Finding funds for projects 1st priority for new mayor

Published 11:24 pm Monday, November 3, 2008

Officially, hunting season won’t begin for a couple more weeks in Covington County, but Andalusia’s new mayor must not have checked the calendar.

Hunting is exactly what Earl Johnson expects to spend a good deal of time doing, starting today.

“We’ve prioritized River Falls Street, Johnson Park and the Church Street Building as our projects,” Johnson said shortly after being sworn in as mayor yesterday afternoon. “Starting tomorrow morning, I’m going to be hunting money to do these projects.”

Ironically, the first full day of his term begins on the same day as the national election.

“An awful lot depends on how the federal election comes out,” Johnson said, adding that he believes regardless of who wins, there will be a stimulus package coming out of Congress to address infrastructure.

“Of course, it could be months or years before it trickles down,” he said. “But it will affect what we can do.”

Meanwhile, he said, he is meeting with department heads to see what can be done in-house on the projects.

“Some work has already been done,” he said. “The next step is to find funding, grants or sponsorships for the projects.”

The new council, which includes Will Sconiers, Kennith Mount, Hazel Griffin, Jason Jewell, and Terry Powell, has already spent many hours meeting and planning the work they will do in their four-year administration. In their first regular meeting tonight, they are expected to ratify a budget, raise garbage fees, renew two loans and consider abolishing the police jurisdiction.

“We’ve been working hard together already,” Johnson told the crowd that filled the auditorium for their swearing-in ceremony, adding, “I hope this is the largest crowd we ever see at one of our council meetings because if we get this big a crowd again, we’re in trouble.”

Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins was the guest speaker for the ceremony, and called on the mayor and council to use their leadership skills to make Andalusia more than a “pretty good” city, and to strive always for excellence.

During the organizational meeting, the council also:

Elected Powell mayor pro tem.

Appointed Johnson and Powell to the Utilities Board.

Appointed Mount to the board of the Southeast Alabama Gas District.

Appointed Sconiers to the Planning Commission.

Named Mark Christensen city attorney.

Named Mike Jones municipal judge.

Johnson also announced the reappointment of all city department heads and assistant department heads. In a new administration, the appointments are for a 90-day probationary period.