ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Pews were packed Monday night at Missionary Baptist Church for the first Albany mayoral forum.
Four candidates - Albany business owner BJ Fletcher, city commissioner Dorothy Hubbard, former state representative John White, and entrepreneur Kirk Smith - are vying to become Albany's top leader in November.
"A new Albany will require new change," said Fletcher.
"My goal for Albany,Georgia is that we will work together to solve the problems," Hubbard said.
"I want to bring a lot of change to Albany. We've got a lot of problem we need to address," said Smith.
"I have it takes to reach across this country and reach across this state bring the kind of people we need to change this city," White said.
Change and solutions - the words were uttered many times. While the questions from the panel ranged from city lighting to marketing the Civic Center, the biggest topics were two issues: crime and Jobs.
"There are a number of police officers, 40 or 50, that have left the job within the last year, so we have that issue to deal with," said White.
Dorothy Hubbard, who has served on the Albany city commission for 6 years said, "We have seen trained officers leave Albany and go to cities that pay more. But we have started a program within the police department that would improve service and decrease crime within our city."
Downtown business owner BJ Fletcher looked to public saying, "We need to be the eyes and ears of the community. We need to be the best friend to law enforcement."
With 2 entrepreneurs on the ballot and 2 politicians, one former and one current, industry and job growth is where the city is lacking. And that could be the difference maker in this campaign.
"When you lose something like Cooper, you have to keep something going to replace it. That's something we haven't been doing," said Smith.
"We're pushing 30% poverty in this town. In order to attack these problems as a community, we will have to change the way we see ourselves," Fletcher said.
"I will meet the leaders from P&G, Miller-Coors, and the Marine Base and hear from them what are our problems and our opportunities," Hubbard said.
"We have to cleanup before you invite the company to come. There are 15 members of Congress who represent Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives. I have served with 10 of them. I will not have to wait in the hallway in Washington to meet with them," said White.
The panel asked questions on four topics: public works, public safety, recreation, and budget and finance.