‘We want your vote’: Public meets candidates
Municipal election candidates had their first opportunity publicly address voters Tuesday as the Greater Brewton Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Business Council of Rural Alabama sponsored a “Coffee with Candidates” event.
Nearly 50 residents gathered at city hall to listen as the city’s political candidates explained their platforms and plans if elected.
Chamber president Clay Lisenby served as moderator, while chamber director Melanie McGougin served as timekeeper.
“We want to take this time to remind residents to go vote on Aug. 23,” Lisenby said after stating that the chamber is not publicly supporting any candidate in the upcoming election.
Each candidate spoke for a total of four minutes and outlined the one issue facing the city and their plans to address it.
The incumbent Yank Lovelace, who addressed the crowd first, will face local businessman Frank Nalty on the ballot.
Lovelace said cited city achievements such as an increased credit rating and establishing a five-year plan for the city. He said his main focus will be economic development.
“Our city was stretched thin, but (in the last four years), and we immediately had to pass a 1-cent sales tax. We didn’t want to, but it had to be done. Since then, the city has partnered with the chamber to work toward a better future for Brewton.
“I look at it more as a challenge for finding good jobs for citizens and children,” he said. “Then we have to invest in our city and in our school system, after school programs and technology programs. Workforce development is too important for a city to not look at. The city collects a 4-cent sales tax, and we ought to give 1 cent of that four to school system.
“I look at schools and jobs, like cutting grass at your house,” he said. “It’s a never ending job, and we will always continue to work on that.”
Nalty said his experience as a businessman and state government liaison will serve the community well if he is elected. He said he would also implement more transparency in city government by “putting the city’s checkbook” online. Salary information would not be included, he said.
“In order to have economic development in Brewton, we have to seek new industry,” he said. “If you don’t have the proper people to do that, you won’t succeed. If we do not have a plan to go find business, they won’t come find us. It’s the mayor’s responsibility to knock on doors and find out who wants to relocate.”
Nalty said he believes the city’s biggest issue is halting the consolidation of Jefferson Davis Community Colleges with three others.
“If I’m the next mayor, I will stop that merger quickly,” he said.
District No. 1
For this seat, the incumbent, Pat Poole, will face former T.R. Miller principal Carrie Brown. Poole was not present at the event.
Brown said her experience as a teacher and administrator has given her a unique perspective to public service.
“Being in administration, you learn how to work with a large majority of population,” Brown said. “You solve problems. In government it’s about working with people and solving problems. I’m one of six children, and as the middle child, you fight and compromise. As councilwoman, I would fight for my district but compromise for betterment of city.”
Brown said she hopes to model herself after the only other female councilwoman in Brewton, Ann Marie Sasser. She said District No. 1 residents want better street lighting, drainage and quality of life activities.
“(Brewton’s) biggest issue is money,” she said. “We do expect a high degree of quality of life. That’s why people are here. It does cost, and our sales tax has helped. We also have some infrastructure issues – streets, water tank reprinting – but to do all that, we have to keep a good sales tax base.”
District No. 2
There are three candidates seeking the District No. 2 seat – local businessman Dale Yoder; former Brewton fire chief Lawrence Weaver and retired serviceman Cleo McClain Jr. Longtime Councilman Frank Cotten is not seeking re-election.
Yoder said he believes in the “American Dream” and will work to establish a good foundation for residents.
“I want my grand kids to have some opportunity I have – to live the American Dream – to come from nothing build yourself up and have a successful life,” he said. “City government has a lot to do with that. We need young people programs. Seems they have to go to Pensacola or Atmore to do things. We know progress around here not favorable for theater or anything like that, but with everyone working together, we can come up with something. They are our future leaders.”
Lawrence, who retired after 40 years of service with the city, said he believes the council should provide “good customer service.”
“This city has been good to me,” he said. “When you work for public, the one thing we have to do as the council, is we have to provide customer service. We have to support our schools, our medical facility and public safety. We don’t know what’s going to happen, so we have to be ready.”
