LaGRANGE — At a political forum earlier this month, candidates for LaGrange City Council presented their thoughts regarding the future of the city, its challenges, strengths and opportunities. In the interest of informing the public, the Daily News is presenting some of their answers this week, based on the seat each candidate is vying for. Today, we present incumbent City Council member LeGree McCamey. His challenger, Richard Kimbrough, was unable to attend the forum because of a work conflict. His responses will be published at a later date.
McCamey, along with Kimbrough, is running for council seat 2B. Early voting is underway now and registered voters can cast ballots at the Troup County Government Center, 100 Ridley Ave., between Monday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz moderated the forum, which was hosted by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce. Each candidate was given two minutes to answer the following questions, and the time was kept by both chairpersons of the Troup Republican and Democratic parties. The candidates’ answers have been pared for space and where some sentences have been removed, ellipses have been inserted.
What do you see as the greatest strengths and conversely challenges facing the city of LaGrange, and how, specifically, will you address those issues?
McCamey: “I do see housing as well as amenities. We have jobs. We’ve done a great job attracting jobs, and we continue to do a great job as far as industry. However, we can improve on that. I do see housing as a big problem, especially affordable housing. LaGrange has what appears to be very extensive housing, or less than standard housing. I see us working on that, but I also see we need the amenities for our citizens. It doesn’t do people good to be able to go and work, and then not be able to enjoy themselves. … It’s important that we provide (amenities) for our citizens, and I think we need to continue to work on that department and in that area. … I’d like to see us put into that gold mind of I-185 and I-85. I think that’s a gold mind for LaGrange.”
The city operates on a $110 million budget that includes multiple utilities and services. What prepares you to deal with and manage such a large business enterprise?
“When I came to the council, I had no experience, but being there the past eight years, I’ve learned a lot about how our budget works. In those years, I’ve learned a lot about utilities. I’m music minister of First Baptist Church (on Fannin Street) and one of the things that I do that’s along with my job, I help serve people who are in need of assistance with their utility bills. In a lot of cases, what I’ve discovered is that people are using a lot of their resources to pay utility bills because they’re getting behind (on bills). … We have a fund, and there are several other (organizations) within our community that also assist. So we pool those resources together and what we can’t do, we send them to other resources. We help to be able to provide for them. Also, the city will help. We’ll set you up a payment plan, and I think the experience I’ve had over the past eight years has qualified me to be able to make those decisions that will be proactive for people who need the assistance.”
The city council has allocated funds in support of the race reconciliation initiative in Troup County. First, how would you characterize the state of race relations in Troup County and do you believe the initiative is worth while?
“The race relation is built on truth and trust. I have a question: How many of you in this room know where I live? By show of hands. (Reporter’s note: Few hands go up when asked.) That says that you don’t know much about me, and guess what, I don’t know much about you. Sometimes we need certain things that will build those kind of connected bridges, because we are our brother’s keeper, and LaGrange is only going to be as good a city as its people. … We have an abundance of talent right here in this room, if we are willing to roll up our sleeves and forget about the outer shell, and go to the core of who we really are, we can do some powerful, good things — great things. So sometimes we have to reach out beyond our environment and get people to come in who can look at the picture and see those things that we have that we don’t necessarily pay attention to. I support the initiative, and I’m glad that we’re working to make a better LaGrange.”
Earlier this year, the city of LaGrange experienced a significant increase in violent crimes and crimes directly related to street gangs. What should the city be doing to address this issue?
“As an individual, I don’t have an answer to the gang problem. However, I do believe in collaboration and I do believe that through our police department, the talent that’s in this room, our citizenry — young and old — that we can come to a round table and we begin to find some solutions, some easement to the problem. My take on it is a little different than some people, because I believe in prayer. We do pray, but we pray after the violence, maybe we need to pray before it starts.”
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter for LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached by calling 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.