Home / Fall 2011 / Valdosta to choose new mayor Tuesday

Valdosta to choose new mayor Tuesday

This year’s municipal election ballot includes a couple of hot-button issues, like Sunday alcohol sales and school consolidation, but most items are for city officials.

Only residents living within a city’s limits may vote in this year’s election.

Municipal elections, like this one, fall on odd-numbered years while state and national officials are elected in even-numbered years.

Valdosta residents may vote for one of three candidates running for mayor: Brooks Bivins, John Gayle, or Gary Minchew.

Each candidate told mass media department head Frank Barnas about his plans for being mayor on Barnas’ NewsTalk 105.9 radio show, “The Morning Drive.”

Bivins is a Valdosta native and a graduate of Barry College. The former Valdosta High School substitute teacher, who is now a mill worker at Packing Corporation of America in Clyattville, considers himself “a Christian, not a politician.”

“What I would like to bring to the table is a working man’s point of view, just an everyday person,” Bivins said on the show.

“What I would like to do is…have a transparent government where really the people have a voice, because I am not a politician. Your concerns are my concerns…I want to get this right with the people. We can work together and get this right. It’s not me, it’s us, and your voice will be heard.”

Gary Minchew, a Valdosta native, local real-estate broker and former Chairman of the Valdosta Lowndes County Industrial Authority, is also in the mayoral race.

Minchew is the candidate behind the yellow “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” signs and says he has helped bring jobs to Valdosta for many years through his involvement with bringing in commercial businesses.

On Barnas’ show, Minchew said that he decided to run for mayor because he has been interested in politics for a long time. He also stated that if he becomes mayor, Ashley Paulk will be the County Commission Chairman.

“Ashley and I have been best friends since we were five years old,” Minchew said.

“[I’m] not saying we haven’t had disagreements, I mean, I didn’t like it when he wouldn’t fix my speeding ticket when he was sheriff, but…if there’s an issue between the city and county, Ashley and I are going to go to a room or go to his farm or my farm and we’ll work it out.”

According to Minchew’s campaign website, “The job of Mayor is mainly a ‘selling job’—selling the city of Valdosta to whomever will listen.

Gary has been a salesman since he was 15 years old and knows how to sell any product he believes in; he believes in Valdosta and knows how to sell it.”

John Gayle was the first of the three candidates to announce his intent to run for mayor. He said on “The Morning Drive” that he started thinking about running around Christmas of 2010 and cited his top priorities as spending taxpayers’ money wisely and bettering relations between the city and county.

“I certainly believe that the Council and County Commissioners are at odds sometimes and I hope that we can work on a better relationship with the County Commissioners,” he said.

“I think that’s very important. We all live in the same community, whether we’re Lowndes Countians or Valdostans, and we’ve got to get along. If we don’t get along, that costs everybody money, in most cases.”

Gayle moved to Valdosta with his family in 1951 when he was about eight years old. He is a graduate of Valdosta High and Valdosta State College (now VSU).

Gayle is a local business man who has assumed various leadership roles in the community including President of the Valdosta Jaycees, President of the Valdosta Country Club, Chairman of the Board of Deacons of First Baptist Church, Outstanding Young Men of America, and Kappa Alpha Order, according to his website.

Valdosta residents may also choose one of two candidates for City Council At Large: Matt Flumerfelt or incumbent Ben H. Norton.

Flumerfelt is a health-care provider who has lived in Valdosta since 1982. He is also a writer and musician interested in beautifying his city.

“I think that Valdosta is growing,” Flumerfelt said.

“I think we’ve got to get prepared for the next round of growth. We need to work on infrastructure. I want to work on beautification, myself, and move Valdosta more towards tourism and away from heavy industry.

Tourists spend a lot of money and if they stop off here on the way to Florida, we’d like them to stay, shop, eat, spend money, and then go wherever they’re going.”

Ben Norton, the incumbent, has lived in Valdosta since age three.

He spent 24 years teaching in the Valdosta City School System before running for City Council to fill the unexpired term left open when John Eunice left Valdosta to attend law school. Norton is now seeking reelection to serve a full term.

“He was a lead supporter in the changing of the way City Council’s expense reports are handled,” according to viewpointnews.net.

“With other candidates running for the same position his support of changing the way things were done by the City Council should help his bid for reelection.”

One item on the Valdosta ballot has stirred up heated debates on both sides of the issue. Registered voters who have at least a six-month residency in Valdosta are eligible to vote on the school consolidation referendum which would repeal Valdosta’s independent charter for the Valdosta City School System, incorporating it into the Lowndes County School System if passed.

Current legislation allows city councils and county commissions to call for referendums to vote on Sunday alcohol sales in retail stores, such as package stores and gas stations. The Valdosta and Lake Park ballots both include Sunday alcohol sale referendums.

The cities of Dasher, Hahira, and Lake Park also have seats open for various positions.

Dasher citizens may vote for City Council Posts 2 and 3 and Hahira citizens may vote for City Council District 3.

Lake Park has an open mayoral position for which Ben Futch is a certified write-in candidate.

There are also open positions for Lake Park City Council At Large and citizens may vote for four candidates. Cathi Brown has officially withdrawn from this race and, in accordance with the Official Code of Georgia, “all votes cast for such withdrawn candidate will be void and shall not be counted.”

The Democratic and Republican parties are offering rides to the polls for registered party members that may need them. The Democrats ask that they be contacted at 241-1694. If no one is available at this number, 630-8486 can be used as an alternate number.

The Republicans can be reached at 247-4111 or 548-3748.

Voting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Elections Office located at 2808 N. Oak St. through Friday. There are no voting hours for Monday, as voting is not allowed on the Monday before an election.

The last day to vote is Nov. 8. On this day those wishing to vote must report to their polling places which are determined by the address they have registered with the Voter Registration Office and indicated on the voter registration card mailed to that address. Hours for all polling places are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Voters can check out a sample ballot online to see what elections they are eligible for before going to the polls using “My Voter Page” (MVP) at sos.ga.gov/

By inputting their first initial, last name, county, and birthdate, voters can not only check their sample ballot, but also their elected officials, early voting locations and hours, mail ballot status and poll locations.

To be eligible to vote in any election, voters must register by the Voter Registration Deadline. The deadline for this election was Oct. 11.

For more information, call the Elections Office at 671-2850 or email elections@lowndescounty.com.

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