Who would have ever guessed that in 2014 there would still be a group of individuals nervous about the idea of having a black mayor leading the Garden City?
But that seems to be the case.
Ever since former City Administrator Fred Russell abruptly announced that he is not running for mayor of Augusta after all, there has been a huge scramble to find a new candidate to fill his shoes.
What are the qualifications for this candidate?
He, preferably he, or she must be white.
He or she must have enough name recognition to beat any of the black candidates running in the race.
That’s basically it. White and name recognition. That’s what could be riding on the future of Augusta. Seriously, people?
However, time is running out for this “Great White Hope” to be chosen. Qualifying for the mayor’s race will be held from March 3-7 and the actual election is scheduled for May 20.
That doesn’t give any new candidates much time to announce their plans and at least attempt to formulate some type of platform as to why he or she is running for office.
And most voters are smart. They can see a poorly thrown together campaign from a mile away.
As it stands right now, four black candidates have announced their intentions to run for mayor: Augusta Commissioner Alvin Mason, State Sen. Hardie Davis, former mayoral candidate Helen Blocker-Adams and local businessman Charles Cummings.
Out of those candidates, insiders say that Mason and Davis are attracting the most attention so far. But both will have some hurdles to overcome.
For Davis, his major misstep was introducing legislation back in 2009 to boost the mayor’s salary from approximately $75,800 to a whopping $137,700.
Even though that was several years prior to him announcing his intentions to seek the city’s top seat, people have a long memory when it comes to money and that still bothers some voters to this day.
After all, Davis claimed he suggested the pay increase to make the salary of Augusta’s mayor more comparable to other mayors in cities such as Savannah, Macon and Columbus. But now some voters are wondering if he was thinking of his own future rather than what was best for the city of Augusta.
As far as Mason is concerned, he definitely has the most experience with issues directly facing Richmond County, but he has the unfortunate task of carrying the burden of the entire commission on his shoulders. Many voters lump all Augusta commissioners into the same category of clueless chaos.
Obviously, the public’s view of the Augusta Commission is not always the most positive, but it doesn’t help matters when the former city administrator refers to the board as a three-ring circus.
Whoever ends up winning this mayor’s race, it would be nice to see that the outcome may help bring Augusta into the 21st century.
Augusta’s first black mayor, Ed McIntyre, was elected in 1981. That was 33 years ago. And while Augusta did have Wilie Mays serve as interim mayor about a decade ago, he was appointed by the Augusta Commission and never elected by the people.
There is a big difference.
Of course, as soon as someone brings up Ed McIntyre’s name, a critic will automatically point out how McIntyre’s term was cut short in 1984 because he was convicted of conspiring with a former city councilman, Joseph Jones, to extort nearly $25,000 from developers.
Sure. Whenever any local politician leaves the city wearing handcuffs, it’s a dark day for this community.
But there have been numerous city leaders, both black and white, who have insisted that McIntyre was one of the greatest visionaries they had every met and was devoted to strengthening Augusta.
No one can ever take that away from McIntyre.
So isn’t it about time that Augustans look at the candidates running for mayor and decide which person would be the best mayor for the city? Not which race.