WR mayoral forum becomes confrontational

WARNER ROBINS — Mayoral candidate Chuck Chalk used the time for his opening statement at Monday night’s candidate’s forum to question several statements made by opponent Chuck Shaheen in previous forums and in news articles.

He implied that some of the statements — including how many jobs G-RAMP could bring to the area and how seniors could be used as “Wal-Mart greeters” in City Hall — were potentially bad information, or simply off-putting.

Shaheen, obviously caught off guard by the direct assault, looked toward Councilman Clifford Holmes Jr., also running for mayor, then at the event’s moderator and questioning panel.

“Is this his introduction?” Shaheen asked, cutting off the barrage of questions by his opponent in front of a crowd of 70 people.

It was the first moment in the city’s mayoral election since the sudden death of former Mayor Donald Walker late last month where a candidate had openly questioned another for anything done during the race. The event, held at City Hall and sponsored by radio station WNNG, also gave the men a chance to ask questions of each other.

Holmes asked the other two candidates to list their previous governmental experiences, Shaheen mentioned going to Walker in 2005 and shadowing him for a day to get a glimpse inside the mayor’s office.

“I saw the way he worked with people,” Shaheen said. “Looking at the history of Warner Robins, there’s never been a councilman who became mayor. I wanted to go the councilman route, but it didn’t look best.

“I decided to go to the people.”

Shaheen asked both men about their previous experience with customer service.

“Customer service is not a foreign concept for the military,” said Chalk, who retired from the Air Force. “For two-point-five years, I served in protocol for the general. You have a lot of customers that are important to the base. My job was to make sure they all felt at home.”

Chalk asked his opponents about their supervisory experience. “For 70 days, I was the mayor of this city,” said Holmes, who also touted his experience as an educator. “I met daily with the comptroller. I met with the department heads. I also started looking in 2008 to two years down the road so we didn’t get blind-sided by this economy.”

The candidates also discussed their strategies for leading the city, getting G-RAMP off the ground and the possibility of helping Houston Healthcare.

Before the mayoral candidates’ portion of the forum became a tense affair, six candidates for two city council seats were at odds over whether the proposed Law Enforcement Center needed to be built at Jimmy Perkins Memorial Field, and how much the structure should cost.

They also discussed whether closer attention needed to be paid to diversity in the city’s hiring practices, replacing infrastructure and their potential role when the new mayor and council convene in the new year.