3 incumbents eye return to city council
Change has been on the ballot in local races and citizens have largely voted in its favor since the election season kicked off earlier this year – only Dallas County Commissioner Curtis Williams was reelected in county elections this summer, all other seats will be held by new commissioners; only incumbent Valley Grande City Councilwoman Tammy Troha survived to a runoff, with all other seats to be filled by newcomers; only William Lumpkin was reelected to the Orrville City Council, with all other places to represented by new leaders; and in Selma, a new mayor, new Selma City Council president and five new council members will take the reins of the city next year.
In multiple Selma races, the incumbents opted not to seek reelection – Ward 1 Councilman Carl Bowline, Ward 2 Councilwoman Susan Youngblood and Ward 4 Councilwoman Angela Benjamin did not run for another term, while Ward 3 Councilwoman Miah Jackson abandoned her post to run for mayor.
Incumbent Ward 6 Selma City Councilman John Leashore lost his reelection bid to Atkin Jemison and B.L. Tucker, who will face off in an October, and incumbent Selma City Council President Corey Bowie was narrowly defeated by Lydia Chatmon and Billy Young, who will also go head-to-head in October’s runoff.
Only three Selma City Council members will be returning to represent their wards next year – Ward 5 Councilman Sam Randolph, Ward 7 Councilwoman Jannie Thomas and Ward 8 Councilman Michael Johnson.
“I’m just happy that I did win again and I thank the people who voted for me, but we all need to come together to make Selma and Ward 5 the best place it can be,” Randolph said. “We have a lot of issues in our ward – maybe when the new administration gets in there we can address some of these issues.”
Randolph, a 20-year veteran of the council who was just elected to his sixth term, walked away with roughly 53 percent of the vote Tuesday in a three-candidate field.
“I knew it was going to be a tough campaign,” Randolph said. “My opponent did a god job in putting her message out to the people. I just stayed focused on what I’ve been doing. I don’t believe in slinging mud, I just tried to stay positive because, when you do that, you keep the community together.”
Randolph said he hopes to engage Ward 5 citizens with a series of ward meetings aimed at hearing their ideas and concerns.
“If you sit at home while we’re having a ward meeting and you don’t come out to voice your opinion, we’ll never know how you felt,” Randolph said.
Having sat on the council for two decades, Randolph has seen his share of change, but he’s optimistic that the council’s Class of 2020 will be a benefit to the city.
“When you have new people, you’re going to have new ideas coming to the table,” Randolph said. “I believe it’s going to take all of us coming to the table to make our city what it should be.”
In Ward 7, Thomas claimed a decisive victory over her opponent, Hatwatha McGhee, earning more than 70 percent of the vote in her area.
“I came in here to make a change, to improve the community,” Thomas said. “I wanted to put my community first because it needed it. There’s a lot more work that needs to be don and I want to be on the team that can pass a balanced budget and look at where we need to go in a new direction.”
For her part, Thomas has an eye toward filling depleted city departments again to return essential services to citizens.
“Patching potholes doesn’t last long,” Tomas said. “We need to find funds to have our whole city repaved because it’s way overdue. We need everybody back to operate the City of Selma.”
Thomas also expressed optimism about a new council and new leadership in city hall.
“We have some leaders coming in that I think will be able to move the city forward and work the new mayor, whichever mayor comes in,” Thomas said. “This is our city and we are leaders.”
Over in Ward 8, Johnson also claimed a significant victory over his two opponents, collecting more than 58 percent of the vote to advance him to his third term on the council.
“I am very grateful and happy that the people that were actually paying attention to my last four years gave me an opportunity to come back for another four years to straighten out some things I didn’t get done because of the layoffs,” Johnson said. “I truly understand the frustration some of my constituents had. The only reason I ran – I really just wanted tow terms – was because I couldn’t leave my ward in the condition it’s in to somebody else.”
Johnson noted that he is a native of Ward 8, his children were raised and educated in Ward 8 and all of his businesses have been headquartered in Ward 8.
“My heart is in Ward 8,” Johnson said.
Johnson note that the next council is going to have to make “some tough decisions,” specifically as it relates to raising the revenue that will be necessary to tackle the myriad problems currently facing the city.
“I don’t have a problem working with anyone,” Johnson said. “The important thing is going to be all of us working together. I’m hoping that we make the right decisions. We’ve got to think about what’s best for the City of Selma.”