This November, about half of Albany’s voters will be asked to make their voices heard on a host of critical issues. The Ward 5 City Commission race is shaping up to be an important measure of the political landscape.
Local attorney Bob Langstaff will be seeking a third term as the Ward 5 commissioner. With hot button issues surfacing in recent months, his seat may be challenged by at least two political newcomers bent on shaking up the status quo. The outcome of this particular race will speak volumes about the attitudes and desires of not only those in Ward 5, but the city itself.
Langstaff says crime is the top issue facing Ward 5 and the entire city. In response to questions about his bid for re-election, Langstaff said, “Keeping citizens safe is the primary purpose of local government. We need more officers on the street. I have worked hard to get more officers, and to increase their pay and benefits in order to attract the best. I intend to run to finish a few things I’ve started including getting the consolidation vote to the citizens, fully staffing our police dept, and directing SPLOST funds to much needed infrastructure improvements.
Tom Knighton, a contract employee at the Marine Base, an active member of the Libertarian Party of Southwest Georgia, and co-owner of the website swgapolitics.com, is giving serious consideration to running for the seat. A spokesperson for Knighton said that an official is forthcoming. If he decides to run, Knighton says that his top priority would be transparency in local government.
“It’s imperative that people see everything going on and know where every penny is being spent. Transparency would have prevented some of the shenanigans that have taken place downtown, and I intend to bring that to the City Commission,” he said.
Knighton also says that economic development and taxation are critical issues.
“One of the primary issues facing Ward 5 has got to be taxes and how that tax money is being spent. When the mayor is bragging that we have $23 million sitting there, and people are seeing a tax increase due to the General Assembly eliminating the homestead exemption, then we need to take a look at what the city can do to ease the burdens felt by so many in Ward 5,” he said.
Retired railroad executive Terry Hart has told officials with the Dougherty County Taxpayers Association that he will give serious consideration to running if the group feels he is the best man for the job. He said he plans to meet with association co-Chairman Richard Thomas and others with the organization, and will make a final decision in the next few days. In a phone interview, Hart said, “Something needs to be done to change the way things are going in Albany, and if I do not run, I will support whoever the group decides to back.”
Also up for grabs in the Nov. 3 nonpartisan election will be the Ward 2 seat held by Dorothy Hubbard and the Ward 3 seat held by Morris Gurr. Hubbard says she likely will seek re-election to a second full term after being initially appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue following the federal indictment of former commissioner Henry Mathis. Gurr says he will not seek re-election to a second term.
Other than Hubbard, no potential candidates have publicly emerged in Ward 2 or Ward 3.
Qualifying for the commission elections is Aug. 31 to Sept. 4. Candidates must pay a $450 fee. The job pays $15,000 annually, plus medical insurance coverage.
Written by Lon McNeil. Mr. McNeil is an Albany independent marketing consultant. Find him online at AlbanyOnPoint.