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Tri-Cities Chamber hosts Florala candidate forum

The Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum on Thursday night giving all of the candidates running for office in Florala a chance to speak and answer questions asked from the public.

Joseph Bobo Hunt is seeking election in District 4 of Florala.

“I have resided for the last nine years in District 4,” Hunt said. “I am married to Hope Hunt and we have two children, Logan and Dawson. Hope teaches at Florala High School and both Logan and Dawson are both involved in many recreational activities provided by our city office. We love and worship the Lord.”

Hunt is currently employed by the air conditioning and heating industry and previously worked offshore for 27 years in a supervising position.

He said he is running for office because he believes the City of Florala needs positive change and growth.

“I want to increase employment opportunities for the citizens of Florala,” Hunt said. “I would also like to see improvements in things such as infrastructure, parks and recreation and city owned facilities. I will always put the people of my district first and my decisions will be based on utilizing my power and faith in Jesus Christ, prayer and the common working man’s sense.”

Jimmy Carter, running for the District 2 council seat, said he is running for office because he wants to get involved.

“I am running for this position because I am completely retired now and have been a handyman for the community for the past for or five years,” Carter said. “Since I’m getting older, I want to get the city involved with the older community. There are also some buildings around that need our attention. I don’t know what I can do as a councilperson, but I would love to be involved with everybody and work with them and see if we can get something going for the whole town to make it better.”

Incumbent Gail Robbins is seeking reelection in District 2.

“District 2, this is how I have represented you,” Robbins said. “I went to meetings and training sessions where we learned about funding sources, economic development and job opportunities. Covington County E-911 meetings were attended to ask for funds to continue ambulance service. When I asked for help, Commissioner [Tony] Holmes provided aid for cleaning ditches and repairing dirt roads. I even wrote or assisted writing grants for community improvements. Support was requested for our high school students, who want to enter the workplace. I am an active participant with the Alabama Communities of Excellence Program. Not only did I help write the application, I continued to help write phases two and three. Do you want somebody with experience to represent you? Do you want someone who has a working relationship with the people who can help us? Do you want someone who will consistently work for you? I am that person. I am speaking to you from my heart tonight. This is not a popularity contest. Now is the time to make a decision as to what is best for your future. Are you willing to close the door on your well being for economic development? Would you rather see the hospital property vacant or are you grateful that it was purchased and is being leased for medical purposes? It is a process. In the digital age, we get things instantly, therefore we want instant change for our community, but that is not how economic development, success depends on long-range planning for a robust and sustainable future. Look around, there has been positive progress. You and I know both know there is much work to be done. Together we can accomplish the things you want for this community. I need your support to continue to serve you.”

Incumbent Sylvia Wallace-Patton, who is running for District one, said she has years of experience dealing with the public and has used her experience the past four years while she served Florala.

“I would like to thank the citizens for allowing me to serve as their councilwoman,” Patton said. “As the district one councilwoman, I attended every council meeting. I attended seminars and meetings so I could become a certified city official.”

During the past four years, Wallace Patton said there are several things that have been done in the current administration.

“We have applied for grants, upgraded the sewer system, applied for the ACE program and several other things,” Wallace Patton said. “I met with representatives in Montgomery to discuss our political concerns. I was also given the responsibility for being the liaison for the Carver Community Center. I received hands-on experience serving meals for seniors, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. If called upon and even when not called upon, I am always willing to lend a helping hand. I support children, seniors, equal opportunity, tourism, farmers, all important issues and most importantly, Florala. Lots of work has been done but more is needed.”

If elected Chuck Willis wants to bring new ideas and vitality to District 1.

“I have lived in District 1 for the past 10 years, and the surrounding area for about 36 years,” Willis said. “My mother graduated from Florala High School and my daughter is a senior there this year. I have promoted this city my whole life. Not for financial or political reasons, but simply because I love Florala.”

One main issue that Willis said is on his mind is Lake Jackson being protected and promoted.

“Many of you may have seen my photographs of this town and of Lake Jackson and I have gladly donated them to several people and organizations to promote this town,” Willis said. “As a city council member, it will be my duty to make sure that Lake Jackson is protected and promoted to the fullest extent. It is our local treasure and should be treated as such. I believe in a strong stance on criminal activity and I hope you do as well. My other areas of focus will be full accountability, oversight of all departments and complete transparency. We need to know where all the money is coming from and where it is going. Economic planning and business incentives to people who would like to move their businesses to this town is a top priority. We also need to have oversight on architectural designs on all historical areas of this town. Abandoned and desolate buildings are also one of my priorities. Basically, if you are happy with everything that’s been going on then vote the way that you have been voting, but if you like some fresh ideas, or somebody that will add some vitality then vote for me.”

Current councilmen Jeff Burleson said he is running for mayor of Florala because of the love of his hometown.

“I was born and raised in Florala and graduated from FHS in 1988,” Burleson said. “Currently I’m employed with Cenergy as a maintenance technician. I also currently serve as district 4 councilman. My desire to become mayor of Florala comes strictly from the love for my hometown. I feel like I am capable and I am committed. I will be honest and transparent in all city business. I will be available to the people. I am a man of my own convictions, and I am capable of voting on issues without being swayed by others.”

Burleson said he has a vision for the City of Florala.

“My vision for Florala is one of growth and for us to revitalize our town,” Burleson said. “I will work with the city council to provide attention to each district. I will focus on infrastructure, as well as the need to revitalize our downtown. We need to find ways to help our businesses to make sure they remain successful as well as seek out new ones. We need to expand our healthcare, continue to promote Lake Jackson and increase opportunities for our seniors and youth. We need to make sure that our city employees have what they need to do to best do their job. I am committed to working hard and I will work hard because I love our city.”

When current Mayor of Florala Terry Holley ran for his seat four years ago, he said there were concerns about businesses, restaurants, events, improvements to downtown and medical care. He said he listened.

“Now, there are very few empty buildings downtown,” Holley said. “Retail businesses and restaurants are open, providing jobs and creating sales and revenue daily. Our industrial park industries are listed on a state, national and international website. Our new medical clinic, Florala Family Care will be operational in September. Lake Jackson Park is well managed and used by our residents and visitors more than ever. We work together to bring sponsored events to Lake Jackson such as the Eglan Air force Base Rangers and also speed boat racing. I heard about ACE while attending a training seminar and new Florala needed this program. We worked together to get it. ACE provides Florala with free technical guidance in areas of economic development, downtown restoration, historical preservation, community leadership, healthcare, quality of life and promotion of tourism. The Florala Leadership Training Program kicks off in September to develop future leaders of our city. It includes training for the youth. I met with Alabama Works to discuss high demand careers and how to get schools on board. We are continuing to fight to clean up the city. We have purchased several buildings that have been restored and all properties were approved by the city council.

I have attended several meetings with Rep. Mike Jones and Sen. Jimmy Holley and the governor to learn how to locate jobs, funding for projects. My record shows that I show up and I work towards the betterment of this community.”

The municipal election is scheduled for Tue., Aug. 25.