All point to growth as major concern

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 13, 2004

Economics and growth seemed to be the common interest among all six mayoral candidates during the mayoral forum Thursday night at the Demopolis Civic Center – from recruiting new businesses to keeping dollars spent in Demopolis.

“Jobs are very important to me,” Mitchell Congress said. “We need to look at what Vance did to get a major Mercedes supplier, and we can offer some of these same incentives and get suppliers here.”

Congress said he would also like to see Demopolis build a convention center to attract major conferences.

“Conferences bring people and people bring money,” he said.

Cecil Williamson, who has talked of jobs since day one of her campaign, was asked about the low jobless rate that Demopolis boasts, one that is better than the national average. Williamson agreed there are jobs here, but said they are not the kind of jobs people need to stay in the area.

“I have been out there going door-to-door and the one thing people have said they want to see for Demopolis is more jobs,” she said. “My take on that is that what they want is not just jobs, not $5 an hour, minimum wage jobs, but something that pays more than minimum wage,” she said.

The one thing all candidates seemed to agree on was that everyone has to work together to move the city forward and make it better.

“I don’t see this mayoral race as a race at all, but a relay run,” Ed Key said. “Together we have pushed these ideas to the forefront. No one is a loser here, because we have brought fresh ideas and a new approach to the town.”

According to one question asked by an audience member, rumors have been circulating that upon election, some candidates have considered hiring a city manager. All candidates vehemently denied the notion, with all agreeing their position would be city manager.

“I have no intention of hiring a city manager, I think that is what you would be electing me to do,” Williamson said.

“I think it would be redundant to hire a city manager or new administrator, because that is what the mayor is expected to do,” Gutshall said.

Sherrod said he would not hire a city manager, but said he would make some changes in the city departments, beginning with the street department.

“Junior Brooker would not be doing two full-time jobs,” he said. “It’s not efficient and it’s not humanly possible for one man to do two full-time jobs. I would let him choose which one he wanted, though.”

Though none of the candidates had specifically mentioned the young people of town during their campaigns, the question was posed to them ‘what would they do to help the youth.’

Most of the candidates seemed to think young people need a place to go. While Gutshall mentioned programs like soccer league and other athletics, Williamson said she would like to see a summer camp that offered other things as well.

Grayson said he would meet with the young leaders at area high schools and organizations to get their take on the issue, while Sherrod said he wished to focus on the at-risk and troubled youth through a probation program.

“I’d like to work with young people who are on probation to try and instill the values in those children and let them know their value,” he said. “I’d also like to do something to keep kids here.”

Congress agreed, noting that he would like to see an incentive program that linked academics and leisure into one package.

“I’d like to see a program that is academic based, like the ones I’ve seen elsewhere that offers kids with a C average or higher coupons and things to reward their good grades,” he said.

Before closing, each candidate was asked where they purchased campaign supplies. Only Williamson, Grayson and Gutshall shopped in Demopolis.