Johnson, Wilson state issues

Published 12:05 am Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Tuesday, voters will head to the polls to choose muncipal government representatives. To help Andalusia voters choose a mayoral candidate, Star News’ staff asked the incumbent Earl Johnson and his opponent Blaine Wilson a series of five questions.

Their answers presented in writing follow:



Why do you think you are the best candidate for mayor?

EVJ: Without sounding self aggrandizing, I believe that I have a solid record, resume, experience, education, training and connections to be the best candidate.

Many of the issues that we face in city business are often very complex and take time to disseminate and communicate to council members, the public, etc.

I challenge anyone to carefully scrutinize my record as mayor over two terms.

We have made tremendous strides and must prepare for the future if we are to have a future that includes opportunities for successive generations, employment opportunities for our young people after high school and college.

Not only do I have a solid record in getting meaningful projects completed, but I also have a clear record of management skills for everyone to judge.

Our greatest resource is our employees and I have a history of giving our employees ownership of their positions and our projects.

There are an infinite number of advantages to this kind of management, the best is that it greatly improves our chances for success.

I trust the people of Andalusia to carefully evaluate the qualifications of each candidate and make the best decision.


Your opponent has said the city’s debt is too high. Can the city service that debt, and would you increase it in another term.


EVJ: No, the city’s debt is not too high, especially if you carefully and honestly examine our position as Mayor Pro Tem Terry Powell did a few weeks ago.

As Terry so accurately stated, the city’s actual, true debt is approximately $19 million and we can easily service that.

In fact, we have actually reduced debt service during this term and not extended the time to retire existing debt.

Again, management, especially financial management, is critical to being mayor.

If I felt that we could service new debt and that our return on it were justified it, then yes, like every good business person, I would approve. Keep in mind that any such decision would have to be a council decision.


Your opponent says the city spends too much money. How do you respond?

EVJ: I don’t know how to provide services, build infrastructure for business and industry, replace worn out equipment and make sure that our employees have what they need to do their jobs and pay them adequately without spending money.

What business or family doesn’t spend for labor, equipment, insurance, maintenance, utilities, clothing, education, transportation, etc., etc.? It is silly to think that one can run a city without spending. I challenge anyone to compare our budgets during this term. They have risen modestly, an average 3 percent per year, and those costs were almost completely related to personnel costs and insurance.

We have been able to give modest raises, as we should, to retain valuable, trained employees. Everyone knows what we face when we look at health insurance rates.

We have done a great job keeping expenses down, stretching one dollar into three or four.


The mayor and council appoint department heads at the beginning of each administration. Would you make any changes in another term?


EVJ: Absolutely not. Our employees work long hours and routinely go above and beyond the call of duty everyday to make sure that we are safe, have dependable power, water, youth sports activities, senior activities, they maintain our streets and keep the garbage and trash collected. I think that it is terribly unfair to drag these professional, hard-working people into politics and to have their families subjected to rumors and gossip.


What goals would you set for the next four years?


EVJ: First, if I am fortunate to be asked to serve another term, I will continue to make Andalusia City Schools our top priority. We must ensure that our teachers and administrators have everything that they need to prepare our young people for a very competitive future.

Second, I will continue to make sure that we maintain the momentum that we have created for our economy and local businesses so that we continue to add jobs, quality jobs that will improve the value of life for everyone.

Specifically, I have made it clear that South Three Notch Street is a top priority for next term.

We have already begun preliminary work and are confident that we will have a significant amount of financial assistance as we have had in the past for similar projects.

The next project, one that has generated a lot of positive interest, is the creation of a private financed entertainment and dining district. Our plan would give our citizens many more opportunities for high quality entertainment (nice theater) that they currently have to drive elsewhere to get. Such a project will also net jobs and increase property values for everyone in Andalusia.



Why do you think you are the best candidate for mayor?

BLW: The love I share for Andalusia is to the core of my heart.

This city has offered me and my family the opportunity to be educated, earn a living, prepare a home, raise a son, worship, recreate and serve its residents as a public servant on the airways.

Andalusia schools offered me a quality education and prepared me for this opportunity to give back to every citizen of the community.

