Former Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart raced to victory Tuesday night, easily outpacing opponents Stephen Rickman and David Cousino to become the new chairman of the Macon Water Authority.
Hart captured 12,978 votes, well ahead of Rickman’s 4,863 and Cousino’s 1,253. The vote totals are incomplete, because Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections workers were still counting about 900 mail-in absentee ballots late Tuesday.
Hart will replace interim MWA Chairman Kirby Godsey, who was tapped to fill the position after the 2012 death of longtime former Chairman Frank Amerson.
Hart said he thinks it was a combination of his name recognition and his previous record as Bibb chairman that earned him the victory.
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“I’d hope it was a combination of the two,” he said. “People are aware that I did a good job bringing in jobs and representing the community well.”
Hart served two terms as Bibb County chairman, then lost in the mayoral race for the merged Macon-Bibb County government last year.
Rickman, owner of a property management company, served for seven years as the District 3 representative to the authority, then resigned his seat to run for chairman. He was unavailable for comment.
Cousino, who has a home security business, has previously run for the offices of Macon mayor and Bibb County Commission chairman since 2007. He said he lost because Hart took the black vote while he and Rickman split the white vote.
“It was a racial issue ... a black-white issue,” Cousino said.
Despite his low vote total, Cousino said he intends to run for Macon-Bibb County mayor in the next local election.
Hart said his goals for the authority include using the MWA’s reputation to help attract new businesses to Macon. He previously noted that Macon has been judged nationally as having the best-tasting water as well as the cleanest.
With Macon’s large reservoir, Hart wants to add other midstate communities as customers as the authority has already done with Monroe County and Perry.
MWA District 1
In the race for the District 1 seat on the authority, longtime incumbent Dorothy Black defeated challenger Anissa Monique Jones 2,233 to 1,567.
Black, 80, a retired teacher, has served on the authority for the past 18 years. She said her goal is to see several of the programs she’s initiated come to fruition, including education initiatives aimed at Bibb County youth.
“I feel like the voters went for experience,” Black said. “They know I have the ability to do the job. I’m confident I can continue to do good.”
Black’s primary goals were to maintain the MWA’s infrastructure and add new programs. Black has served as chairwoman of the authority’s finance and pension committees.
She said she wants to sell water to more surrounding counties, which she said will help keep the MWA’s rates low.
Jones, a chiropractor and professor at Fort Valley State University, had previously run for state representative against James Beverly two years ago.
Attempts to reach Jones after the polls closed Tuesday were unsuccessful.
MWA District 3
In the District 3 race to fill out the rest of Rickman’s term, Dwight Jones earned about 57 percent of the votes in a crowded, four-man race for the victory.
Jones took 3,868 votes to surpass the combined totals of fellow candidates Ed Hatcher (1,628 votes), Steve Skalko (884 votes) and Alan Thiese (405 votes).
Jones, a real estate agent, said he wanted to help the authority attract new businesses to Macon that would create a bigger job base and tax base for the city. He said he was “grateful” to win the seat outright and not face a runoff.
“Obviously, I’m very grateful to the voters of District 3,” he said. “They recognized our hard work. I promise to deliver (on campaign pledges) once I’m on the board.”
Jones, who had never previously run for office, detailed an extensive plan to improve how the authority informs residents of sewage spills.
This was the first time Hatcher, an industrial supply company salesman, and Skalko, a civil engineer, ran for office. Thiese, retired from the Navy and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., previously ran unsuccessfully for the Bibb County Commission and the Bibb County Board of Education.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.