Candidates define ballot issues

Published 12:37 am Saturday, October 4, 2008

On Tuesday, voters will head to the polls to cast their ballots in four runoff races where they will choose a District 4 councilman in Andalusia, a District 5 councilman in Opp and mayors in both Florala and Gantt.

Candidates were asked Friday to identify the most important issues facing their city or town.

In Andalusia

Incumbent Don Cotton, who received 231 votes in the general election, said that the most pressing issue for District 4 and the city is the economy.

“We’re going to be facing what the rest of the country is facing, and that’s a real tight budget,” Cotton said. “We’ve got to be careful on what we spend and where we spend and make sure we don’t get Andalusia into a budget crisis like some other cities and states are facing.”

Jason Jewell, who received 204 votes in the general election, said that house moving is still the biggest issue on the minds of District 4 voters.

“We hope to prevent that from happening in the future, that’s a big issue for me,” he said. “Other things on voters’ minds are roadway improvements and the abatement issues. Those are huge.”

Both Cotton and Jewell said they were in favor of the proposed changes to the city’s utilities board. Thursday evening, the board voted to make mayor-elect Earl Johnson the chairman, as well as expand the board to six members. In the changes, they also defined who would represent the city on PowerSouth’s board of directors.

“This is what Earl (Johnson)’s administration wanted to do and I’m behind him 110 percent,” Jewell said.

“As far as the mayor serving as chairman, I’m absolutely in favor of that change,” Cotton said.

Tony Brown received 149 votes in the general election as the third candidate in the District 4 race. He did not advance to the runoff election.

In Opp

Candidate Oren Stewart said he felt that economic development was the main issue facing the city of Opp.

“I think the big issue all districts citywide face is jobs,” Stewart said. “Jobs for the city will help all the districts in Opp. We need some jobs in Opp for people not to have to drive so far. More jobs would allow local citizens to earn greater incomes to face the rising cost of fuel and counteract the negative effects of our declining national economy.”

Stewart urged voters to cast their ballot on Tuesday.

“The biggest issue, in terms of the election, is people going to the poll to vote,” he said. “Apathy or complacency is a big issue in terms of getting people back to the polls to vote. I am hoping we will have a good turnout. There were nearly 500 that voted in the (general election). I think that gives you the right to voice your opinion more so than if you did not go back to the polls and vote for someone.”

Challenger Buddy Pyron cited the needs of senior citizens and the economy as major issues.

“District 5 is Opp’s largest district, and in that makeup there is a large number of senior citizens,” he said. “We as a city should provide more support through various programs and activities to improve their overall quality of life.

“There is also the citywide issue of rising fuel and energy costs. In order to address this national issue locally we need to increase our tax base by bringing in more industry and jobs for our citizens.”

In Gantt

Both mayoral candidates Melissa “Missy” Grissett and Foster Norris agreed the biggest issue facing the town of Gantt is lack of unity in town government.

“My first priority is to bring this town together,” Grissett said. “It’s been in such turmoil the last four years, and it’s not going to stop until we get a mayor and a council that can work together.”

Grissett said she would also like to see citizens in Gantt attend the monthly council meetings and voice their concerns.

“I know that (the citizens) elect us, but it’s important that they come and let us know their feelings about the things that are happening.” she said.

It was a sentiment with which Norris agreed.

Norris said his goal was to “improve the town and get things done that haven’t been done in four years” by devoting his time as a “full-time mayor.”

“It can be done,” he said. “No matter who wins. It’s going to turn out good.”

Foster said he’d like to see a full-time police officer and additional ways of generating revenue for the town.

“I just hope people get out and voice their opinion,” he said.

In Florala

Mayoral candidates Robert Williamson and Newton Peters agree it’s time to bring progress to the city of Florala.

“This city will go nowhere until we begin to give our community the image facelift it so desperately deserves,” Williamson said. “Issues of concern include jobs, industry, stray animals, police and recreational activities.”

Williamson said he plans to seek immediate ways to increase revenue for the city, as well as ways to capitalize on the town’s unique characteristics.

“We need to focus on ways (to show others) that Florala is an awesome city with tremendous appeal,” he said.

Peters said, if elected, he hopes to immediately tackle a number of issues facing the city.

“(Once the election is over and if I’m elected) before taking office, I plan to establish a transition team to begin working with Mayor Franklin so that I can understand current projects, outstanding issues and day-to-day operation schedules,” he said.

Peters said he plans to work on understanding the city’s current financial stability, as well as outstanding legal issues.

“As soon as we can, I’m going to start planning workshops so that the city can begin work on a long-term strategic plan,” he said. “It covers everything from jobs to recreation – and that’s what the people care about.”

The run-off election is Tues., Oct. 7. Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.