Key seeks city’s top job

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 19, 2004

If high school kids could vote, Ed Key might have a simple stroll to public office in Demopolis.

Key, an entrepreneur who has developed a successful niche business in Demopolis, qualified Thursday as a mayoral candidate in the Aug. 24 municipal elections.

“One of my biggest concerns is that we do a great job educating our children, they go off to college, and then they never come back,” Key said. “As mayor, one of the things I’d like to do is work with the schools and have them elect their own mayors and city councils.”

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Once elected, Key said the young politicians would develop resolutions and ordinances they’d present to “the real council.”

“Then we’d vote on them,” Key said. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting our young people involved. They are the leaders of Demopolis. They’re the ones who will run our city in the future. Their ideas matter.”

Key, who owns Keyco Inc., on U.S. Highway 80, possibly could face four other candidates in the Aug. 24 election. Mike Grayson, Cecil Williamson, Stephen Gutshall and Ben Sherrod have all qualified to seek the city’s top post. One of those candidates, Sherrod, will be more than just an opponent in about five weeks.

Sherrod and Key are half-brothers, though Key has a hard time with the “half” part.

“Either you are or you aren’t,” he said. “We are brothers, and I love my brother.”

A few weeks ago, Key said his brother came by the store and asked if it would be OK to place a sign at Key’s business. After a talk, Key said he and his brother had different ideas about how city government should be run.

“He wants to go in, clean out city hall and start fresh,” Key said. “I don’t think that’s what we need to do. I think we need to work with what we have and build on it.”

For instance, Key said he fully supports the Arch Street project — a divisive issue among some Demopolis residents.

“That’s not a new idea,” he said of the rive walk project. “That comes from a vision a long time ago.”

While Key wants to build on what Mayor Austin Caldwell has accomplished during his five terms in office, Key also believes the city will face some tough times in the coming years.

“With a lot of the old buildings that we’re renovating, I think the cost of operating these buildings is going to be more than anyone knows,” he said. “We need to come up with some direction with where we’re heading.”

For the past 18 years, Key has lived in Demopolis — with a brief stint in Linden. His first business, Ed Key Home Repair, was incorporated into Keyco in 1997. And over the past few years, Key said he’s had an opportunity to work with one of the region’s best mayors.

“I’ve learned a lot from [Thomasville Mayor] Sheldon Day,” Key said. “One of the things I want to do is be a very approachable person. I want people to know they can come to my office and talk to me. I’m just Ed, and if I’m elected, I’ll still just be Ed.”

Key’s business is located near the site of the new Wal-Mart Supercenter, and Key expects the city to feel the expansion of the new retailer.

“It looks like we’re going to get some new apartments in that area and I hear we’re going to get another new motel,” he said. “The Highway 80 area is probably going to double or triple in size over the next couple of years.”

One of the infrastructure issues Key would address is the route drivers take from U.S. 80 to Highway 43.

“I’d like to find some grant money for Highway 80 where we could synchronize the red lights heading out of town,” he said.

In terms of economic development, Key said Demopolis should work harder to help local businesses grow.

“Our growth won’t necessarily come from a big business that moves to town,” he said. “It’s going to come from local people.”

One pertinent issue through this mayoral campaign has been the candidates’ ability to serve as mayor on a full-time basis, even though the position is part-time. Key said he would still run his business, but that he’d clearly separate work and mayoral duties, if elected.

“I think you run into problems when you micromanage,” he said. “We have great department heads in this city, and the mayor needs to let the department head run their departments. When the tough questions come, then the mayor has to help answer the questions.”