Florala council candidates: Goals include jobs, community enhancement

Published 1:16 am Friday, August 12, 2016

Candidates for Florala City Council also expressed their goals for the next administration in Thursday night’s political forum, held at the Carver Community Center.

Odessa Vaughn, District 1

Vaughn is one of three candidates seeking election in this district, but the only one who participated in the forum.

odessa-vaughnVaughn said she is the mother of five and grandmother of seven, and that she recently relocated to Florala from New York.

“When I was in New York, I went door to door helping parents be an advocate for their children,” she said. “I have a fresh, new vision in my head. I like you guys and I think you like me. “


Gayle Robbins, District 2

Robbins said seeking companies that can provide local jobs is key to Florala’s future.

“We have automobile and aerospace industries locate din our state,” she said. “It takes many parts to build aircraft and automobiles. Maybe we could make some of those here.

She said the town has space available in its industrial park and at the airport, as well as medical facilities which can be filled.

“We need to embrace what we have,” she said.

Michael Cheshire, District 2

Cheshire said securing some type of urgent care facility is a top goal for him.

“The majority of our citizens have to go to Opp, Crestview or Andalusia,” he said. “This is a big main precedent to me.”

He also said the town needs to work with owners to get property cleaned up, and to repair roads.

“We’ve got to work together to better the city,” he said.

He said the town needs to capitalize on its biggest asset, Lake Jackson, and also needs to provide incentives for small businesses.

“We’re not going to get industry in here without the town appearance being cleaned up,” he said.


Jeff Burleson, District 4, unopposed

burlesonBurleson said even though he has no opponent, “We need your support no matter what,” he said. “We need to come together as a community. With the right mayor and council, our city will grow.”



Sue Mathis, District 5

Mathis, who joked about her age, said Florala was a large town of 5,000 when she was growing up.

Council candidate Sue Mathis jokes about not revealing her age.

Council candidate Sue Mathis jokes about not revealing her age.

“Every building was occupied,” she said. “We had five drugstores, three hardwares, three car dealerships. It was a thriving town.

“And, I was there when it all changed drastically; when there were very few businesses, and even more empty buildings than we have now.”

Mathis said her four daughters, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren live in Florala.

“Three of my girls worked at Florala Memorial Hospital when it closed down,” she said. “Iy was devastating to them as well as to other employees and to residents. That’s one reason I would like to see some kind of immediate care facility. Unfortunately, I don’t t hink we’ve ever be able to have another hospital unless we grow a lot. But we could have a rural clinic.

Mathis also listed jobs and improving the appearance as top goals.

“I want to see our town’s appearance improve,” she said. “I want Florala to be a place to be proud of. I feel like if they drive through and see it like it is now or has been in the past, it looks like a place that nobody cares about. And we care about Florala. We want to see it beautiful and vibrant.”

Mathis, a former council member, said she’s been in business in Florala for 50 years, “and I’m gone have to work ‘til lunch on the day of my funeral,” she said.

She advocated adding a playground and cabins to the city’s property around Lake Jackson to attract more people.


Evan Robbins, District 5

Robbins, who is 25, said, “I’m not experienced as (Mathis) is, but with that being said, there are a lot of things I’ve seen in my young life.”



Robbins works out of town, but he and his wife recently opened a business, Sass and Grit, downtown.

Robbins said he has heard several people say Florala is just an average small town.

“Florala is not average,” he said. “It should not be average. We are a small town, but we have things other average small towns don’t have.

“We have a major highway, the lake, an airport, and people,” he said. “Don’t let anybody tell you we’re an average small town, because we’re not.”


In District 3, incumbent Deborah Inabinett was being challenged by Abby Spillman. Spillman has withdrawn from the race, but her name will still appear on the ballot. Neither participated in the forum.