Rotarians hear from candidates

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 29, 2004

Candidates for the Demopolis City Council from Districts 1 and 2 told how they would continue to build on the strengths of the city if elected August 24.

Speaking before the Rotary Club Wednesday were Thomas Moore, the incumbent councilman from District 1 who is running unopposed, and District 2 candidates Willard Williams, who holds the position now, and his challenger Freddie Charleston.

The third candidate, Charles Jones, did not attend the meeting.

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Moore briefly covered several key points of importance.

He praised the educational system in Demopolis, but he remains concerned about the students in lower grades. The federal No Child Left Behind policies could be better met if the staff was more diversified, he said.

He is pleased the Council agreed to give support to Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, since good health care is vital to the community.

Of special interest to him is the creation of jobs to bring young people back home and draw others to the area. He also feels the city can do a better job when it comes to maintaining its infrastructure.

Moore believes the services provided by the city are excellent, and the various departments have good leadership.

He is glad to have helped provide some form of raise annually to keep good employees with the city.

He also pointed with pride to the quality of life factors of Demopolis, including the SportsPlex, Two Rivers Arts Council and such events as Christmas on the River.

Answering questions from the audience, Moore said he plans to run “at the earliest opportunity” for the Alabama House seat now held by Lucius Black.

The current representative is in poor health, and a special election could be called if Black resigns his post.

Williams told the club he has been proud to serve on a “unified council” and to serve “with a mayor who is very knowledgeable.”

He said he became the representative of a district that was in a “stalemate” and slowly has helped it to show progress.

Williams sees the need to continue improvements in sewage, drainage and the quality of life in District 2. “I would like to see this district move forward.”

In answer to questions, Williams said the current District 2 boundaries could be changed by the U.S. Justice Department, which has until August 3 to notify the city if its plans for redistricting have been approved.

The Justice Department can extend the deadline past August 3, however, which leaves the city to decide whether to hold elections on unapproved districts or delay the vote.

If the election is held, the results could be contested.

Williams said the Justice Department actions are “very unusual” and stem from annexation issues as far back as 1988.

Charleston said he wants to be the voice of District 2 to bring issues to the table. His major concern is that young people are leaving the city after high school because of a lack of jobs.

“We’re not growing very much,” he said.

Charleston would like to see private investors start businesses to provide more leisure activities, such as a skating rink or bowling alley to keep people – and dollars – in the city.

Hometown, family businesses are the lifeblood of the community, and Charleston wants to see them nurtured. He also said the city must keep “pushing and harping” on U.S. Highways 80 and 43.

“I’m only one voice, but if we come together as a group, anything is possible.”

The candidate forum was the first in a series planned by the Rotary Club to offer candidates the opportunity to reach the voters.