While every election is important, Tuesday’s election in Warner Robins may be the most critical in the city’s history. The sequester is here and may stay a while as the shadow of another Base Realignment and Closure round looms over everything in the region.
As we did with the recent election in Bibb County, the Editorial Board, in its interviews with all the mayoral candidates and all but two seeking council seats, sought to put together the best team to lead the city through what could be a turbulent time. One of the constant complaints over the past four years is a City Council that didn’t help Warner Robins’ image. Many council watchers said that at times the council was “embarrassing.”
Mayor Chuck Shaheen, after one term, has decided to return to the private sector and there are six candidates vying to replace him. Councilmen Daron Lee and Robert “Mike” Brashear; two longtime city employees, Joe Musselwhite and Randy Toms, Chuck Chalk, who ran four years ago is making another run for the office and Eva Folse round out the field.
The team’s leader has to have a well-rounded skill set -- from budgeting to public relations -- particularly with the Air Force. The person will need a thick skin as whomever sits in the mayor’s chair gets plenty of criticism, some deserved, some not. The next mayor will have to figure out how to afford more law enforcement officers, increase their pay, and figure out how to keep them. Recreation facilities is another area that was commented on in all the interviews.
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Our pick to lead Warner Robins is Mike Brashear. He would bring to the job a skill set honed in private industry -- and not any private industry -- aerospace. He’s managed multimillion dollar budgets and a host of project managers, a skill that will come in handy with city employees.
All of the candidates are fine people, but to face up to the challenges of the next four years, Brashear will have to bring his “A” game. Having served on council, he should know how to create the team atmosphere needed and wanted by the voting public. While business experience is critical, Brashear will have to remember the tone of Warner Robins. While he thinks having a municipal transit system would be a money loser, he has not closed the door on the Macon Transit Authority or some other entity providing the much-needed service.
Brashear would sponsor a digital dashboard on the city’s website so every citizen, and council, would know the city’s financial shape and the state of ongoing projects. The site would also provide a simple way to communicate with his administration.
Most importantly, Brashear will bring the right tone to the office. He’s a mature administrator who will also have to be quite a salesman to cajole council to act as a unified body. However, most should know that what goes on inside City Hall is of intense interest in Washington, D.C., particularly inside the Pentagon.
Post 1 at Large
This race is unusual in the sense that one of the candidates is the sitting mayor (Chuck Shaheen), one is a sitting councilman, (Mike Daley), one is a longtime servant of the community as a firefighter and emergency room tech (Charlie Scott), and one is a perpetual candidate seeking to end his drought (Jeffrey Walker).
In actuality, this race is between Shaheen, Daley and Scott. It would be nice to have a councilman with mayoral experience, however, in our minds, that would be more disruptive than productive.
To continue with the team comparison: when a head coach steps down, he doesn’t hang around to tell the new coach what to do. He might become an assistant, but with another team. Considering the personalities involved, it would be best to let the new mayor create the proper atmosphere unfettered by “When I was in office” rhetoric.
Our choice is Mike Daley. He’s council’s “Just the facts” guy who tries to stay above the emotional fray and deal with the issues at hand. His major focus would continue to be on public safety.
Daley feels that by making Warner Robins a safe city he’s responding to one of the items sure to be addressed in the next BRAC.
There are two good candidates running for the Post 3 seat on council, Keith Lauritsen and the incumbent Paul Shealy. Lauritsen’s focus would be on recreation, he’s coached everything under the sun and served as president of the Recreation Advisory Committee. He worked for the 2012 special purpose local option sales tax and wants to shepherd the projects through to completion.
Shealy, since being elected four years ago, has taken advantage of every course offered by the Georgia Municipal Association dealing with city governance.
Both candidates believe public safety should be the No. 1 priority and both believe in regionalism and will seek to diversify the industry mix of the city.
Our choice is Paul Shealy. At this point in time, he’s better equipped to hold up the responsibilities of council now that he’s gone through a steep learning curve of his last term.
Tim Thomas, who ran and lost four years ago to Carol Robbins in a runoff, faces Ben Campbell, a program manager at Robins and a former Russian linguist; and Bob Wilbanks, the head of Central Georgia Technical College’s police force and former councilman.
Wilbanks decided not to seek re-election four years ago. He was blamed, justly or not, for much of the infighting on council. He wants to return to push for new business recruitment efforts and to improve infrastructure around the base.
Campbell’s focus is also on business recruitment. As a project manager, he knows his way around multimillion budgets and knows that regionalism must be the avenue to long-term success.
Thomas, believes there are four keys to success in business recruitment: a quality educational system (which he says is already in place); a good quality of life; public safety; strong city finances; and stability in leadership.
While Wilbanks has the experience, we are not sure he’s shed his bomb thrower characteristics. Campbell, while qualified, is surpassed by Tim Thomas in the creation of the team concept. Being a registered mediator with the state will serve him well on council. He understands what leadership can do and must do as Robins continues to grow.
Former councilman and interim Mayor Clifford Holmes Jr. would like to return to city government. His opponents, Liberty Kovach, who is the youngest candidate (25) and one of two females in city races, and Richard “Chef” Weldon, a board member on the Downtown Development Authority and a professional chef.
While it is encouraging to see young people offer themselves for political office, they must do their homework. Kovach admitted not attending a single council meeting, though she did say she’s watched some of the broadcasts.
Hands down, Clifford Holmes is our choice. If prior history is an indication of future actions, Post 5 will be in good hands if Holmes is elected. He handled a very difficult situation while serving as interim mayor and he obviously had the respect of his colleagues.
His focus would be on the blighted areas in his district, strengthening the ties between the city and the base and working to open a park at Watson Boulevard and Davis Drive.
He was a quiet but effective force on council when he served as councilman and interim mayor, and we expect him to assume that role again.