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LaGrange District 1 candidates talk ideas, platforms

The third and last series of this year’s political forums was held Wednesday morning for the LaGrange City Council candidates at LaGrange’s Active Life Center. 

Incumbent Mark Mitchell and challengers Latasha Dudley and Curtis Brown each had six minutes a piece to tell the audience why they should be elected to the District 1 seat. 

“What we try to do each year at the Active Life Center is to provide educational forums that feature contested races, so, that you, as older adults, have an opportunity not only to hear the positions but have opportunities to talk one-on-one with these candidates,” said Active Life Aging Services Manager Dan Wooten. “Today, we were privileged to look at one of the city council seats, the only contested one.” 

Mark Mitchell 

Mitchell currently holds the District 1 seat and will finish up his first four year term this year. 

According to Mitchell, he has been a lifelong resident of Troup County. 

“When I turned 18, I began my career in the Troup County Sheriff’s Office…until 1994 where I was promoted up through the ranks to sergeant,” Mitchell said. 

“I left and went to the Georgia State Patrol to be a state trooper, and I did that until I retired in 2016 as a lieutenant. I was over the state’s drug interdiction program, and we worked hand in hand with the DEA, the FBI and ICE in interdicting large-scale drug couriers. They traveled from the border or from other locations to our city of Atlanta and through the state of Georgia. We were very successful in doing that and I enjoyed every minute of it.”

After retiring, Mitchell said he decided to run for the council seat because he still wanted to be involved with the community. 

“Some of the things that I would like to highlight about the City of LaGrange is that we are a $108 million a year budget. In my opinion, public safety is first priority. If we don’t have public safety and financial stability to manage that, public safety in the city could go down real quick. I think I gear my votes and my thinking and my common sense … with that attitude.” 

Mitchell added that the city also provides electricity, sewer and water but counts public safety at the top of those. 

“One other thing was this very dear to my heart is Lagrange Fire Department. They have about a $5.7 million-year budget,” Mitchell said. 

“Forty-eight percent of our revenues are generated from sales tax and the other 44 percent comes from our utility revenue. I think that is very important. As far as the school tax, the city council does not have any authority whatsoever to make a decision. There will be a vote on this, and I will support whatever the community vote is to support that.” 

Latasha Dudley 

Dudley hit the ground running with speaking on her support of the senior citizen community in LaGrange.

She referenced school taxes first and said she supported senior citizens not having to pay school property taxes. 

The Troup County School Board has been asked to look at the property taxes that seniors pay, but the LaGrange City Council has no jurisdiction over that decision. 

“I understand the need to not have to pay school taxes because your kids are grown and because your incomes are maybe diminishing, or maybe just because you want to enjoy your life because you’ve done your part,” Dudley said. “I fully support you, regardless of what the popular vote is. I support you to not have to pay school taxes because I think that you shouldn’t have to at this point. You’ve done your part. There’s enough of us beyond working vital people to take up slack.” 

Dudley said another portion of her platform is transportation. 

“Here in the LaGrange, we don’t have a transportation system at all,” Dudley said. “One of the things on my platform is to establish a transportation system, one that will get us all the way from Atlanta to Columbus with LaGrange being the hub. Where you can go pick up your meds, go to the doctor without having to call Medicare or Medicaid transportation or having a daughter or someone take off work to come and take you to the doctor.” 

The LaGrange Daily News reached out to Dudley after the forum to clarify that Dudley was aware of Troup Transit, a program offered by Troup County Parks and Recreation that provides an accessible method of transportation for the citizens of Troup County. 

The program gives priority to elderly adults and those with disabilities. 

“I work for VR (Vocational Rehabilitation Department), and we are one of Troup Transit’s main customers,” Dudley said. “But the reason I say that is because what most people don’t know is that you can’t just call Troup Transit and get on it. The only people that can ride Troup Transit, per say, are VR people, people who are aging and DD (developmental disabilities.) Usually, they are not open for general population to just get on and pay $2.”  

Dudley also said if elected, she would like to create a way for more food resources. 

“I would like to endorse pushing the West Georgia Co-Op, that they grow local and they sell local, so you will get fresh food. We’ll have a mobile unit that can come around to different neighborhoods and sell you local produce things that are healthy for you that you may not be able to get out for. Because even with the transportation, some people still can’t travel.” 

The last point she made was the lack of social services in Troup County. 

“I know how hard it is for you guys to get in, the long wait to get what you need. We need some type of committee to assist with that,” Dudley said. “I’m looking out for your best interest, and I need for you guys to look out for mine … I need your support and your vote.”

Curtis Brown 

Brown said he and his family moved to LaGrange approximately five years ago from Kansas City. 

Jobs and opportunities are first on his priority list for the community. 

“I want to prepare our current workforce for the realities that allow jobs to go on, how do we reframe them?” Brown said. “I want to work with our retired workforce to allow the skills and mentorship they’ve provided throughout their career; how do we make that accessible to the workforce today?” 

Brown added that he sits on the Industrial Development Authority Board. 

“We spend a lot of time bringing large businesses to our community and large businesses bring people to the community,” Brown said. 

“Small business is what keeps people in the community, and I’m a champion for small business.” 

The second part of Brown’s platform is strong infrastructure of the roads and makeups of the city. 

“Now this relates to some of the ideas that are near and dear to our heart here,” Brown said. “Every once in a while, you may hear about a pipe that burst downtown, you may hear about some roads that are torn up somewhere. We need to make sure to keep the investments in our infrastructure strong, and that’s something that champion through the budget process, and through the legislative process which is what city council does control. We need to make sure that we have the infrastructure for workforce housing, affordable housing for seniors and housing that makes sense to match the income and match the realities of our community.” 

Brown’s third part of his platform is what he calls “citizen services,” to make sure the community is investing in senior services.

“I believe in services for poverty reduction,” Brown said. “We need to make sure that government works for all citizens, everyone in the community and not just some of the fun stuff and some fundamental things that we have, which are very important. We need to make sure the amenities are for everyday working people, people who are retired, people who put their investment into our community — that needs to be paid back.” 

He also noted that fully funding law enforcement is very important.

“Those are critical assets to our community, and I want to make sure that they are fully funded, and that they have more support,” Brown said. 

When it comes down to the school taxes situation, Brown said he would like it to come to a vote. 

“You may have heard of what’s called the birth dearth, which means that a lot of younger families are not having children,” Brown said. “There’s gonna be a tipping point in our community where we are going to have a lot of older citizens. If older citizens are not invested into the education process, it’s going to be shameful where we could end up, but I do support making sure that this comes up for referendum, and I will support whatever the community decides.”