I have expressed disappointment on several occasions with the lack of fresh faces running for political office under consolidation. So many people complain about the leaders we have, but too few of those complaining want to step into the arena. Having been there, it is not easy. Full-time job commitments and families have to come first. I still, however, think we can do better.
At the mayoral level, though, I think we would be wise to choose among those who have been there and know the system. The new office will be heavily shaped by the man who sits in the chair.
Among the several candidates running, I think either Sam Hart or Robert Reichert make the most sense. They’ve both steered their respective ships of state through to consolidation. Though the office will not be as strong as the existing mayoral office in Macon, it will be stronger than the part-time commission chairman role we presently have. Of all the candidates running for mayor, Hart and Reichert have the best temperaments to define the role of the new mayor.
Between the two, my preference is Reichert, because I think his depth of knowledge of city issues is going to be vital moving forward. But, though I did not support Hart’s last re-election against my very good friend Tom Wagoner, I think he has navigated the turbulent waters of consolidation well these past several months.
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Hart and Reichert have shown a level of maturity and responsibility these last several months of moving us forward. I just think the city consolidating into the county is more cumbersome and problematic than the county portion merging with the city. While county commissioners represent the whole county, much of the business of the county is conducted by the city, with its laws, police force and population dominating the conversation these past few years.
While the City Council has behaved badly, Mayor Reichert has done a commendable job. His knowledge base dealing with the issues that will probably come up due to the city will be useful. Frankly, he has also gotten to know the personalities of members of council who may also continue to haunt us past consolidation. That could prove his most useful advantage in the new mayoral office.
To me it makes sense to keep Reichert in the mayor’s office. With a consolidated government in place, perhaps the county can find some unity on issues to bring jobs to the area. We have, in the past, settled to be a distribution center. That makes sense given our geography and proximity to two interstates, rail hubs and our airport. Unfortunately, many distribution jobs are low paying jobs of minimal skill. We should try hard to attract technical jobs to the area. Expanding the airport runway should be priority No. 1 for a consolidated administration.
Rethinking our recreation plan for the county is another task. Most counties are moving toward central areas for recreation. Carroll County, where my in-laws live, has developed a central area for baseball, football, soccer, biking and swimming. It has a fantastic multi-pool facility. Other counties are doing similarly. This all requires rethinking public transportation and use of the existing facilities.
While reconsidering those things, we should reconsider how our schools are operating too. A consolidated county will only be as effective as our school system. That struggle will be beyond the scope of the mayor and council, but they should be able to have a measurable influence.
Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.