Candidates continue to stump efforts

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 12, 2004

DEMOPOLIS – In its continuing efforts to inform residents about local candidates and their views, the Demopolis Rotary Club Wednesday hosted three of the six mayoral candidates during its regular weekly meeting.

It was ladies first as Cecil Williamson, the only female candidate, began the program. Williamson brought to the podium visual aids, including a list of what Demopolis residents have indicated to her are issues facing the town.

“The decision to run was not one made in haste, and I have done a lot of research in making that decision,” she said. “Part of that research was walking the streets of Demopolis and asking people ‘what would you like to see happen in Demopolis.'”

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Williams said the number one answer was jobs. She said residents want to see more jobs brought to the area, as well as growth, which was the second most common answer.

Other concerns voiced were the four-laning of Highways 80 and 43, something Williams said she would get done through sheer persistence.

“I am going to be that squeaky wheel in Montgomery,” she said. “I will be the person that makes them say ‘we need to get this done so she’ll shut up.'”

She noted downtown revitalization and the drug problem, yet did not say what she would do to address those concerns.

Williams does, however, have plans for her first 100 days as mayor, should she be elected.

“I would build a team with the council and meet with each individual department head,” she said. “Then I would like to meet with each employee and find out who they are, what their job is and what they need to do to do that job. I would also conduct an audit and an inventory of the city.”

Ben Sherrod was next, taking cues from Williams’ list. The former Alabama National Guard member and current businessman said the key to running a city is to run it like business.

“The City of Demopolis is one of the largest businesses here and it’s got to be run like a business,” he said. “What makes a business successful is you have to make the customer happy – that customer is you, the residents.”

He said as with any business, an employer is only as good as the people they have working for them.

“I don’t believe in micro-managing,” he said. “I believe in having good people who do their job. If they do their job, give them praise, if they don’t do their job, get someone in there who does.”

Sherrod said he agreed drugs were a problem, and said it was a problem many people did not want to see.

“If there wasn’t a drug problem here, then we’d have people from other places coming here to see what we’re doing, but we don’t,” he said. “We may not have a mass of problems, but we do have a drug problem.”

Like Williams, Sherrod did not have the answer, but said the issue has got to be addressed regardless of who wins the race.

Overall, he said he felt his business and leadership experience makes him the best candidate.

“I know I could do a good job,” he said. “I know we can move forward and keep the steady growth Demopolis has had over the last decade.”

Rotary Club Vice President Stephen Gutshall was the last candidate to speak during the lunch-hour program, but had no less to say than his predecessors, beginning with the city’s mission statement and the definition of mayor.

“The mayor is the head of the governing body, but in reality they are so much more,” he said. “A mayor must be a salesman, a peacemaker and more – the mayor is a multi-faceted position.”

He said the people of Demopolis are its greatest asset, and said it is an often untapped asset.

“Lots of folks in this town know lots of things,” he said. “No one person has the silver bolt that’s going to make this town better, it will take a collective effort.”

He said the key is simply asking for help.

“A lot of folks will serve if you ask,” he said.