Houston & Peach

Warner Robins runoff candidates waging friendly battle in council bid

Anyone put off by the acrimony of national politics these days would like the Warner Robins City Council Post 1 race.

The runoff between Eric Langston and Daron Lee could not be more civil. It’s downright friendly.

The two men met with The Telegraph recently in the Northgate Plaza parking lot on North Davis Drive to discuss their thoughts on revitalizing the area, as well as other issues. When it was pointed out that they seemed to agree on most points, they were asked if there was anything that they didn’t agree on.

“I don’t think we disagree on anything,” said Langston, a Robins Air Force Base employee who’s making his first run at public office.

Lee agreed with him on that.

“We are pretty much on the same page,” said Lee, who formerly served as a Post 5 city councilman before leaving to run unsuccessfully for mayor in 2013. “I think people have had enough of public disagreements.”

When the interview was over, they embraced — twice.

Having no clear differences on issues, however, might not lend itself to fixing another problem on which they agree, which is that more people should go vote. Just 17 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the general election, which featured a three-way mayoral race and another council race. Early voting at City Hall ended Friday, and the election is Tuesday. Post 1 is the only race on the ballot

Lee put it simply when asked why voters should care about the citywide Post 1 seat.

“People died for this,” he said. “People died for this of many races, died for people to go vote. I think you should exercise your right to get out and vote regardless of how you feel.”

Langston said he hopes people will understand how local politics affects them.

“Local elections are the most important elections, because a decision made at City Hall today will impact you directly tomorrow,” he said.

They both remembered the old shopping center where they stood as a once thriving area, but today it is mostly vacant. As the city grew, they said, businesses began to move toward the new subdivisions.

One of the anchor businesses, Giant Foods, is hanging on after the state bought many homes just north of it in order to reduce housing near Robins Air Force Base.

Near the rusty Northgate Plaza sign is the old movie theater where Lee watched “Purple Rain” in 1984.

“It’s not what it used to be, but it can be that way again,” Lee said. “It has to take some collaboration from public and private partnership to come to fruition.”

As a child, Langston went to day care just up the street and remembered car dealerships and many other businesses in the area.

“I believe once we get this downtown effort started we will see and attract more industry and commerce back to this side of town,” he said.

One of the men will be the only new face on City Council in January. The seat was vacated by Chuck Shaheen, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor.

People can vote in the runoff even if they didn’t get to the polls in the general election, as long as they were registered by the deadline for the general election.

Wayne Crenshaw: 478-256-9725, @WayneCrenshaw1