Weaver said he would like the city to explore “out-of-the-box” methods to grow the city’s population.
“The biggest issue I see the city facing is declining population,” he said. “When you lose people, you lose economy. People are working longer and longer. You have to think outside of the box. We need to recruit people, retirees. We need to be increasing population.”
McClain said input is crucial to the city’s success and those in District No. 2 believe drainage to be the biggest issue.
“I’m retired from the military, so I’ve worked with all types of personalities and people,” he said. “If elected, I plan to work with everyone and do my best to see improvements in my district.”
District No. 3
Feast Broughton and John Angel are seeking the District No. 3 seat.
Broughton, who retired from the Brewton Police Department, said running a city is like running one’s household.
“It all comes down to the budget,” he said. “We have to save money for a rainy day. There are number of things that need to be done in the city, in my district – drainage, paving, lighting – but it all can’t be done at one time. I plan to work with the council to move forward.
“We do need higher paying jobs in Brewton,” he said. “When you’re working for minimum wage, you have to have two jobs to make it. We need our youth to graduate, go to college and come back home. They are our future. We need new industry to provide those higher paying jobs.”
Angel, retired Brewton city clerk, said serving on the council is about having achievable goals. He said he wished he and Broughton could serve together on the council.
“In the district, I’ve heard a lot of the same issues,” he said. “I’m not going to rehash all that, but I will say, it does take cash. During my tenure, we never had to lay anyone off or had diminished services. Faulkner said, ‘History isn’t was; history is.’
“We are creating history now,” he said. “We need to look at not only what the city needs but also what the wants are.
“People are leaving; several businesses, too, for whatever reason,” he said. “As a city and community, we need to keep the environment where businesses want to come and stay; bring jobs and maintain the flow of information and funds for the future.”
District No. 4
Joseph “Joe” Watson, the incumbent, is facing Patrick Hendrieth for the District No. 4 seat. Watson did not attend the event.
Hendrieth, who works as the manager of the Alco Dollar General, said he plans to concentrate on providing activities and entertainment for the city’s youth.
“That’s the complaint I hear – there’s nothing for our children to do,” he said. “When I was younger I remember going to the city pool during the day and walking to Sportsman Park at night. One reason I moved back was to give my two youngest (children) the experience I had. So far that hasn’t happened. They deserve better because these same kids will be our police chief, fire chief, mayor and city council. With proper people in place, this could be come a reality.”
District No. 5
Fred Barton, the incumbent, is facing Shawn Lundy for the District No. 5 seat. Barton did not attend the event.
Lundy said she has lived her entire life in the district and believes it’s time for a change in district representation.
“If elected, I plan to serve with dependability and honesty,” she said. “As a councilwoman, I will work with others and direct concerns to the proper department heads.
“After eight years, it’s time for District No. 5 to be recognized as the great community it is,” she said. “I’d like to see a beautification program extended to all of District No. 5 and other areas of concern addressed. I’m not here to be the mayor or police chief. I just want to see improvements, and I’m here to be a voice for the people.”
Lundy said she would also like to see the city’s two defunct tornado sirens reactivated.
“District No. 5 covers places people don’t know about,” she said. “In it are people without power, TV, telephone, cell phones and no way of knowing when there is a tornado coming. They can hear the T.R. Miller Mill whistle blow, and it’s worked all my life. I can’t understand why we can’t get our sirens working.”
In East Brewton, the mayor’s race is the only one on the ballot. Incumbent Terry Clark will face Michael Cosey. Clark, who has served the city for the last 24 years, was the only East Brewton candidate present.
Clark recounted the city’s accomplishments during his tenure, including the senior citizen center, new ball fields and a decreased fire rating. He said he plans to continue to grow the city’s economic development landscape by recruiting small businesses.
“We are a small town with no manufacturing businesses,” Clark said. “The No. 1 for any small town is to bring in small business and increase sales tax revenue. We work as hard as we can to do that and I plan to continue to do the same we have been doing the last four years.