City Beat: Few Candidates File For Mayor, City Council Races
With the dust settling on the mid-term elections local attention now turns towards the city council where the positions of mayor and three city council members will be up for election on April 4, 2023. When the deadline for filing ended Monday, three candidates had filed for the mayor’s position and four candidates had filed for the three council seats. Incumbents Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe, City Council Members Lisa Gregory and Dennis Cooper filed their nominating petitions to run again on Nov. 21, the first day that the city clerk was accepting them.
Incumbent Councilman Bill Faber announced in his recent column in this newspaper that “eight is enough” and he is not seeking re-election. Political newcomers Abeer Motan and Mary Johnson filed to run against Moore Wolfe in the mayor’s race. Both candidates did not have many signatures above the required minimum of 85 needed and could face a challenge to determine if all of the signatures meet the criteria for them to be accepted and qualify as candidates to be on the ballot.
The other two candidates in the city council race are Macon County Board member Karl Coleman and former City Councilman Pat McDaniel. Due to the low number of candidates there will not be a primary election to narrow the field.
• THE LACK of viable candidates to face off in local races as important as mayor and city council is pathetic. It’s part of the recent trend we’ve witnessed in local and state races impacting Decatur and Macon County. Many offices up for election in the mid-term had candidates who were not opposed — leaving voters no choice. Even though the election won’t be held until April 4, unless something highly unusual happens, Mayor Moore Wolfe will win re-election and the only battle for the three city council seats will be over which candidate will replace Bill Faber. Only one candidate running, Karl Coleman, is not an incumbent, or a former member of the city council.
• COUNCILMAN Bill Faber be-lieves that “eight is enough”, meaning two four-year terms, of serving on the city council. Is he right? Should that apply to everyone who serves?
Thank goodness, this time around, incumbents, and one past incumbent, decided to run again or we may have been faced with the prospect of appointing someone to a few of the council seats. I’ve covered a lot of city council elections, and been a candidate in two of them, and I’ve never seen such a lack of interest in citizens running for those offices.
• I’VE always felt there should be a mix of candidates on the council that would include those with experience in serving (incumbents) and new members who bring fresh ideas and another way of looking at issues. Some who served in local public office, including our own city council, have moved on to higher office such as state representative or state senator.
When I was elected to my first term as mayor 20 years ago, my “political aspirations” started and stopped in the mayor’s office. I had planned on running for two terms and that would be it. I wanted to give back to the community that had been so good to me and I certainly had a vision for what I would like the council to accomplish during the time I served and worked hard in the attempt to accomplish those goals.
• MY STRONGEST ally on council, Mike “Tuna” McElroy, who was elected to council the same year I was elected mayor, told me several times after I was re-elected to a second term, that I should plan on running for a third term before I left office.
However, I never looked beyond my second term because the 70-hour work weeks that it took between being mayor and also publishing this newspaper, were creating some health issues over the years I served in office and increasingly less time for my family. Ironically, the “third term” that Tuna had in mind for me, became his first term as mayor and we met and discussed “mayoral issues” often during the years he served in that position since we had served on council together and had that public service bond.
Tuna unexpectedly passed away while serving as mayor several years into his service.
• SO, HOW long should a person serve as mayor or a member of the council? That certainly depends on how effective that person is (and was) during the years of service — and if the voters want that official to continue to serve. I think there is a desire for many who serve to stay connected to public policy and involvement at a high level and they don’t want to lose that when they decide not to run for another term and become a private citizen again. By the time I stepped down and ended my service as mayor, my health and the health of this newspaper weren’t in the best shape because of the time and energy I put into the mayor’s position.
I think there is an added stress note when an officeholder (like myself) owns his or her business and makes all of the critical decisions without having to convince anyone else to approve them.
However, I realize that not “going it alone” is what public service is about and there needs to be more than one person who believes in moving a certain direction in order to make it happen. I really had no problem having a vision for Decatur based on decades of running a business here. The challenge was in convincing others who served with me (at least a majority) that the vision was the right one. That required a lot of energy and a high level of commitment in working to achieve success.
I was very honored to be elected and re-elected mayor of Decatur and proud to be the spokesperson and leader of the community for the years I served. Overall, despite the challenges, pressure and stress of that particular time in my life, had I known 20 years ago what I know now about what serving as mayor would involve — I still would have stepped forward because the path of accelerated community service leads through the actions of the offices of mayor and city council,
• FORMER CITY Councilman Pat McDaniel sent me a message last week that he was busy collecting signatures for his nominating petition. McDaniel served for 10 years on the council before deciding not to run for re-election two years ago. He indicated that several had asked him to run again. I talked to him over the weekend and he said he had collected the needed signatures and had already filed his nominating petition with the city clerk.
Frankly, I was surprised that Pat decided to run for council again after stepping down two years ago. I think he left the council but the council didn’t leave him and he apparently missed it.
• A LOTTERY to determine ballot position for those who filed their City Council election petitions simultaneously on the first day of filing at 8:00 a.m., will be held on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. in the City Clerk’s office, located on the third floor of the Decatur Civic Center. The lottery is open to the public.
• NOW that the candidates for mayor and city council are known, except for any challenges to the validity of petitions, there won’t be much heard from the candidates in the media until after the first of the year. That’s because voters are still decompressing from the mid-term election plus the big concentration is on the upcoming holidays — especially Christmas and New Year’s celebrations and gatherings.
• 2023 CONSOLIDATED ELECTION School Board Member Candidate Filing information has been released by Macon County Clerk Josh Tanner. The school board member candidate filing period for the April 4, 2023 Consolidated Election will be as follows: December 12, 2022 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. December 13-16, 2022 8:30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. December 19, 2022 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. All candidates who want to be in the lottery for first position on the ballot must be in line by 8 a.m. on December 12, 2022. All candidates who want to be in the lottery for the last position on the ballot must file between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on December 19, 2022. Candidates will file in the County Clerk’s Office at the Macon County Office Building, 141 South Main Street Room 104, in Decatur. The County Clerk’s Office will no longer notarize any candidate forms and cannot give advice on how to complete the forms or the legal qualifications for office.
• CONDOLENCES to my former colleague on the city council, Michael Carrigan, on the passing of his mother, Mary Lou Carrigan. (Her obituary is on page 20 of this week’s print edition.) Michael Carrigan was mayor pro tem during the years I served as mayor and my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this time.
Also sad to see the passing of former Decatur Police Chief Patrick F. Vaughan at the age of 84. Vaughan retired as chief in 1988. I covered him for this newspaper during the years he served as chief and he was always accessible to answer any questions I had. My condolences and prayers to his family and friends. (His obituary is on page 21 of this week’s edition.)
• THIS YEAR’S annual Downtown Decatur Christmas Walk on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, from 5 to 8 pm. The Christmas lights throughout downtown are especially beautiful this year.
• CITY TALK — I join Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00 to talk about the issues of the day affecting our community and those making decisions that impact on our lives.