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Three incumbents, one challenger for West Point Council seats

There are four candidates for the election of West Point City Council members on Nov. 2, according to Troup County Election Supervisor Andrew Harper. There are three incumbent candidates — Gloria Ramsey Marshall, Dr. Joseph R. “Joe” Downs III, and Alanteo “Henry” Hutchinson — and Joel Finlay

Marshall is campaigning for her third term on the council.

“My goal and my hope is to always bring growth to the city,” she said. “More housing and more activities for our youth and our senior citizens.”

Marshall said that she’s proud to have been a part of bringing Point University to West Point, as well as purchasing land to develop, helping bring more businesses into the area, bringing in more suppliers associated with Kia, and creating more job opportunities.

“And at this point, we’re in the process of redeveloping the land to make roundabouts in West Point,” she said.

Marshall said that whether or not she’s on the council in the future, she wants West Point to have an indoor recreation facility.

“I would love to see West Point have an indoor recreation building that has a gym, maybe a pool, a walking area, just something for the youth,” she said.

“Maybe a basketball goal.”

Marshall got a certificate in healthcare management from Columbus Technical College. She is currently employed by a call center for Wellstar West Georgia, for whom she has worked for over 25 years.

Marshall said she’s lived in West Point for 32 years but was born in Chambers County.

“I have one daughter, and together, my husband and I have three daughters,” she said, adding that their youngest daughter died a year ago. The other two work in education.

“I have served the citizens of West Point to the best of my ability,” she said.

“I have enjoyed being on the city council. I love West Point. I love the people in West Point, and I hope to be reelected.”

Downs said he’s been on the West Point City Council since 2002, meaning he’s served about five terms. Downs believes that it’s not only his experience that makes him a good candidate.

“As a medical doctor, I feel that I have public health knowledge and healthcare knowledge to offer to the council and to the public,” he said. “Also, I’ve lived in the city all my life, so I have a lot of contacts all over the city, so I’ve been able to connect with them and to help them with various problems in different areas at different times.”

During his time on the council, Downs is particularly proud of being a part of rewriting the city charter. Additionally, he and the rest of the council welcomed Kia and Point University to the city.

“We’ve hired a lot of different department heads,” he said. “I was on the council when we hired the city manager, Ed Moon … We’ve had a lot of experience with personnel changes.”

As a medical professional and council member, Downs said he intends to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I want people to be as safe as they can,” he said.

Downs said he grew up and went to high school in West Point, where he also raised his children and sent them to school. He graduated from the Medical College of Georgia in 1978, according to Chattahoochee Hospice, and began to practice internal medicine in Valley in 1981. He said his specialty is geriatrics.

Downs said he and his wife have been members of First Baptist Church in West Point for years and he’s served as a deacon there.

Hutchinson, who is finishing up his first term on the city council, believes that his experience on the council and elsewhere qualifies him to stay on the council. Additionally, he said he’s a lifelong resident of the community.

“I was recently on the United Way board of directors,” he said. “I also served on the GMA Georgia youth council board of directors. And I think those two experiences help me understand what’s needed to get people together for a common goal.”

Hutchinson thinks West Point is headed in the right direction and hopes he can continue to be a part of West Point’s growth.

“There are a lot of things I want to see going forward that I want to be involved with to try to push for the city of West Point,” he said.

One thing he wants to push for is a more inclusive and engaged recreation department that can keep up with the city’s growth.

Hutchinson said he grew up in the housing authority with a single mother who raised three kids.

He went into the workforce after graduating from high school, working at a textile mill in Lanett, then as an operator at Milliken from 2004 until about 2007. From there, he worked at the site of the Kia plant for a couple of construction companies, then for Mobis in 2009 until 2020, working eight years there as a production supervisor. He started working as an operations supervisor for Freudenberg-NOK in LaGrange about six months ago.

During his term on the city council, Hutchinson is particularly proud of voting to make it so it’s not a felony to possess under an ounce of marijuana in West Point.

“So many young people … their lives have been changed drastically because of mistakes [they made] as youth to where they can’t get into schools, can’t get jobs, and things like that because of their background,” he said. “So, I think it’s very important to try to push those types of policies through.”

Hutchinson is also proud of supporting new housing developments in West Point.

“I would like the opportunity to continue to serve,” Hutchinson said. “I think I’ve got a lot to offer. I’m very unique; I’m very in-tune with the community. I’m very engaged with the community. I’m very transparent.”

Hutchinson has five children and is taking business classes at West Georgia Technical College.

Joel Finlay said he’s been a West Point resident for about 25 years.

“I grew up in North Alabama in a town of about 8,000 people or so,” he said, referring to Albertville.  “I’m a business-minded person. I work for Batson-Cook Company — I’m in construction,” he said. “I have a civic-minded personality and goals. I’ve been a Scoutmaster at Troup 9003 here in West Point for the last 12 years or so. My goal in life is to hopefully improve the lives of other people.”

Finlay sees a lot of opportunities in West Point.

“We have a strong manufacturing entity with Kia, and now that Point University has moved here, we’ve got another opportunity to continue to grow,” he said.

He also said he saw employment potential in restaurants and businesses.

“As far as the educational system goes, I don’t want to undo anything there,” he said.

“We’ve got a good elementary school; it’s led by some good people. And putting a middle school in here would limit the kids’ ability to have bigger and better things.”

Finlay expressed that West Point kids can and do go to schools outside the West Point area.

If he gets elected, Finlay would like to make West Point more attractive to young people. He expressed concern that churches and civic clubs depend on older generations.

“It’s sad that we don’t have more 20s and 30s moving into West Point, and they don’t move into West Point because they probably consider it boring,” he said.

“If I was 20 years old, I’d want to be by the movie theaters and the bowling alleys and the nightlife that’s in Auburn and LaGrange. I mean, that’s where everybody that works here lives. And it’s disheartening.”

Finlay would also like to encourage the council to learn from other communities if it doesn’t already.

“We could learn a lot from potentially going to some of our peers, being other communities, and learning what they do to improve their towns,” he said.

Finlay said he graduated from Auburn University in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in building science and a minor in business. He earned an MBA from Columbus State University in 2001.

He estimated that he’s been a member of First United Methodist Church in West Point for 24 years. His wife is a teacher at West Point Elementary, and their two children are in college.