WARNER ROBINS -- If you’ve left Randy Toms a phone message in the past few days, don’t feel slighted if he hasn’t gotten around to calling you back.
Toms said he has gotten hundreds of phone calls and emails since he was elected the new mayor of Warner Robins on Tuesday.
“I just want everyone to understand that I can’t return every call,” Toms said late Thursday. “I’ll just have to thank them when I see them.”
After a long, hard campaign in which he bested five opponents, the retired city firefighter didn’t slack off. He went to City Hall the next morning to greet employees there and visited other city departments Thursday, including public works and the fire department.
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He was also busy thanking those who supported him.
“You can’t do this by yourself,” he said.
He said city employees gave him a good reception.
“I think they are excited for me,” he said. “I know a lot of them because I’ve been a city employee for so long. I think there’s excitement to see somebody from the city serve as mayor. As far I know there’s never been a mayor that worked for the city.”
Toms, whose career with the fire department spanned nearly 30 years, said he has met with department heads and assured them he is not planning to come in and make sweeping changes. He said he had no problem with council’s recent decision to appoint George Brannen permanent public works director rather than wait for the new mayor to take office.
He also met with current mayor Chuck Shaheen, who will become a city councilman when Toms is sworn in on Jan. 6. Shaheen did not run for re-election and instead sought the at-large Post 1 seat, defeating incumbent Mike Daley.
Toms said he had a good meeting with Shaheen about the transition, and he does not foresee any problems with having a former mayor on council. In fact, Toms pointed out Shaheen won’t be the only former mayor at the table.
Former councilman Clifford Holmes, who once served as interim mayor, was elected to the Post 5 seat.
Toms said he sees it as a plus to have two council members who have served as mayor.
“I’m not intimidated by taking advice from people who have been there before me,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with them. I think this is going to be great, and I’m excited about us getting a lot of stuff done over the next few years.”
Toms also spoke with Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker, who offered some advice. Stalnaker has some similarities to Toms in that he was a long-time county employee before seeking the top office, and, like Toms, he had no prior political experience.
Stalnaker said the most significant thing he told Toms was the importance of prioritizing.
“I think whether it’s him or anybody else, it’s somewhat overwhelming initially,” Stalnaker said. “There will be people pulling at his coattails, and he will have to step back and prioritize what he can do and can’t do, or otherwise he won’t be able to do anything very good, and he will be spread too thin.”
Stalnaker didn’t support any candidate during the race but said he believes Toms will be a good mayor.
“I think he will try to bring people together,” Stalnaker said. “I think he’s a bridge builder, so I think he will build bridges instead of manufacturing stop signs.”
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.