Mayor hopefuls line up for final ‘stump’ round

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 18, 2004

DEMOPOLIS – If the six city council candidates were the warm-up act, it didn’t take long for the city’s six mayoral candidates to gin up a good old-fashioned stumping at Morning Star Baptist Church on East Jackson Street Tuesday night.

The church was the setting for the Coming Together Organization’s political forum that could well be the last public, all-hands-on-deck meeting for the candidates.

About 75 people were in attendance to hear the candidates give their best stump speeches an answer the “tough questions,” as moderator Thomas Moore termed them.

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Following the order established during the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce’s forum earlier this month, Ben Sherrod was the first candidate to swing.

“What I’d like to do is work for you,” he said, telling the audience that he was perhaps responsible for more development and more jobs in Demopolis than any other single individual.

He said he was on the council when it established a systematic approach to upgrading services and infrastructure on the city’s east side.

“I saw that when the town started working, the people started taking care of their property as well,” he said.

Mike Grayson was the next candidate to take the stand.

“I’m not a politician, I’m a leader,” he said, also noting that he had an established track record in diversity issues.

“I believe in results,” he said. “I believe in surrounding myself with good people … first-class people draw first-class solutions.”

Ed Key approached the audience as a “working man.”

“I’m not a politician,” said Key, in his first-ever political campaign, “I’m just a hard-working man.”

He said he wanted to improve the city’s way of life and would “offer the chance for a better life.”

“I may not know all the answers, but I will talk with you. My door will always be open,” he said.

Key said he stress industrial recruitment, an independent audit of city finances, hire a police chief and separate the job of city street director and building inspector.

“Our future is in your hands,” he said.

Mitchell Congress cracked that “I’m going to run until I win something” to the laughter of the assembly.

“I’m going to serve Demopolis and I’m not going away,” he said.

Congress advocated a citywide needs assessment, stressed keeping children in school instead of expelling them and providing affordable housing in the city.

“I think we should take back the $125,000 from the hospital and use it for salaries [of city workers],” he said.

Congress also said he’d look to qualifications of city board members and rather than the racial composition of the city boards and supported the construction of a convention center in the city.

Cecil Williamson said she believed she was called of God to run for office and pledged she would “slowly and methodically” address each issue that came before her.

She pointed to leadership positions within the local, state and national Episcopal ranks and community organizations as examples of her ability to lead the city.

Stephen Gutshall said he believed in “cherishing the city’s history and traditions” and protecting the “small town atmosphere.”

As mayor Gutshall, the youngest of the candidates, said he’d host twice monthly brown bag lunches for citizen input and believed the city’s younger residents and older residents could learn from each other.

He ended his statement by reading Psalms 133.