WARNER ROBINS -- In the race for Warner Robins City Council Post 4, one former councilman and two relative newcomers are pitted against one another. But they have at least one common goal: economic development.
Tim Thomas, 50, owner of Parkway Bonding Co. who ran two years ago for Post 2, lists four amenities he says Warner Robins needs to help bring in new businesses. Bob Wilbanks, 53, police chief for Central Georgia Technical College and a former Post 4 councilman, talks about business incentives. And Ben Campbell, 54, a program manager for intelligence systems, wants to help the city create an economic development office for Warner Robins.
The candidate who wins the Nov. 5 election will finish the final two years of the term Mike Brashear vacated to run for mayor.
‘Selling us short’
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Campbell wants a Warner Robins team to target new businesses and bring them into the city, he said. Warner Robins has a community development office and a redevelopment agency.
“We need an economic development office of our own. Right now we’re relying on the county,” Campbell said. “Relying on the county to sell our city is probably selling us short.”
Campbell wanted to get involved in politics after experiencing firsthand the influence of a group of residents. When a developer wanted to build apartments in his neighborhood, Campbell and some neighbors rallied against the development, bringing their case to the planning and zoning board. The neighborhood won, and Campbell knew he wanted to continue to be part of that process.
In addition to economic development, Campbell wants officials to tweak planning and zoning guidelines, which he says are “too open.” As for as the possible Base Realignment and Closure Commission, Campbell says the city needs to continue to find cost savings for Robins Air Force Base -- through utilities and other costs -- and bring in more businesses.
‘People that work together’
Thomas said he got a recent wake-up call, which reinforced the importance of bringing businesses to Warner Robins. His twin sons are in college, and one said he isn’t sure if he will return home after school because he doesn’t think he can find a job. Thomas says he is tired of hearing local politicians talk about bringing in new businesses without describing how to accomplish that task.
Thomas argues four factors are needed to attract employers: a quality educational system (which he says already is in place); a good quality of life, including recreation and public safety; strong city finances; and stability in leadership.
“You have to have ... people that work together no matter how the votes fall,” he said. “We have got to get the leadership fixed first.”
One reason Thomas wanted to run for a council seat is because he believes in his plan for new businesses, he said. Also, politics is in his blood: His father was a councilman in the 1970s and 1980s. As for a potential Base Realignment and Closure Commission, the city must offer tools to fight for the base, starting with stable finances and strong leadership, he said.
‘Lay new infrastructure’
Wilbanks agrees the city needs to provide services, such as clean air and water, to help keep Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. Additionally, the city needs to concentrate on improving the area around the base, he said.
“We have to lay new infrastructure ... down there and try to grow the area around the base to make it more attractive and more feasible for people to do business around the base,” he said.
Wilbanks also wants to concentrate on boosting public safety and the local economy. He would fight to expand water and sewer services, and make sure city employees get the compensation they deserve, he said.
Wilbanks was a councilman for four years until 2011, when he did not seek re-election. He decided to run for office this time around when he discovered that four council seats and the mayor’s seat would be vacated for this year’s election. Wilbanks said he has an advantage because he has been a councilman and is familiar with the workings of city government.
“There’s a danger of having five new people out of seven,” he said. “During this period, we need leadership.”
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.