LaGRANGE — The topics of residential and retail growth, gang violence and job creation took center stage at a LaGrange City Council candidate forum Monday evening at the Del’Avant event space in downtown LaGrange.
Five of six candidates addressed a crowd of more than 80 potential voters during the event, which was sponsored by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce.
The candidates stayed cordial toward one another, while exerting their various positions on the needs of the community.
Speaking on the city’s strengths and weaknesses, incumbent Council member Willie Edmondson of district 2C said the city needs to work to attract more varying industries, reduce crime rates and improve the quality of the community’s schools.
His challenger, Nathan Gaskin, said he believed the greatest strength of the community is its people.
“Our challenge is our opportunity,” he said. Gaskin said that although the community’s education opportunities are growing with schools like West Georgia Technical College, many low-income residents don’t have the transportation necessary to make it to classes.
“There are no sidewalks, no bike trails,” he noted.
When asked what qualified him to oversee the city’s $110 million yearly budget, incumbent Council member Bobby Trailer said he relies on the city staff to present a budget for council to consider line by line.
“Tom Hall (city manager) spends about three months on that budget every year,” he said. “We go through it line item.”
Mark Mitchell, who is challenging Traylor for the district 1C seat, said he’s attended city council work sessions since January and watched the previous budget process.
“They spent about three hours,” he said. “There were $1.3 million in grant requests and only $300,000 were cut.”
Mitchell called for additional cuts to charitable contributions by the city.
Speaking about the availability of affordable housing, incumbent Council member Legree McCamey, who’s challenged by Richard Kimbrough, said the city should work to attract more diverse, middle-class housing options.
“LaGrange seems to have very expensive, or very substandard housing,” he said.
Kimbrough could not attend the meeting because of a work commitment, according to the chamber of commerce.
Read LaGrange Daily News online and in print in the coming days as we transcribe the entire forum and present an in-depth look at the races for each three challenged city council seat. Submit your questions for city council member candidates by sending us a message on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LaGrangeDailyNews.
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter for LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached by calling 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.