Johnson announces mayoral reelection bid

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson announced his bid for reelection yesterday in a press conference at city hall.

Johnson cited numerous accomplishments of the current administration, but said there is work yet to be done. The accomplishments include three major projects set as goals in 2008, including the renovation of River Falls Street, the renovation of Johnson Park, and the development of Church Street School into a cultural arts center.

Johnson said partnering with CDG Engineering to complete the planning for River Falls Street, and with the Andalusia Ballet to fund renovations at the Church Street School, were key in accomplishing those projects. Similarly, he said, the Covington County Commission is a key partner in the soon-to-be completed renovations at Johnson Park.

“Planning and vision are necessary,” he said, “but we must also have the ability to react to unknown opportunities that lie hidden in the future.”

Two such opportunities occurred when local iconic landmarks, the former Alatex property and Springdale, became available. The city acquired each.

“Once again, using the same formula, we found two partners to share investment costs and ongoing operating and maintenance expenses,” he said.

The city is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce to renovate the old Alatex headquarters as the new home for that organization. Another building on the property, which will become a light industrial park, is being leased by an industrial tenant.

Partnerships with the Dixon Foundation and the Estep Trust have helped Springdale became a tremendous asset to the citizens of Andalusia, he said.

Johnson said he, members of the council, and city employees have worked hard at management of the city’s finances, including securing an A- rating from Standard and Poors in 2009 and improving that rating to a solid A in 2011.

“We quickly learned that with better management we could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars while providing much-needed improvements in our city,” he said. “We were cited for improved financial management, and our outlook improved from stable to good, all in the middle of a recession. While we have added some debt for investments in the city’s infrastructure, that debt is at an historically low interest rate, resulting in the city spending less now to service that debt than when I took office. The city is still far below its debt limit.”

Johnson said the city cannot expect outside investment and new jobs if it isn’t willing to invest in itself.

“One doesn’t have to look far to find communities that have not invested in themselves,” he said. “The difference between those communities and Andalusia is startling. Those communities are in decline and Andalusia is prospering.”

He said estimated there are 330 new jobs in Andalusia, thanks to an expansion at SaeHaeSung; expansion in the medical community; and retail expansion.

Announced industrial plans from Green Structures and expansions in aviation will mean an additional 310 jobs over the next two years.

Still, he said, there is work to be done, citing road improvements, entertainment, and education as three areas for emphasis in the future.

“Looking to the future, we have one remaining thoroughfare, South Three Notch Street, which needs improvement,” he said. “I have already begun gathering cost estimates, looking for funding sources and looking at what our own personnel can accomplish. Our hospital and other related businesses on South Three Notch Street must have a safe environment in which to grow.

Develing entertainment that will appeal to all ages and draw more people into Andalusia to shop, eat and be entertained are also a priority, he said.

“Finally, I am committed to working to maintain the best education system in the State of Alabama,” he said.

Municipal elections are in August. There are no other announced candidates for city offices in Andalusia.