For as long as I have known B.J. Fletcher, she has been singularly focused on making whatever she is involved with better. Her secret is real simple. She combines hard work with a positive attitude and a desire to help others, coming up with the missing ingredient Albany needs today — jobs. A few years back, when she took over the operations of Old Times Country Buffet on Dawson Road, it was floundering. No more. Today, it is one of the real turn-around success stories in Albany. She did not stop there.
With her business partner Sarah Edmonds, she opened Cafe 230 on Broad Avenue, and gave downtown exactly what it needed — a quality venue for weekday and Sunday lunches, and special events. It too, has been a hit, and continues to prosper. That effort led them to open several other businesses downtown that today, hold out a real chance for growth in a section of our community that has struggled for years. It was in one of those new businesses, The Downtown Farm Market on Washington Street, that Fletcher announced she intends to be Albany’s next mayor. This actually came as no surprise to me. It is a logical extension of her desire to create jobs for people. Now she wants to do it on a city-wide scale.
Her announcement is very good and very needed news. It is past time for the long-serving, bureaucratic types, as well meaning as they may be, to step aside and give an honest, real, hard working businessperson the reins. We have had some well intentioned, and some not so well intentioned people serve our city in the recent past. The problem is they were, or quickly became politicians, working for their own self-interest, or striving to keep the various factions, (and there are many), content. Their belief that government has the solutions has cost us valuable tax dollars and time, with only declining job numbers and rising crime rates to show for it.
In her remarks, Fletcher revealed her vision of Albany. It is not built on false hopes or expectations. Like Fletcher, it is a very real and practical vision. She pointed out that today Albany has around 8,300 people unemployed that are seeking work, or just under 10 percent. She made it clear that number would drop under her administration. She applauded the 50 new jobs recently added at Coats and Clark, and challenged other large employers in the area to look for creative ways to do the same thing. Fletcher is a natural leader.
She is not oblivious to the other issues facing our community like crime and education. Fletcher is committed to making Albany a safer place to live for everyone, and getting the best results possible out of our school system. But she has a common sense understanding that jobs are the key. Fostering a pro-growth environment through tax policies and creative, hard work with area employers, will generate good jobs. Good jobs will reduce the desperation that drives so many to crime. Good jobs will also keep more of our young people here after they graduate. That is how a community rebuilds itself, and Fletcher is right on target.
Fletcher is new to politics, that’s true. Any other time that could be seen as a weakness in her campaign, but today it is a strength. She comes at this challenge with the can-do attitude of a successful businessperson that no politician could ever match. She has no desire to play politics, or to pit one side of town against another along economic or racial lines. She knows, as do most of us, that those ways of thinking have only served to weaken and divide us, while other communities in Southwest Georgia have prospered.
If you know B.J., and I do, you know she is not one to set goals, state them publicly, and then not meet them. She believes she can give Albany the right leadership, spirit and determination to get those jobs on the books and make Albany the “Good Life City” again. I believe she can too. Albany needs B.J. Fletcher as it’s next mayor.
Written by Lon McNeil. Mr. McNeil is an Albany independent marketing consultant.