WARNER ROBINS— City Council candidates fielded questions alongside their opponents at City Hall on Tuesday night during a forum hosted by the American Association of University Women’s branch in Houston and Peach counties.
Post 2 City Councilwoman Carolyn Robbins, former city clerk and longtime city employee, is challenged in her second term by Jeffrey Walker, now in his fifth bid for a seat on the council.
Walker did not RSVP for the forum, and there were no questions for Robbins, so she was given an opportunity to talk about her accomplishments on the council.
“There’s quite a few things and quite a few projects we’re working on, and I would like the opportunity to finish those,” Robbins said. She mentioned the renovation of City Hall and Walker’s Pond as projects she would like to see finished.
Post 4 City Councilman Tim Thomas, a former bail bondsman who now manages rental properties, is challenged by Betsy Loiacono, a victims advocate for the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office.
“We all know Warner Robins has a bright future, but better representation is needed to reach that future,” Loiacono said.
Loiacono, the wife of a veteran and a mother to four sons, said she’s lived in Warner Robins for about 20 years. With an educational background in business administration, Loiacono said fiscal responsibility and parks and recreation are priorities.
Thomas, a lifelong resident, said Warner Robins isn’t just a city to him, it’s “home.”
“We’re in the process now (of creating) a passive park off Houston Lake Road. It’s about 17 acres of walking tracks and bike trails and that kind of thing.”
Both candidates were asked, “What makes you a better candidate than your opponent?”
“I don’t think she’s really running against me so much as she wants to do the same job I’ve been able to do,” Thomas said of Loiacono. “What makes me a better candidate is the fact that I know business, I know money and I have a proven track record as a councilman with money.”
Loiacono said her “heart to serve” sets her apart from her opponent.
“It’s so important to me to give back to a city that’s been so good to me and my family for the last 20 years,” Loiacono said. “I think that what’s also important is that I’m very easily accessible and I really want to hear the concerns of the taxpayers and voters.”
Both addressed plans for developing and improving the city, including the proposed tax allocation district.
“Once we get that TAD in place, you’re going to see development in the area,” Thomas said.
Loiacono said she’d like to see more studies done that detail how the TAD will impact Warner Robins.
“I’m all about revitalizing our downtown,” Loiacono said. “I really think we need to focus on smart and sustainable growth.”
Post 6 City Councilman Mike Davis, former assistant fire chief, is challenged in his second term by Carmen Antonio, who moved to the city from California five years ago.
Davis and Antonio agreed public safety is the first priority next to infrastructure for the city but differed on parks and recreation.
“I think you’ve got to take care of business before you take care of pleasure,” Davis said, while Antonio said recreation is a big priority.
Candidates were asked to address issues they felt were put on the back burner.
“I’d like to see a downtown,” Antonio said. “I think that’s what our city needs. It needs an urban area where young people can gather.”
Davis said he’d like to focus on growing the city. He said he ran for office because the city needed continuity and stability.
“We’ve got a great team. ... For the most part, we all get along.”
Antonio said she decided to run for office “when Mr. Davis called me ‘That Oakview Square woman.'"
“I think that’s what fired me up to represent the community in which I live,” Antonio said. Davis disputed calling Antonio by any name.
In closing, Davis said he would like to serve for four more years.
Antonio said she wants parks, sidewalks, buses and a downtown.
The incumbents and their challengers will face Election Day on Nov. 3.
To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4334 or follow her on Twitter @Lauraecor.