TALLADEGA -- In just a couple of days, Talladega voters will return to the polls to decide runoffs for the offices of mayor, councilman for Ward 2 and councilman for Ward 3.
Polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday.
Voters in Ward 2 will cast their ballots at the Brecon Recreation Center, while those voting in Ward 3 will be at the Spring Street Recreation Center.
Those voting for mayor only in Wards 1, 4 and 5 will vote at the B.N. Mabra Center, the Spring Street Recreation Center and the Bemiston Recreation Center, respectively.
Each of the candidates was asked to respond to questions specific to their office and to make a final pitch to potential voters. The responses are below.
The mayor position has no power, but that person is the face of the city. How does your face in the mayor position speak to the identity and future of Talladega?
Jerry Cooper (incumbent)
“What I’d like to do is portray a mayor who loves this city and wants to see what’s best for Talladega take place. At my age, I’ve got wisdom about some things, and I can discern the needs of the people in this city. My desire is to serve people. If they have a problem, they can contact me and I will help them set up a meeting with their council member. I’ll meet with whoever it takes to help solve the problem.
“I’ve lived in Talladega all my life, and I live here now. I’ve built up good working relationships, with folks here and with folks in Montgomery.”
“I believe the mayor does have power! Citizens – through their vote – give the mayor the power to represent them. Nothing in Amendment 738 prevents the mayor from proposing legislation, working with the city manager and council to make changes that will help advance the city, or advocating for the citizens of Talladega. I believe it is time for a new generation of leadership in the mayor’s office. My face, and more importantly, my voice, will speak to change, diversity and a vision for the future.”
Why do you think you are the best choice for the office?
“I have proven my leadership. I attend all the council meetings, I get to every function that I can get to, for the city schools, for Talladega College. I’ll go out of town to give a proclamation to a couple from Talladega celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I’ll go to another town to do for the citizens of this town.
“Also, I have a vision for Battle Street, once the state gets through with it and the city takes it over. I want to work with the college, get new sidewalks put in from the college to the square, with plenty of good lighting for the students to walk. We want to clean up that whole area, and make it safe for the students to walk. I also want to see us open up all the recreation centers that are closed now to give the children a place to go. I know I can’t do it myself, but I look forward to working with this new council.
“And I want the citizens to continue to call me with their problems, and I will continue to inform the council about the phone calls I get, about the grass that needs cutting, cleaning out the ditches, whatever.”
“I am the best choice for mayor for three reasons: 1) Since I announced my candidacy, I have had a plan for our city. I want to work with the city manager and council to improve access to technology, improve our roads and bridges, create more job opportunities, and work with the Board of Education to continue to improve our city’s education system. 2) It’s time to have a mayor that will use his office to advocate for the citizens of Talladega. We deserve a mayor who does more than ribbon cutting and proclamation signing. Talladega deserves a voice that will speak from the mayor’s office on behalf of all of our citizens. 3) It’s time to stop making excuses about the limitations of serving the people. We must find ways to strengthen the relationships between the community and the government. By strengthening the relationship between the community and the government, we can, collectively, forge a better Talladega for our current residents and our posterity.”
What are some of the issues you would like to focus on that are specific to Ward 2? What would be your ideas to address some of these issues?
“Crime is a focal point for Ward 2. In my opinion, one of the best ways to prevent crime is to stay informed, aware, and connected with our local resource, which is Talladega Police Department. I would like to invite my constituents to join me in meetings with the chief of police and his department to discuss ways to reduce criminal offences in our community.”
“Our main problem is violence. To stop the violence, we have to get the community involved, get boots on the ground. We’ve got to talk to the young people, get educators, ministers, parents, everyone involved. We need more than just meetings, we need to go out into the streets where the violence occurs. We have to try and help them to not be victims of violent acts. Housing is important, too. I’d like to get a developer involved. We’ve got some good places for subdivisions in Ward 2. If we don’t do something, in 10 years, Talladega won’t even be a city anymore. We can’t afford to keep losing people to Lincoln and Oxford.”
