City council candidates shared their ideas for what city issues need immediate attention and how to secure new revenue for city projects. Mayoral candidates addressed their primary objective upon entering office, population growth and continuing the city’s emphasis on its marble industry.
Mayoral candidate Walter Jacobson, who is the current District 4 councilman, said his first order of business would be creating a strategic plan for the city.
“We want to put a plan together; not one plan, but many plans, because to me, that is the key to being successful in anything you do, whether you’re doing it in municipal government, in the business world or at your own home,” Jacobson said. “You’ve got to know where you’re going, know where you are when you get there and you’ve got to know how you got there.”
Jacobson, who serves on the Workforce Development Council under Gov. Robert Bentley, said creating jobs is necessary, but it begins with education.
“When we go out on the road and start recruiting, the big fear companies have is having a sustainable workforce,” he said. “Will the community have the people in place with the skill sets needed to move that company? That has been a big drawback for us. We’ve got hard-working people, but the complexity of the workforce has changed so drastically.
“As we look at the gaps in our learning, we’ve got some serious issues, but we can address those working with the education programs we have in our city.”
Mayoral candidate Doug Murphree, who has served on the city council for 16 years, said he would begin his term with improving the city’s garbage service.
“The citizens of Sylacauga have wants and needs that may not be important to Sylacauga overall, but to them, it’s very important,” he said. “One of the first things I’d like to work on is our garbage service. We’ve got countless citizens that don’t have lids or wheels on their garbage cans. That’s something we really need to work on, and that needs to be a priority.”
Murphree said he also plans to focus on property development opportunities and education.
“Sylacauga is one of the best cities in this area to live, but we have work to do,” he said. “As you have heard tonight, we need jobs. We need a cleaner Sylacauga. We need things put in place to keep our young people in Sylacauga. When they graduate from school, we want them to go off and get educated and come back to Sylacauga.”
Murphree said his experience on the council has prepared him to serve as mayor.
“I think my experience is crucial when we start doing budgets in this economic time,” Murphree said. “We strive to improve the quality of life for our citizens, and we strive to maintain the services our people have gotten used to and deserve. It gets harder and harder every year when we do a budget to make that money go around, but with your help and blessings, I think we can all do it.”
Mayoral candidate Bobby Whetstone said his first 90 days in office would be spent assessing the state of the city.
“When you’re coming in and you’re not on the council or the mayor, you don’t know what kind of shape they’re leaving the city in, so the first thing we need to do is see what kind of shape, how much money is in our reserves, how much money can we work with,” he said.
Whetstone also said the city should increase annexation, create jobs and recruit industry.
“We have given this council the chance to do their job,” Whetstone said. “There’s a saying that says if you keep doing the same thing and expect different results, you’re insane. Now is the time to make major annexations all across (Alabama 21). We need to look at this, because we need industry. We don’t know what kind of shape the United States is going to be in, and we have to be prepared as a city for our children and our grandchildren.”
Mayoral candidate Clara Curtis was unable to attend the forum. A mayoral candidate debate is set for Aug. 23.
For comments from city council candidates, see the article Saturday’s edition.
Contact Emily Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.