I have worked and been involved in business in Andalusia since I was old enough to push a lawnmower. I believe I understand the history and politics of this city and know where change is needed most. I want what the people need and deserve regardless where they reside.

Everyone should be treated equally. Everyone talks about how government is broken. I believe it’s time for me and my generation to speak up and give back to a city that has given to us for years. Out of a graduating class of 133, I am one of the few who chose to stay home and do my part to make a difference in Andalusia.


You have campaigned on the city’s debt. Why do you think it is too high? And, if elected, what will you do about it?

BLW: It is not just me who believes the city’s $38+ million debt is too high. When this administration took office three and a half years ago, long-term debt was under $14 million. (Editor’s note: As previously reported by this newspaper, $38 million is the total debt of the city, utilities board, school board, and airport. Four years ago, that total number was approximatley $31 million, according to Councilman Terry Powell, director of finance at Shaw Industries) Our country is in a terrible recession. Times are tough. Groceries, utilities, gasoline, health and property insurance are unaffordable.

Many residents are unable to purchase their required medications.

Our children have nowhere to recreate and be just kids without being harassed and told to leave.

We have a million dollar mansion called Springdale this mayor purchased without public notice and without council approval that one can rent if they have $1,800 for a three-day weekend, but we don’t have a Babe Ruth baseball field or a city pool open with inviting hours to accommodate our citizens. (Editor’s note: The council approved the purchase of Springdale on Sept. 7, 2010. See “Council formalizes estate purchase,”Andalusia Star-News, Sept. 8, 2010.)

We have Taj Mahal government offices for public officials, but the city offers few part-time jobs for teenagers and senior adults.

It appears this administration has focused their attention on the “unnecessary.”

I plan to focus on providing necessary services and what can be accomplished with the revenue the city currently receives.


Stop the spending is your slogan. What spending specifically, would you cut?

BLW: One of my slogans has been to “$top the $pending.” I have also said it’s time to “Get back to the Basics,” and that Blaine Wilson is, “For the Working Class.”

We must operate city government within reason, keeping in mind Andalusia can’t print money like the federal government.

We must survive on what the approximately 9,200 residents spend in sales taxes, through our property taxes, business license fees and construction permits, and from our utility profits.

We need to focus on the things we do have – quality services, dependable police and fire protection, affordable utilities, quality recreation opportunities, activities for our children and senior adults and clean litter-free streets – instead of the lavish ideas of big city life. We need to provide what we can afford and live within our means.

I will ensure you I will not support or vote for the city to be involved financially in real estate, residential construction, lavish $850 per month upscale apartments on Devereaux (Debro) Hill, and I will not vote to spend any monies which would possibly compete directly against existing local businesses in Andalusia.



The mayor and council appoint department heads at the beginning of each administration. Have you promised to make any personnel changes?

BLW: I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to discuss the good name of any department head employed by the City of Andalusia prior to an election as they do a great job and do not deserve to be used for political gain. I do plan on voting to institute a hiring freeze until I completely understand where our city stands financially.

I would also like to address the rumor that I would do away with the department of leisure services.

This is simply not true.


What goals would you set for the next four years?


• Open the gates of Springdale for everyone. We will have a community day at Springdale complete with water slides, fire trucks, hot-dogs, cotton candy, boiled peanuts, watermelons, church choirs, dunking booth and family portraits provided by the city.

We will all enjoy Springdale.

• Dissolve this utility board and use these monies to hire a professional jobs recruiter specifically for the City of Andalusia. We must have immediate jobs.

• Lower utility bills for everyone by operating the utility department conservatively. Remember, one man changed your utility bill. He raised your bill. We will return the savings to the people in the form of a credit on their utility bill. I will do whatever it takes to accomplish this.

• Education: Appropriate $250 annually to every teacher for classroom supplies.

• Clean-up dilapidated buildings in Andalusia and encourage remodeling of our most beautiful historic buildings and homes.

• Apply for grants to fund the rehabilitation of South Three Notch Street and residential streets.

• Encourage the owners of Clark Cinemas to rehabilitate the historic Martin Theatre Building in downtown Andalusia.

• Offer equal opportunity for everyone and work to restore public trust to city government.

• Locate businesses and jobs to fill our empty industrial buildings.

• Ensure the City of Andalusia is not competing against its current local businesses.