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Mayoral candidates invited to speak to citizens: Part 1 Javarise Terry

Three groups, Unity Community, Sisters in Service of Southwest Georgia and Ready for Change-AME will be hosting all three mayoral candidates in a virtual forum. The Zoom session was recorded and posted on social media. Technical support for the Zoom meeting indicated a Facebook page belonging to Ready for Change AME would stream the event.

The first of three candidates for mayor to join the forum was Javarise Terry. Kimberly Page moderated the event and outlined the expectations. When she completed posing a question there are three minutes in which to answer. The forum was to last no longer than 30 minutes. Terry was given the chance to introduce himself. Terry was born and raised in Americus. He remarks he has wanted to be mayor since he was 17 years old. He views this election as “remarkable in history” stating the context of COVID-19, lack of economic development and jobs and a high poverty rate. He feels he can “move swiftly and wisely” to a “new transparent government.” Javarise sees several “issues at stake” to include being innovative on the behalf of kids, organizing non-profits and others to “offer low-income families affordable housing,” and building “constructive cooperation between local government, small foundations and public schools and universities.” Terry went on to add 2 additional items he would take on, to include “strengthening the job market for lower income families to get into the middle class,” as well as “empower economic growth into small business and agriculture.”

Kimberly Page posed a question to Terry regarding his ideas on procuring grant funds or money to “upgrade run-down communities of Americus, Georgia.” Terry remarked he would “approve of funds going towards run-down areas of Americus.”  He would like to form a committee, to include leaders and citizens, to beautify the area. He sees the citizens as not only being helpful in addressing blighted properties but also in curbing “illegal activities.” There were technical difficulties at this point, and the ATR was not able to hear the remaining portion of Terry’s answer. When the feed was returned, Javarise was speaking on topics related to COVID-19. The feed picked up with Terry stating, “being able to sit with Phoebe and tell where the issues are and have hot spots—being able to take care of those hot spots, whether it was mandatory masks or mandatory vaccines, whatever we would have to do to keep the community safe. As mayor, one of my jobs is to protect every life in Americus. With that being said, we have been hit hard by COVID. As mayor, I plan to issue certain criteria such as mandating masks and encouraging people to get vaccinated.” Javarise then explained at one point he was not going to get vaccinated but became educated on the issue and changed his mind. He feels furthering education on the vaccine would be helpful. Terry states, “It’s actually saving lives.” He continued to state within his first 100 days in office an effort would be made to get people vaccinated.

The next question presented by Page was, “What are your plans involving the workforce and how do you plan to create more jobs and career opportunities in Americus, Georgia?” Terry then outlined his plan, which proposed him working with the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce, One Sumter, Americus Downtown Development and the Sumter County Payroll Development Authority. He would like to expand small business as well as bring in “bigger corporations.” Terry then reported one lesson he has learned while consulting with restaurant franchise is the importance of providing “features, or what we call amenities, to companies who would like to come to the area.” Terry sees some of our strengths to be highways, train, and location to I-75. He would highlight our strengths to companies for recruitment. He sees partnerships with other governmental entities as well as the Sumter County Schools system to be important to accomplishing this goal.  “By bringing those jobs into Americus, that is something we would do to improve the workforce.” As the jobs become available for our citizens, the unemployment rate will be lowered. Terry remarked he is “getting a head start” on his plans regarding new industry by contacting “other businesses that are looking for a new home.” He further stated, “being able to move jobs in quickly and swiftly is our main goal.”

Page’s next question was: “As mayor, would you be willing to assemble a task force to address the gun violence at a pre-school level at school districts and how would you go about assembling this task force?” Terry commented that if a taskforce was created it would be done so with the assistance of the sheriff’s office, school professionals and the Department of Family and Children Services to identify children who are at risk. He would continue to use programs already in place such as DARE and GREAT which are sponsored by the Sheriff’s Office and the Americus Police Department. He wants to “educate, rehabilitate and bring awareness to our teenagers so we are ahead.” Javarise feels there is a problem with the offerings our city gives youth. The city is “not investing in our kids.” He says this could be addressed by installing new parks, asking theaters to come back and establishing new programs along the lines of YMCA and Boys and Girls Club. These steps can be successful to put “recreation, education and spirit back into being kids again.” In addition to these ideas, Terry would work with Americus Police Department (APD) to build community policing activities, increase crime prevention measures, discuss grants for equipment and look at opportunities to keep a high retention rate for the department. Terry reports he has already been working with retired officers in creating a plan.

Page followed this question up with another crime related question which invited Javarise to address what he would do to reduce Americus’ crime rate. His initial reaction was to “unite, educate and rehabilitate our community and our families. Our minority families are suffering economically and financially.”  He then names some crucial goals. Increasing economic development, increasing options for our youth, and building a “more pro-active team” with APD being highlighted.

The moderator presented her thoughts on the role of mayor. She opined on the importance of trustworthiness of a mayor and city governments, and the damage which can happen when a citizenry does not trust their government. After presenting the dangers of an untrusting community she stated, “I think it is fair to say that the lack of trust in Americus city management……including the mayor, councilmen and commissioners has resulted in a level of citizen resentment and distrust that discourages civic involvement. What is your strategy on restoring public trust?” Terry took the question on by emphasizing his desire to be transparent. He plans on having an open-door policy and addressing the city on an annual basis, on a weekly basis and on a daily basis. He believes these reports will “show we are unifying the government.”

In his closing statement, Terry listed off what he could provide as mayor. Transparency, a sense of togetherness, a sense of safety, a lower crime rate, an open-door policy and a community where kids can play. “There is no other place like our great city that we call Americus.”

The next candidate to be invited to the forum is Lee Kinnamon. He will take questions from moderator, Sabrina Graham on Sunday, 9.19.21 at 7PM. Part three of this series will cover Marcell Baker’s forum, which will take place on Monday, 9.20.21 at 7PM. The moderator of the third forum will be Courtney Moore. All the forums can be accessed on Zoom. com with meeting ID number: 525 677 3347. The notification issued indicates the meeting will be on Facebook as well, although a site is not determined. To view clips from this forum, please visit Ready for Change AME Facebook page. Election day for mayoral and city council members is November 2, 2021. Early voting is 10.12—29.21, with two Saturdays, 10.16 and 10.23 being opened to voters. All early voting will be at GSW/Griffin Bell Golf Club on Lee Street. Regular precincts will be open on election day. To check or change your voting status, please visit mvp.sos.ga.gov.