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Mayoral candidates outline visions for future

About 100 people turned out Monday night to hear the two men running for mayor of Demopolis discuss their visions for the city.

Incumbent Mike Grayson and challenger Don Singleton each participated in the forum, along with candidates for Demopolis city council.

Singleton spoke first and addressed several issues in his five-minute speech, including spending and transparency in government.

He called the intermodal complex on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway a port to “no where.”

Singleton also talked about the lack of renovation work at Fire Station No. 2.

“There is still no fire station,” Singleton said. “(But) mold, mildew, asbestos … you name it, it’s there. These people protect your property. They protect your lives. They deserve better.”

He also said that money spent on a street sweeper and mower could have been spent on repairing roads instead.

“The streets are in disrepair. Potholes are everywhere,” Singleton said.

Singleton asked about a possible tenant for the New Era building and why that contract hadn’t been brought before the council.

“Why is your city council, the people you elect, the people you put into office not abreast of what’s going on in your city?” Singleton asked.

In the second speech, Grayson started talking about being born and schooled in Demopolis before addressing accomplishments during his term.

He highlighted the city’s lower ISO rating, investments in infrastructure and work to keep the labor and delivery unit at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital as key accomplishments.

Grayson also announced a recently finalized deal for Shelton State Community College to offer academic courses, technical classes and career training in Demopolis.

If given another term, Grayson said his focus would be on job creation.

“My attention, focus and resources for the city of Demopolis will be directed to new industry and also helping existing businesses add new jobs,” Grayson said.

He said he also wants to start a systemic paving project, complete the river port, convert the civic center into a convention center, establish a sports/tourism bureau and expand the city limits to accurately reflect the Demopolis population.

“I have a vision about where we are going the next four years, and we are going to do it with honesty, integrity and hard work,” Grayson said.

During the question and answer segment, the candidates took questions addressing issues like how to grow the economy and what to do about “gridlock” that has, among other issues, delayed an appointment to the Demopolis City Schools board.

Grayson said while there has been some gridlock that he’s always voted for what he thought best for Demopolis.

“Some things we have locked up on — sometimes that’s not all bad,” Grayson said. “This is my town, I’m claiming it and I want what’s best for it … I’m voting the way, that in my opinion, is the best thing.”

Singleton said months without a school board appointment ultimately hurts students and that the mayor’s office should be used to promote harmony.

“There is no harmony. There is no togetherness. No one is willing to compromise,” Singleton said. “There is no unity, and that’s the mayor’s job to supply the unity and harmony. That goes along with that job.”

The two candidates were also allowed to ask one question of the other.

Grayson asked Singleton why he has not been involved with organizations like the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Marengo, the Demopolis City School Foundation or a civic club.

Singleton responded by saying that he has been involved in community service.

“I’ve been involved in several community services and food banks,” Singleton said. “I still work on the food bank on Wednesday mornings when I’m needed.”

For his question, Singleton asked Grayson to define the meaning of transparency in his administration and how he administers it.

“Transparency is nothing more than communication,” Grayson said, adding he has held town hall meetings for anyone interested in asking about city business.

Grayson did say there some “things that you cannot divulge,” but that “we have been transparent in everything that we can be.”

Each candidate for city council was allowed a brief introduction and the chance to speak about issues important to him or her.

In District 1, Charles Jones Jr., Grace Clayton Motley and Robert Shepherd will compete for the seat being vacated by Thomas Moore, who didn’t see reelection.

In District 2, incumbent Mitchell Congress will face Nathan Hardy.

In District 3, incumbent Melvin Yelverton and D. Harris Nelson will go head-to-head.

District 4 will be the only race unopposed, as no one qualified to run against incumbent Bill Meador.

In District 5, incumbent Jack Cooley goes against Cleveland Cole Jr.

Monday’s event at the Demopolis Civic Center was sponsored by the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Allen Bishop of Robertson Banking Company.