Active Life hosts LaGrange candidates
Published 10:32 am Wednesday, October 18, 2023
The candidates for LaGrange City Council gathered at the Active Life Senior Center on Tuesday morning for a short forum to introduce themselves as candidates.
District 1 candidate incumbent Councilman Mark Mitchell faced off against challenger Curtis Brown. For District 2, incumbent candidate Councilman Leon Childs faced off against challenger Travis Hart.
The forum was moderated by Parker Floyd, a LaGrange College Political Science student who is volunteering at the senior center as a LaGrange College Servant Scholar. Floyd will also moderate the Hogansville Active Life forum on Oct. 19 at 11 a.m. The West Point Active Life will host its forum on Oct. 20 at 11 a.m.
The candidates were given four minutes each to introduce themselves, explain why they’re qualified for city council and what distinguishes themselves from their opponent, why they’re passionate about LaGrange, and why residents should vote for them. The candidates were also allowed a one-minute closing statement.
Mitchell said he is a lifelong LaGrange resident and has been married to Diana Michell for 34 years and they have two children. The couple owns two businesses in LaGrange, Phase Two Hair Salon and a commercial real estate business.
The majority of Michell’s career has been in law enforcement starting with the Troup County Sheriff’s Office in 1986 and later with the Georgia State Patrol where he worked his way up to the rank of lieutenant. After he retired in 2016, Michell ran for city council where he has served two terms.
“I’ve been on city council now for two terms, and I’m asking for your vote to elect me for one more term if you see fit,” Mitchell said.
Due to his law enforcement background, Mitchell said he has always been a strong supporter of police and brings conservative values to the council.
“One of our issues that I believe that is very important is our police department becoming 24 officers short. I think that puts a stress on our safety in a community. We’ve made some strides with pay increases to try to get those numbers up. We’re currently 11 short,” Mitchell said.
Similarly, Mitchell is pushing for raises for firefighters, noting most of LFD’s calls are now medical.
“We’ve been pushing for firemen to become certified as paramedics because of our fire department’s call ratio. Sixty-eight percent of our calls are medically related, so if you have a medical issue it’s more likely going to be a fireman that gets there first.” Mitchell said, noting that LFD is currently short seven firefighters.
Curtis Brown has served as a board member for United Way, Wellstar and the LaGrange Development Authority. He currently works as a professor at LaGrange College, but he identified himself as an entrepreneur first.
“My business is 10 years old. So, I’m celebrating a decade of being in business with American Business Development Partners, where I work primarily to provide marketing and operations support services primarily for financial institutions but also for nonprofits like the LaGrange Housing Authority,” Brown said,
Brown also works as a professor of business at LaGrange College where he teaches marketing and management information systems.
Brown said most in the community know him from when he served as co-chair of Troup County’s SPLOST campaign in 2017, which the voters approved and funded more than $70 million in capital projects like The Thread and other infrastructure and public safety improvements.
This isn’t the first time Brown has faced Mitchell for the District 1 seat. Brown previously challenged Mitchell for the seat in 2019. He said at the time his campaign slogan was “We’re all in this together.”
“Now in 2023, I believe that more than ever,” Brown said. “I really like the fact that this is a nonpartisan race. I’m not running as a Democrat. I’m not running as a Republican. I’m running as a citizen of LaGrange and here to serve. That’s my agenda.”
Travis Hart is a lifelong citizen of LaGrange having lived here for 37 years and serves as an associate minister of Smyrna Baptist Church.
“I own my own company — I’m an entrepreneur as well — Priority Industrial Cleaning Service. The reason I chose to run for city council is because I have a deep passion for the City of LaGrange that I grew up in,” Hart said.
Hart said he was raised by his grandmother in the part of LaGrange that is now called the Railroad District in District 2.
Hart said he works well with others and can bring creative and innovative ideas to make District 2 and LaGrange a better place to call home.
“My platform is basically making LaGrange a place that we are all proud to call home making LaGrange better than for my kids and when I found it,” Hart said.
“A lot has changed in LaGrange and a lot is happening. If we’re all going to be honest, a lot of stuff that is happening is stuff that we can prevent if we all work together with violence going on in our community. If we work together, we can really combat that violence.”
Hart said he is also supportive of police and supportive of anyone able and willing to help eradicate the violence in LaGrange.
“We’re scared to go to football games. We’re scared to sit on porches. We’re scared to buy property in certain locations. Because we don’t know if we can walk the streets or we can walk our dogs or just have a cookout or whatever,” Hart said. “That’s what I want to bring to LaGrange a sense of safety. A sense of a place to call home, and a sense of pride.”
Incumbent Councilman Leon Childs said he has lived in LaGrange for about 40 years after moving from Standing Rock, Alabama.
As the director of an after-school mentoring and tutoring program for 10 years, Childs is passionate about helping kids.
Childs serves as the director of Adaptive Growth and Cultural Advancement Organization, which works in partnership with the Troup County School System.
Childs was elected to office in January, replacing the late Councilman LeGree McCamey in a special election. He said that his first few months in office were not easy, but he plans to continue because the work is not over.
“The job is not over. My first eight months, it was real rocky, and as John Lewis said, I got into a whole lot of good trouble,” Childs said. “And if it’s going to be to protect you guys, make the education better, make the streets better, then I’m going to be in a whole lot of good trouble these next four years.”
“I’m here to work for you all. I think a lot of times we get in office and we forget why we are in our office. We got in office to work for you. We are in office to hear you guys’ concerns.”
The LaGrange Daily News and the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce will partner for another forum for the LaGrange City Council races on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at the LaGrange Memorial Library at 6 p.m.
LDN and chamber forums will also be held for the West Point races at the Depot in West Point on Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. and on Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. at the Hogansville Memorial Library for the Hogansville races.