Johnson announces bid for mayoral re-election

Published 12:49 am Saturday, June 4, 2016

Mayor Earl Johnson was joined at the podium by his wife, Sylvia.

Mayor Earl Johnson was joined at the podium by his wife, Sylvia.

There was standing room in the foyer of city hall Friday morning when Mayor Earl Johnson announced he will seek a fourth term in municipal elections this summer.

The crowd was a veritable “Who’s Who” of local business owners, public officials, and city employees.

Johnson reviewed the highlights of his service, which began with a four-year term in 2000.

“Then we took a little break for four years and thought of some more stuff to do, and have served Andalusia for eight consecutive years since,” he said.

Among the projects he mentioned were:

• The expansion of SaeHaeSung, a Tier 2 Hyundai and Kia supplier, which currently employs 200 people in the city’s industrial park. In a partnership with the industry, the city constructed a 120,000 square foot manufacturing facility.

“Of course, we keep hearing rumors that Hyundai is getting ready to expand again in North America, and we hope it will be in the Montgomery area, so that SaeHaeSung can expand again with them.

• Reconstruction of River Falls Street, which included utilities, curbs and gutters, lighting, and new sidewalks.

• Refurbishing the old Alatex headquarters through a public/private partnership with the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce. Another building on the property was leased to Wright Manufacturing, which now employs approximately 35 people.

“We also have another prospect looking at the company,” Johnson said.

• Restoration of Church Street School as the Church Street Cultural Arts Center.

“This, again, was through a public/private partnership with the Andalusia Ballet,” Johnson said. “They have a wonderful program that is one of the best in the state.

“Any time I have a chance, I take out-of-town visitors in the building,” Johnson said. “They always say, ‘I wish we had this.’ ”

• Upgrades to Johnson Park.

“Johnson Park was built in the late 1960s,” the mayor said. “We rebuilt it into a more modern facility.”

And while that was a city project, Johnson said what touched him most was the response of local citizens in the call to add a Miracle League park for children with special needs.

“As we looked at parks around the state, we began to see these,” he said. “In less than six months, this town of 9,000 people raised $650,000 to build that park. We have 258 children who qualify just in Covington County, and hundreds who come and participate.

“This was not city money; not taxpayer money; but contributions from local residents and businesses. PowerSouth is responsible for a big chunk of that,” he said.

• Upgrades to the city industrial park

“We added 200 acres to the city industrial park,” Johnson said, adding that the water, sewerage, and gas lines, as well as the streets, were upgraded to earn the park “prepared” status.

• Andalusia City Schools

“We worked with the system to build a new facility for the sixth grade at Andalusia Elementary School, and a new junior high school facility at AHS,” he said.

The city also secured funding for an after-school program in the old middle school.

“The first thing they do is get their homework done,” he said. “Then they have an opportunity to do something special, like learn archery or grow a garden.”

He said other projects are planned for the schools, including some for which their will be fundraising campaigns.

• South Three Notch Street

The project that has been in the works for at least three years since ATRIP funding from the state was announced will be bid in July, he said. The project will give the entrance into the city a needed facelift, he said.

• Vector Aerospace has renewed its contract for five years, keeping jobs in the city.

• A number of retailers have located here between 2008-2016, including Marvin’s, Pic N Sav (second location), Zaxby’s, CVS Pharmacy, Taco Bell, Fletcher’s, Sporting Lifestyles, and Happy Kitchen. Sonic, McDonald’s and Burger King each got major facelifts, too.

“People like Chris and Donna Lawrence and invested in their new facility, like many other business owners who continually invest in their businesses,” he said.

• Candyland.

“What in the world can you say about that,” Johnson said. “This idea came to us from Chrissie Duffy, who is our Chamber of Commerce director. “People came from all over. It is an amazing thing.”

• Downtown revitalization

The downtown has been losing vitality since the 1960s, he said.

“If we want people to come to our old, historic buildings, we have to give them some help,” he said, adding that is what the city is doing in refurbishing the Andala building and Clark Theatre. The Andala will become the home of an upscale restaurant.

Johnson said having the two businesses in the downtown area will help foster more business there.

• Sidewalks

“We have also started sidewalk projects,” he said, adding that a new sidewalk down Prestwood Bridge Road is well under way, and a second project has been approved that will extend sidewalks on Stanley Avenue and down Lindsey Bridge Road.

“We get about 80 percent of the funding for these through grants,” he said. “In other words, it is costing us 20 cents on the dollar. We couldn’t afford to build these without these grants.”

Johnson expressed his thanks to the city employees who have worked on the projects, and to others there who have supported the projects. He said he will be knocking on doors and talking to local residents about the election soon.