These endorsements are the work of the Citizens’ Advisory Board and The Telegraph’s Editorial Board. Not all members of either board were present for all 29 interviews, however, only those members present for all the candidates in a district could vote. Those members involved in political campaigns did not participate in the interviews in those districts.
The Citizens Advisory Board, Charles Bass, Bob Berlin, Gigi Cabell, Bill Curry, Amy Elton, Mary Lou Ezell, Shawn Fritz, Philip Lengel, Leroy Mack, Jonathan Merrill, Don McGouirk, Giles O’Neal, Gene Strouss and Betty Toussaint. The Editorial Board, Don Bailey, publisher, Sherrie Marshall, executive editor and Opinion Page Editor Charles E. Richardson.
District 4: The candidates running for the District 4 seat in the new consolidated government are, Mallory Jones, a real estate agent who ran for a seat on the Bibb County Commission last year; Beverly Olson, the Ward 5, Post III, representative on City Council and Theron Ussery who last served on City Council in 1995.
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Jones has exhibited his desire to serve by attending most of the commission meeting over the last few years. Ussery brings his experience in city government, particularly his 19 years on the Finance Committee, but the one thing neither candidate can bring to the office that Olson delivers is a long-term commitment to the people of this county.
There are few organizations that have not benefited from Olson’s generosity with time and money. Most of this commitment predates her short time in elected office.
She brings her start-up business experience from the Macon Knights to Starcadia. That will be invaluable as this new government also faces many of the same challenges. Olson certainly doesn’t have to be a county servant. She’s always been a servant of the people and she would be a great addition to the Bibb County team.
We endorse Beverly Olson.
District 5: There are three candidates in the District 5 race. Bert Bivins has been a commissioner for 18 years. Jon Carson, a newcomer to politics, has stressed representing the entire county, not just District 5. He believes public safety is the area’s most pressing issue and thinks the commission’s recent decision to issue $13 million in bonds for office space for the new government was a bad one.
The third candidate, Louis Frank Tompkins, has served on council since 2011 representing Ward IV. Tompkins has been impressive during his first term. He has pushed the allocation of special purpose local option sales tax funds to improve a brutal section of Log Cabin Drive and has also advocated for a minority participation ordinance and community gardens. He also sponsored the proposal to allow personal monuments on city property after the controversy over the memorial bench for Lauren Giddings.
Bivins, though, has experience through the county side of the budget, particularly the constitutional officers side that makes up a significant portion. He prides himself and the other commissioners on being able to hold the line on taxes in spite of rising costs. As a former educator, he would suggest charging scofflaw parents with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and cutting benefits to parents on DFACS rolls whose children have discipline problems in school. The issues he would focus on deal with pension obligations and health-care issues.
In forming a competent team, we would pick Bert Bivins. He is a quiet, thoughtful and knowledgeable member of the commission and will help get the merged city and county off to a solid start.
District 6: This race is between Ed DeFore, who has served on council for 42 years; Robert Abbott, in his second try at an elected position (he ran against Joe Allen last year); and political newcomers Chhor Chav and Adah Roberts.
To say that DeFore’s name is one of the most recognizable in city circles is an understatement. Though he’s represented Ward II since 1971, he has been the go-to guy when something needs to be done anywhere in the city, particularly in the area of public works. He’s served under nine mayors, from Ronnie Thompson to Robert Reichert -- with Buck Melton, George Israel, Lee Robinson, Tommy Olmstead, David Carter, Jim Marshall and C. Jack Ellis in between. He has also been the city’s representative on the water authority and until it became illegal, on the Bibb County Board of Education.
Abbott believes the new animal shelter is an example of wasteful spending and that the county is just recycling “the same old bad ideas.” He believes lengthening the runway at Macon Regional Airport is one of the keys to economic prosperity. He would convert the county’s gasoline powered vehicles to natural gas.
Roberts, while a newcomer to the political arena, is not a newcomer to city finances. She was Macon’s finance director under Ellis and of Jacksonville, N.C., before retiring. She had to walk a tightrope working for Macon, where she reported to both the mayor and council. She holds an master’s degree in business administration in accounting from Michigan State University and is a licensed CPA and a licensed life insurance agent. She believes the 20 percent savings mandated by legislation is achievable and thinks Bibb County can become a recreation hub that will attract tourists.
Chav has an interesting personal story. He believes he can convince people to get along through his own honesty and integrity. While his view of county government is laudable, we found it idealistic. We would suggest getting more involved in the governmental process and give it another go in a few years.
One of the most prepared candidates seeking election that our Citizen Advisory Board and Editorial Board have seen in a long time is Roberts. She brings a skill set that is hard to beat.
Having been the finance director for two cities, Macon (population 91,856) and (Jacksonville, N.C., population 70,145) coupled with a career that spans Ford Motor Co., Michigan State University and the state of Michigan, as finance director of the Department of Corrections.
She also brings another talent that will be useful in the very near future. Jacksonville, N.C., is the county seat of Onslow County, where the Marine Corps has Camp Lejeune and Air Station New River. Dealing with the county challenges of having major military installations in the area, particularly in the climate of sequestration, is a skill our Macon-Bibb County team can use.
We appreciate the service that has been given over four decades by DeFore, but for our team going into a new governmental era, we chose Adah Roberts.