Houston & Peach

Perry leaders can relax on election day, again

Perry leaders in 2017 talk about why they didn’t get opposition in election

In 2017, for the second time in the past three election cycles, city of Perry leaders did not draw opposition during qualifying for the upcoming election.
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In 2017, for the second time in the past three election cycles, city of Perry leaders did not draw opposition during qualifying for the upcoming election.

Either no one cares enough to try to make a change in Perry or the mayor and City Council are doing something right.

They, of course, prefer to believe the latter.

For the second time in the past three election cycles the city will not have to hold an election. The terms of Mayor Jimmy Faircloth and three council members are expiring this year but no one qualified to run against them in November, so there won’t be an election. The same thing happened in 2013.

“First and foremost, it’s a very humbling experience for both myself and the three members of council who do not have any opposition,” Faircloth said. “It is very gratifying to know that for the majority of people in the Perry, we are doing the right things and moving in the right direction.”

The city is scheduled for an election every two years but only one challenger has come forth in the past six years. That was in the 2015 election when Councilman Riley Hunt drew an opponent, and Hunt won. It was his first opposition in 12 years on the council.

The city will save at least $30,000 by not having to hold an election, Faircloth said.

City Manager Lee Gilmour said the mayor and council have traditionally not drawn much opposition in his 16 years with the city. He attributed it to a policy of transparency and openness with the pubic.

“The council works very hard at giving people an opportunity to be heard,” Gilmour said.

The three council members who were up for re-election this year are Robert Jones, Phylis Bynum-Grace and Randall Walker. Bynum-Grace is the senior member with 18 years on council, and she hasn’t faced opposition since she was first elected.

“I think that what the public realizes is that we as a group spend a lot of time doing what needs to be done for the whole city,” Bynum-Grace said. “We have a very good working relationship with each other and that makes a big difference.”

Ever since Faircloth came into office he and the council each month take walks in different neighborhoods around the city. It amounts to a moving town hall meeting because citizens can come out, walk with them and ask questions about whatever is on their mind. The walks frequently lead to problems getting identified and addressed, city leaders say.

But it also serves another important purpose, Jones said just before the mayor and council went on a walk Tuesday in the neighborhood behind Matt Arthur Elementary School. He said the contribute to good relations among the mayor and council, even after they have disagreements.

“When you are out walking together and getting some physical exercise, which we all need, I do think that strengthens our bond together as public officials,” Jones said.

Perry isn’t the only city in Houston County where incumbents are getting a free ride this year. Centerville Mayor John Harley and Councilman Cameron Andrews drew no opposition. A second council member, Randall Walker, chose not to run again and that seat drew only one qualifier.

But Centerville doesn’t have quite the track record of Perry when it comes to dodging opposition. Centerville City Clerk Krista Bedingfield, who is the election superintendent, said it’s the first time in her 17 years with the city that no one drew opposition in qualifying.

Wayne Crenshaw: 478-256-9725, @WayneCrenshaw1