WARNER ROBINS -- Three of five expected mayoral candidates and three council candidates officially signed up in Houston and Peach counties on the first day of qualifying for the November election.
Qualifying for municipal elections began at 8:30 a.m. Monday. It ends Friday.
In Warner Robins, the mayor’s seat, along with City Council Posts 1, 3 and 5 are up for grabs.
Former firefighter Randy Toms, recently retired Public Works Director Joe Musselwhite and Councilman Daron Lee qualified for the mayor’s race.
Richard “Chef” Weldon qualified for Lee’s Post 5 council seat, incumbent Councilman Paul Shealy qualified for Post 3 and former firefighter Charlie Scott qualified for Post 1, at large.
Scott was the first to enter the race Mayor Chuck Shaheen has said he will enter instead of seeking re-election. Scott said Shaheen asked him more than a year ago to run for the council seat.
“It’s a free country,” Scott said. “People can run for whatever they want to. I was a little bit surprised.”
Councilman Mike Daley, who currently holds the Post 1 seat, has not said whether he will run for re-election.
Toms was the first mayoral candidate to qualify, waiting for the window to open at about 8:15 a.m. He said he didn’t bring a team of supporters with him because they weren’t necessary.
After signing the papers and turning them over, he asked the woman to double-check everything was as it should be.
“I’m excited about what the future holds,” he said afterward. “I’m really looking forward to the next couple of months and, hopefully, the next few years.”
Musselwhite took the window next, flanked by five supporters wearing yellow and black “Musselwhite for Mayor” T-shirts.
“I feel humbled by the amount of support the citizens have shown,” he said. “I look forward to serving the people.”
Musselwhite’s last day with the city was Friday. So this Monday morning was different from the last two decades.
“I felt lonesome,” he said. “I felt like I was not doing my job. I’ve done it for so long, it felt wrong.”
Toms and Musselwhite only needed to sign one form and hand over checks for $3,000 each. They had met with the Warner Robins elections staff earlier to learn the rules and regulations.
Soon after Musselwhite and his group left the building, Shealy whistled his way in. He signed a form, handed over a check for $252 and was ready for the rest of his day.
“It’s a beautiful day to start off the week,” he said.
Shealy said he has spent the last four years learning the job and would go into a second term better informed about processes.
Lee and his supporters entered City Hall around noon, when Lee filled out paperwork and turned over the qualifying money for mayor.
He said he has the best city, regional and statewide experience to run the city for the next four years. In the meantime, he will finish his council term while campaigning.
“I’m still serving the citizens of Warner Robins,” Lee said.
Post 4 is expected to open once Councilman Mike Brashear qualifies for the mayoral race. Two years are left in his term.
Brashear and Chuck Chalk, who ran for mayor in 2009, said they will qualify for the mayoral race Wednesday.
Also Monday, three Perry incumbents qualified for re-election. Mayor Jimmy Faircloth, Councilwoman Phyllis Bynum-Grace and Councilman Joe Posey, qualified for their current positions. Bynum-Grace holds the District 1, Post 1 seat and Posey holds the District 2, Post 1 seat.
In Fort Valley, incumbent Mayor John Stumbo and Barbara Williams qualified for the mayoral race, and incumbent Melba Hester qualified for City Council West Ward. Also open in Fort Valley is City Council at-large, City Council East Ward, utility commissioner at-large and utility commissioner East Ward.
In Byron, incumbent Michael F. Chumbley qualified for City Council Post 3, and Rick Knowles qualified for City Council Post 5. City Council Post 4 also is open.
Telegraph writer Jenna Mink contributed to this report.