PERRY -- Residents here don’t always need to go to City Hall to have a word with the mayor and council.
Sometimes they can find the city’s leaders wandering by on their streets.
On the last Tuesday of each month, Mayor Jimmy Faircloth, City Council members and department heads take a stroll through a different area of the city. They usually cover about a mile, and they have been doing it ever since Faircloth took office in 2010.
He came up with the idea because he thought it would be a good way to get some exercise. It turned out to have more benefits than he ever expected. It has led to the city’s hearing from a lot of people who have concerns but don’t necessarily want to get on the agenda for a council meeting.
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“We come on their turf,” Faircloth said. “They see that we care enough to come and see what they are talking about.”
As they strolled down Pineneedle Drive last week, Councilman William Jackson said they routinely spot problems that lead to action being taken.
“Sometimes you are just surprised by something that you pass by every day, but on foot, you see it up close, and it may be a problem you need to address,” he said.
That happened Tuesday. Toward the end of the walk they were headed down the sidewalk along U.S. 41 and they noticed the sidewalk was damaged. Nearby, a water meter in a yard was seen poking out of the ground.
City Manager Lee Gilmour, who carries a clipboard with him just for that purpose, took note and said he would make sure both of them got fixed.
On previous walks they have identified drainage problems, illegal dumping, pot holes and more.
Councilman Randall Walker said the walks have made the council more aware of the issue of blighted properties. Those might not be noticed so much driving by, he said, but at a walking pace it’s a lot more clear why residents want properties cleaned up.
The council has visited neighborhoods of all economic levels.
“We’ve walked in virtually every neighborhood in Perry so far doing this the past six years,” Walker said.
They put out a sign in advance in the neighborhood where they plan to walk that month to invite residents, and a few walked with them Tuesday. They also send out letters to residents of the neighborhood in advance to let them know about the walk.
Morrison Guidry stopped by and walked with the mayor to discuss a few concerns he had, including that the police department had been writing tickets at a certain intersection in the neighborhood. Faircloth explained that it was because of a problem with people running the stop signs at the intersection.
Guidry also had an issue with a repair that city workers made on a water line in yard, and Faircloth promised to get that looked at.
He thanked the mayor for listening to him and later said he appreciated what the city was doing with the walk.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I love the mayor. I think he’s doing a good job. Any time I’ve brought something up to him, he’s addressed it.”
All Perry residents are invited to go on the walks, even if it’s not in their neighborhood. The location of the walk is posted in advance on the city’s website, www.perry-ga.gov.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.