Arrington, Edmondson make final cases to LaGrange voters
Published 10:00 am Saturday, March 18, 2023
With the mayoral race in the closing stretch, candidates Jim Arrington and W.T. Edmondson are making their final pitches to voters in LaGrange.
The LaGrange Daily News spoke with both candidates to share their goals as potential mayor and thoughts on recent youth violence and the SPLOST vote, which will also be on the ballot on Tuesday, March 21.
Arrington’s goals as mayor
Arrington said it’s his goal to make LaGrange one of the safest cities in the state of Georgia.
“I will make this a priority by supporting our communities with the resources that they need in order to stop the violence. I believe this is an issue that only the communities can solve with the help of families, churches, officers and nonprofits.
Arrington said he will work to ensure LaGrange utility rates continue to be among the lowest in the state and will also work to ensure that no property tax is levied in the City of LaGrange.
Arrington added that he would work to ensure every citizen has the opportunity to enjoy a high quality of life by supporting the city’s parks and The Thread by actively seeking retail and restaurants. He will also continue to look for ways to ease traffic congestion.
He said he would continue to make LaGrange an attractive city to live in and to visit.
“I will do so by finding solutions to our litter problem in order to beautify our main corridors to the city,” Arrington said. “As mayor, I will look for opportunities to have more activities and attractions for our citizens of all ages to do in the community. I will also continue to attract industry that offers high-paying jobs so our citizens have more opportunities to find work.”
Edmonson’s goals as mayor
Edmondson said his first goal would be to try to unite LaGrange, saying he will be for the whole of LaGrange, both District 1 and 2.
“The main thing I’m going to do is try to attract some industries and some big-box stores to come in and some industries to bring in better paying jobs,” Edmondson said.
Edmondson said he would also work to attract housing developers so that LaGrange will have affordable housing.
“I really want to work closely with the development authority to bring those industries in,” Edmondson said.
“I want to see a whole lot more happen as far as enhancing our safety for our city with neighborhood police officers. I’m big on having neighborhood police officers that will get to know the people in the neighborhood and able to work with the neighborhoods, that will keep our citizens safe,” he said.
Edmondson said he would also work to make sure that LaGrange doesn’t collect a city property tax and continues to keep utility rates down.
“I don’t want to impose any taxes, especially on senior citizens,” Edmondson said,
Edmondson said he would also work to hire the best police and fire chief.
“I want to see the right police chief hired. We’ve got a lot of work to do in that area along with the fire department,” Edmondson said.
Edmondson suggested that a gun buyback program would help reduce the fatal teen violence that has plagued the city.
“I want to do a gun buyback program to get some of these guns off the streets,” Edmondson said.
Edmondson said he believes additional youth programs will also help.
“We’ve done some of that with the youth organizations that we have, but I want to increase that. I want to see more youth groups in place, possibly bringing back the Boys and Girls Club. I want to try to see if we can we do that as a YMCA.”
Edmondson also suggested creating an independent youth council to address problems that young people see in their community and find out from them.
“I don’t think we’ve tapped into what they actually want. If we create a youth council to just address the things that they see in their community that could help them. I don’t know what that would be, but they could come up with something,” Edmondson said.
Arrington said increasing community involvement where it has been lacking is a good start.
“Sometimes we rely on the government to fix things. I don’t think that the government can fix this. I really don’t,” Arrington said. “I think it is an issue that we have got to try to help solve within the community.”
Arrington said he supports a potential gun buyback and community policing but doesn’t think either will entirely fix the problem.
“I’m good with buying back guns. That’s going to help. That’ll take a few guns off the street. I’m OK with getting police officers in the neighborhoods and getting relationships built. I think we should do that. But I just don’t think those are the answers. The answer lies within the communities to educate these kids about the gun violence,” Arrington said.
Arrington also said he doesn’t think a curfew will help, noting that both of the recent shootings where young teenagers were killed occurred in the evening.
“You can’t make those kids come inside before it’s dark in the summer,” he said.
Arrington said he would be against an early curfew, but he supports the current one the city has at midnight.
“My mom and dad taught me that nothing good happens after 12 a.m.,” Arrington said.
Deciding the new mayor might be the biggest choice on the ballot in LaGrange but the other issue for all of Troup County is the SPLOST VI referendum. With early voting numbers being so low, both of the candidates were asked about the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) vote.
Both candidates stressed the importance of continuing the SPLOST and the benefits it provides LaGrange and the county as a whole.
“I’m concerned that people are just OK with whatever happens,” Arrington said. “We need the SPLOST.”
“Our people want the amenities that we are going to do with it, but we also need it for roads and water and sewer,” Arrington said.
Edmonson wasn’t concerned that the low turnout could affect the SPLOST vote.
“I don’t think it will affect SPLOST because I think that everyone that knows anything about SPLOST is really for SPLOST because it helps the citizen of LaGrange,” Edmondson said. “It defrays the costs from the citizens of LaGrange and Troup County from having to pay so much additional tax. It helps because everybody from outside [Troup County] that comes in and purchases something, that extra penny helps defray the cost of us having to pay more taxes. I don’t see why anyone would vote against that.”
Separating the candidates
Both candidates have run cordial campaigns, having served with each other for years on the LaGrange City Council. Council votes are frequently unanimous and the candidates voiced agreement on many issues in the recent chamber forum.
That makes for a clean campaign, but it doesn’t separate the candidates for the voters. Both candidates were asked why LaGrange residents should vote for them and not their opponent.
“That’s not really a hard question because I have more experience than Jim, Jim’s a good guy, but I have more experience. I have a plan for LaGrange,” Edmondson said.
“I have a plan to continue to do what we’re doing but at the same time enhance what has already been done and to make sure that we can operate within our budget. Not only operate within our budget but make sure that we can meet the needs of our community.”
Arrington said he has the enthusiasm that LaGrange needs.
“I have an enthusiasm that people should want to see in a mayor. I’ve proven myself in the five years that I’ve served as a councilman. We accomplished a lot of things that I’m proud of that I can say that I’ve accomplished in District 1 and District 2. The best reason I can give people to vote for me instead of Willie is I’m going to have new ideas to bring new ideas to the table,” Arrington said. “I’m going to promote the old ideas that work, and I’m going to bring new ideas that for things that we need to improve upon.”