WARNER ROBINS -- A local federal employee organization asked the city’s mayoral candidates to talk about public safety, harmony at City Hall and their goals for 2014 at a forum Wednesday.
The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, Chapter 1020, hosted the candidate forum at the Wellston Center as part of its monthly meeting, which was attended by a few dozen people. The event was an effort to bring the candidates face-to-face with the mostly retired group of voters who typically cast absentee ballots, organizers said.
“I only know what I read in the newspaper,” said Caroline Martin, a NARFE member, adding the forum helped her narrow down her possible choice. “This is more hands on. It’s helpful to see their faces and how they respond in person.”
Chuck Chalk, a Robins Air Force Base employee, was the only mayoral candidate who did not attend. On his Facebook campaign page, he told voters he was in Atlanta with his son who was being deployed Wednesday.
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Meanwhile, former Councilman Mike Brashear, retired educator Eva Folse, Councilman Daron Lee, former Public Works Director Joe Musselwhite and retired firefighter Randy Toms fielded questions from moderator and NARFE member Bill Douglas.
In response to a question about better police response time in the southern part of the city, all of the candidates mentioned retention problems at the police department that have left the department undermanned.
Brashear and Lee said an incentive program could draw talent and keep it.
“That would encourage them to come to our city, stay with our city and retire with our city,” Brashear said.
Folse said residents should participate in Neighborhood Watch Programs, and Musselwhite said further salary adjustments for patrol officers is needed.
“Nobody becomes a police officer or a firefighter or a city employee, for that matter, because we intend to get rich,” Toms said, offering that a morale boost is needed.
On the topic of harmony in City Hall, Folse said she would set a standard that council can follow; Lee said he would encourage communication; Musselwhite said inclusion is the solution; Toms said communication and collaboration is needed; and Brashear alluded to a power struggle as a problem in the past.
For the final question, Douglas asked the candidates what their top priority for 2014 would be.
Musselwhite, Toms and Brashear said protecting Robins Air Force Base and preventing its closure would top their goals in their first year in office.
“It’s the engine that pulls the train,” Musselwhite said of Robins.
Folse said she would eliminate wasteful spending because there’s money “sloshing around in” the budget.
Lee said economic development is at the top of his list, including training the workforce to fill new jobs.
“We have a great workforce, but we need an exceptional one,” he said.
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.