. At one point, some residents unsuccessfully tried to recall him from office. Ellis also had run-ins with Macon City Council, particularly during his second term, over city spending.
Ellis said Macon has a lot of positives -- top-notch health care, several colleges and universities, a great geographic location and a rich cultural history.
But the city also has its share of challenges, he said, including too much violence in the community, slow job growth and poverty. He said about 40 percent of children under the age of 18 in Bibb County live in poverty.
Ellis said the new mayor will face considerable hurdles, including how to allocate resources even as officials face a mandate to lower the combined government’s budget by 20 percent over the next five years.
Ellis noted he favored the concept of consolidation but didn’t agree with last year’s referendum. He wanted an appointed police chief rather than the sheriff as the city’s top law enforcement official; he disagreed with the statute that said the new county commission must pass items by a super majority rather than a simple majority; and he thinks the 20 percent mandated budget cut over the next five years could lead to layoffs for city and county employees.
Peter Givens, a Macon resident who attended Thursday’s event, said Ellis showed the perfect attitude of a leader when he was mayor.
“He’s a take-charge person,” Givens said. “He’s going to be dogmatic and get things done for the future of the city. Ed Wilson was the last mayor with that kind of vision. It slowed down after he left. But I see that (vision) with Jack Ellis. He’d like the city to move forward and become more prosperous.”
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.