Fort Valley residents will choose a new city council member on Nov. 5, as three newcomers compete for an empty at-large seat. Meanwhile, the council’s West Ward and two city Utility Commission races attracted one challenger for each incumbent. The question of Sunday alcohol sales rounds out the ballot.
The three candidates for the at-large council seat are Alonzo Allen, LeMario Brown and John “Duke” Lane Jr.
Allen, 58, aims to move from the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to the at-large city council seat. He said Fort Valley needs to make itself attractive to businesses.
“The most important issue ... is jobs,” said Allen. “Fort Valley really only has two places where a person can make a decent living: that would be Blue Bird and Fort Valley State University.”
He wants to review what incentives the city and its neighbors are offering to businesses. Allen said companies that manufacture building materials or farm equipment might make a good match and suggested the city work with the county to find land.
“We also have a problem with affordable housing,” said Allen, who wants to see more low- to moderate-income housing replace the dilapidated buildings that the city is removing.
For Brown, 28, the big picture is “revitalizing the Fort Valley community as a whole.”
Part of that is building a firm relationship with the county commission and the board of education, he said, “so we can find sufficient careers” for people in Fort Valley and Peach County.
And since the hospital has moved to Byron, Fort Valley “has issues with people getting back and forth to the doctor’s office and the ER,” said Brown. He wants to find some way to get adequate health care to city residents.
Brown sits on the Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals and said more young people need to get involved and active in the community and do more than just turn out every four years for big elections.
Brown said he brings fresh ideas and hopes that might help wake up a generation that needs to be woken up.
Lane said, “jobs are number one.” The city needs new employers, and downtown needs new tenants, but “it is easier to say than it is to do,” he said.
“I’d like to see come in here a factory, medical facility,” said Lane.
Lane, 65, said he would bring agribusiness expertise to the council. He has traveled all over the state in leading roles with the Georgia Peach Council, the Pecan Commission, the federal Farm Service Agency and others.
“I’ve been around the coattails of good leadership in this city for 60 years,” said Lane., “I feel like it’s time for me to get involved locally.”
Fort Valley and the university need each other, he said, and could be knitted together more closely to work on economic development. The city has good infrastructure he said, and he would like to see more beautification.
The first-place finisher will win the seat in the single round of voting. There will not be a runoff.
In the West Ward, political newcomer Anthony Clark is facing incumbent Councilwoman Melba Hester.
“City council should be transparent,” said Clark, 41, and do things like present every dollar it spends in great detail and email council meeting minutes.
“We need to make sure the college is blooming and growing because that’s what makes the city grow,” he also said. So he thinks the city should find out what students need and want.
Clark also proposed staging ambulances at fire stations to help cut the time it takes to get from Fort Valley to the new hospital.
Hester, 74, praised city police and said it’s important to “continue strong law enforcement projects providing a safe environment” in the city.
She sits on the council’s finance committee and said she also wants to see city finances remain sound.
Hester will “study the issues and understand what I’m voting for,” she said.
“I’m retired and available day or night,” said Hester, and added she wants to hear residents’ concerns.
The Utility Commission At-Large seat is a race between incumbent Jo Ann Dankel, 66, and Teresia Dennis, 41.
Candidates for the Utility Commission East Ward seat are incumbent Billy Jones, 69, and challenger Minnie Marks Jones, 66.
Finally, one referendum question asks if Fort Valley wants to follow what much of Georgia has done in the last few years and allow the sale of beer, wine and spirits in the city on Sundays.