The East Side Head Start building is now vacant, and is owned by the city of Talladega. What future uses do you see for that building, or what would you like to see become of it?
“Vacant properties induce greater crime in a community. Therefore, I would like to see Eastside Head-Start utilized to benefit or enhance Ward 2 in any capacity, by verifying ownership and zoning restrictions, if applicable. I would like to form a committee from the community, to meet with city officials, and discuss possible uses, renovations, grant or financial options that are relevant.”
“We need to find some grant funding to get it upgraded and remodeled. It could be a recreation center, or a tutoring center for the kids. But we would need to get the city school board involved, because I don’t think the city is in the right financial shape to renovate it on our own. I think we need to have a grant writer on payroll, get grant money to fund different projects, including making that adequate for the community.”
Why you deserve to be the representative for Ward 2?
“As a candidate for City Council Ward 2, I want to bridge the gap between City Hall and parts of the city that feel disenfranchised. I want to ensure Ward 2 diversity is represented throughout City government. Our ward must have an active role in the city’s priorities, such as improved streets, safe community with lower crime rates, enhanced drainage systems, better-quality schools, more certified teachers, and new infrastructure, which would increase the self-esteem of our children. My goal is to ensure plans for the future benefits of Ward 2 from every walk of life.”
“This city must move forward with new ideas, new vision, new direction. The time is now for that. The time is now, not next year, not in four more years, and not in 10 years. We need new leadership.”
What are some of the issues you would like to focus on that are specific to Ward 3? What would be your ideas to address those issues?
David Street (incumbent)
“I believe the issues in Ward 3 are not unique to only this ward. I have walked throughout every
neighborhood and met countless people. Sometimes I get to see friends I’ve not seen for some time and at other times I am able to meet people for the very first time. There are even times that each of us have knowledge of one another through mutual friends. No matter which of these situations occur and regardless of the specific area of Ward 3 they happen to live in, we all want the same things. We all want our councilman to connect with us, to value us, to recognize our needs and to care enough to try to make things better for our area/neighborhood. We want our streets maintained, ditches cleaned on a regular schedule, traffic laws enforced, litter picked up, sidewalks maintained or even built. We want our park or recreation centers available with activities for all age groups. We all want an equal voice in our government.”
“The demographics of Ward 3 are very different in the various neighborhoods. Although the diversity is an overall strength, I want to use a ‘Neighborhood Approach’ to identify problems and for solving problems. For example, residents that live in the areas of Moorefield Drive and in Brecon have shown me the poor care of their drainage ditches. Other problems that I hear about, and have seen for myself in Ward 3, involve abandoned and burned homes and commercial buildings, junk cars that need to be removed, and poor care of our roads. What I have to say about this problem is that Talladega, as with any municipality, should know that roads, infrastructure maintenance and improvements, and our public safety are issues that should have most of the focus and attention. I would work with the City Council and the city to fix and solve these problems. The way we would do this would be, first, to identify and measure the extent of the problems. Next, we would make a reasonable action plan to resolve the problems, with accountability and time limitations. Last, we would follow the plan and use the City Council for oversight and compliance.”
You and your opponent have both been involved in historic preservation. What is the importance of historic preservation, both to Ward 3 and to the city as a whole?
“As most everyone knows, Talladega is steeped in history and has some of Alabama’s most beautiful buildings and homes. These treasured pieces of history are a big part of what makes Talladega what it is, a charming small southern city. The Historic Preservation Commission was created to ensure the historic districts remain as intact as possible for future generations to experience and enjoy. I am proud to say my wife and I have raised our family living in the Silk Stocking District for over 23 years. We have devoted most of our adult lives doing our part to live the goal of the HPC’s unofficial mission — preserve and retain the essence of the Historic Districts.
“I began my public service by serving on the Historic Preservation Commission. This is mostly due to my unpleasant experiences that resulted from actions of the HPC. Some of my neighbors and other residents had similar experiences. Unfortunately, we were not alone and that made me committed to helping change the reputation of the HPC. During my tenure, the HPC made great progress in reducing the negativity of the HPC.
