Four races have developed for three seats on the Americus City Council as well as forthe office of mayor.
Incumbent Mayor Barry Blount is being challenged by John Edgemon. In District 3, incumbent Council member Lou Chase faces competition from Terence Clemons. In District 4, Carla Cook, the incumbent, is running against Andrea Pless Tatum, and in District 5, sitting Council member Lorenzo Johnson is seeking reelection over Shirley Green-Reese’s bid for office.
Mayoral incumbent Blount, who won election in 2004 and 2008, is market president of SB&T bank and is a 1973 graduate of Americus High School. He graduated from Georgia Southwestern College in 1978, and the LSU graduate school of banking in 2000.
Blount is a member of the Americus Rotary Club, past chair of the Georgia Southwestern State University Foundation, member of First Baptist Church, chairman of the Americus-Sumter County Industrial Development Authority, chairman of the Archway executive committee, past chair of the Americus-Sumter County Chamber of Commerce and past member of the Americus Theatre and Cultural Authority.
When asked why he chose to seek reelection, Blount said he initially chose not to run because of time and work constraints and wanting to spend more time with his family. It was his supporters that influenced him to change his mind.
“A bunch of people came to me and asked me to run again for one more term. I prayed about it and decided to put public service ahead of private life,” he said.
“I feel Americus is on the upswing,” he continued.
Blount recalled the tornado in 2007, and the economic downturn at the end of the last decade that he said impacted the local economy. He said Americus has made it through these things while he as been mayor and he would like to be in office to experience “the upturn.”
Blount said during his time in office there have been many economic positives, including the reopening of Caravelle Boats under new ownership, employing around 100 people. He said the establishment of a Lowe’s store took a lot of involvement from the City and County governments as well as the Payroll Development Authority and the continuing expansion of Pharma Centra and Pet Care Rx that were established while he has been in office are indications that things are getting better. He also mentioned a recent development with Eaton investing $700,000 in Cooper Lighting’s local plant and the upcoming groundbreaknig of Creekview Commons on Magnolia Street.
Blount said he also ran because he grew up in this community.
“I’ve been very involved in the community and I have a vested interest. If we continue to grow, we will all benefit from it,” he said.
When asked what is the biggest issue facing Americus, Blount said it is the challenge of overcoming the economic downturn.
“We’re not going to get out of it overnight,” he said. “The challenge is to make sure the momentum we have now continues.”
He added that the City faces the challenge of keeping residents and attracting others to live here, and a robust economy and robust job market will entice people to locate to our community.
Blount said keeping property taxes down is the key to accomplishing his goals in office. He noted that the millage rate has changed very little — in 2006 the millage was 10.38 — in 2013 it 10.32.
“We need to maintain services at a reasonable rate, work with existing business and help them to grow, and work with small businesses — that is the best way to grow a local economy.”
He added that as mayor he will work with the County, the Board of Education and all the boards and authorities.
“It takes everyone working to gether to make sure we have a sustainable economy to foster growth.”
Blount said he should be elected mayor because he has the experience and business knowledge as well as years of involvement with all the other factions of local government — boards and authorities.
He said overall he is knowledgeable and experienced and has a proven track record of working to keeping tax rates down. He said with a shrinking property tax digest over the last several years, residents of the city have received better services at a low rate.
He said the City has facilitated a lot of growth by providing infrastructure to local businesses that have located here or expanded or moved, and 24 acres have been annexed into the City, which has resulted in an increase to the tax digest.
“This community has accomplished a lot in the last years in spite of the circumstances,” Blount said, “you need knowledge passion and experience to help the community move forward.”
When mayoral candidate John Edgemon was asked about his current employment, the retired Army veteran said, “Right now I am campaigning full-time and I plan to work for you as mayor as my full-time job because Americus deserves this full-time devotion to service.”
Edgemon’s educational background includes attending Harvard University and graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1998, with a bachelor’s degree in management.
His affiliations include being a member of Calvary Episcopal Church in Americus and a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars.
When Edgemon was asked why he is seeking the office of mayor, he said, “after serving eight years in the United States Army, I returned five months ago and I feel there is the need for many improvements for our City to reach her full potential.”
Edgemon commented that the biggest issue facing Americus is jobs.
“I want to work full-time as your next mayor to do my best to bring in new industry and to encourage our City to be more business friendly.”
In addition, he said he wanted to work hard to help existing businesses and help Americus to become more attractive to potential new businesses.
“Our population has been declining. Young people are leaving to find jobs, and others are making long commutes to work. A lot of people talk about how there used to be industry here and they have been leaving ... they want the jobs back.”
Edgemon said he plans to accomplish is goals while in office by ushering in a return to fundamentals of City government.
“I have the time and attention to detail to focus on our City’s government, primarily the budget,” said. “Restoring the checks and balances within the City government and working with the City Council will help ensure budget accountability for every dollar we spend.
“I want an efficient City government that eliminates wasteful spending and uses these savings to expand quality services and tax reduction,” he added.
In addition, Edgemon said he wants to be a promoter of the City of Americus.
“As my hometown, I love Americus and always promote the city to all residents and businesses. I also want the City government to work closely with the Sumter County Board of Education to improve our local schools.”
Edgemon says he will tell voters to consider his education and diverse experience and cast their vote for him. He says working in private business as well as working in the federal government in military combat has prepared him to be mayor of Americus.
“I have the time and motivation to serve you in the mayor position as my full-time job,” he said. “I am experienced as a helicopter pilot and a platoon leader in combat and have experience as an Aviation Brigade Operations Officer that coordinated and tasked operations for 2,300 soldiers. I was honored to have served you in combat overseas, and I would be honored to serve you here at home,” he said.