“I recognize that living in these older homes and the commitments — financial and time — are not for everyone. I also recognize that to move Talladega forward, the council must not focus entirely on the Square and the historic buildings. There are good people throughout Talladega and want their councilman to represent ALL neighborhoods and areas, not just one side of town. I am the councilman for Ward 3 that will represent ALL residents in Ward 3 and won’t focus entirely on the Square or a select group.
“Part of Ward 3 cuts through the east side of the town square and involves most of the historic homes that are regulated in the HPC ordinance. Of the 24 Certified City Governments in the State of Alabama, I would say that Talladega has benefited the least from this program. And I am sure that the city fathers that created the HPC ordinance many years ago were not expecting what has resulted today. The historic district is an important part of my plan for increasing tourism in our city. The existing HPC board should follow the ordinance as written. I will be calling on the HPC to give to the City Council a proposal of their action plan for the upcoming 12 months. I would then ask the City Council to discuss the plan in a work session, to schedule a public hearing, to discuss the HPC action plan in an open meeting, and then to give feedback and support to the HPC plan, if agreed to by the council.”
Why do you deserve to be the representative for Ward 3?
“I’d like to begin by saying ‘Thank You’ for allowing me to serve you! It would be an honor and privilege to continue to serve you as your voice, but I need your vote so I can continue to serve Talladega. I am dedicated to making your government transparent and work for you, the resident. I am proud to say I was an instrumental part of some very good accomplishments during my time serving. The one achievement I am most proud of is securing Georgia Pacific’s return to Talladega! I was your council president when we went to Montgomery to recruit Georgia Pacific. I am confident that my participation helped Talladega win Georgia Pacific over from the other communities that were in serious consideration.
“I am proud to say I was instrumental in our city performing an independent and comprehensive job classification study with the goal of ensuring our employees are compensated fairly and with a sustainable increase that allows us to attract and retain the best our area has to offer.
“I was a strong advocate of the Re-Branding initiative that was initiated shortly after the last election. Part of the rebranding was to highlight the natural resources that are unique to our area — Cheaha Mountain, which offers camping, kayaking, and hiking; Top Trails; CMP, which has the potential to draw in visitors and revenue if we continue to market ourselves correctly and in a positive light. We the people are Talladega, so let’s highlight it. I was very excited and pleased with the large group of residents and business leaders that participated in the rebranding efforts. I am committed to our city continuing what was started by so many good people. We must not throw away what we all agreed was a great plan just because it was started during another administration. Good leaders build onto what their predecessor left to make things bigger and better. Change just to change is costly and is counter-productive.
“I am happy to have been part of the creation of our annual Christmas on the Square event. This was an extension of the Re-Branding and Talladega deserves for it to remain a professional event.
“A few of my goals in my next term are to continue my push to get streets paved more frequently (every two years and off the election year), continue my work on creating an industrial park to recruit new large industry, continue to make our entire city more friendly to those with disabilities and our older population, develop more opportunities for our youth, work with the new council members to stabilize our finances and learn their ideas so I can support them in any way I can. I will also be sharing my RR Overpass concept/plan with this new council to re-energize my idea with new support. I will reintroduce my plan to place dumpsters in each ward, twice a year at no charge to the residents, for a Spring and Fall cleanup effort and to make eliminating litter a high priority for the city.”
“The position of City Council member is more than just making comments and voting at the council meetings, as it involves leadership and oversight. I promise to exhibit both of these skills of leadership and oversight at each meeting. I am presently retired and have time to work with Ward 3 constituents during the week and in the evenings. Also, I will work to ensure that additional measures of transparency are put in place so that every constituent knows what is taking place in their city government. I will attend all scheduled council meetings and make every effort to assure that every resident of Ward 3 is represented equally and fairly. Last, I want to have no actual or perceived conflicts of interest while serving the residents of Ward 3. I have already withdrawn my position as treasurer of the Hall of Heroes and will soon make a decision about my position with the Jemison Carnegie Foundation. My fellow Ward 3 residents, I look forward to working with you and representing you over the next four years. Thank You.”