Ayers, Porter discuss platforms: Hogansville post four candidates take part in forum

Published 2:12 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The final of three candidate forums in Hogansville Monday night involved post four candidates incumbent Mark Ayers and challenger Adrain “AJ” Porter. The third candidate in this race, Drew Mezza, has withdrawn, according to the Troup County Elections office.

The forum was organized by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce and streamed by The LaGrange Daily News.  

Ayers has served on the Hogansville City Council for the last four years while Porter has lived in Hogansville his entire life and graduated from Callaway High School in 2019.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s forum:

PLATFORM

Porter was asked about his three-part platform, which breaks into concerns of the citizens, empowering youth to be involved in the community and working together for change. He was asked if he feels the current city council has not achieved in these areas, and Ayers was asked to respond.

“I don’t think that there’s a lot for the youth to do in the city,” Porter said. “I want to actually bring things into the city that the youth can be proud and getting out of and join the city. Because I remember, I can remember my dad talking about, we used to play football in the fields and everything throughout the city back in the day. You don’t see that nowadays.”

Ayers said he possibly agreed in some parts.

“I do think that the city has focused so much on the youth in the last recent years,” Ayers said. “We have developed new courts, new youth programs after school programs that the city itself can only partner with some of those programs are nonprofit organizations, that we have funded to the best of our ability and met the requests of those organizations… what I do agree with at some point, we don’t always see children sign up for those things, and parents sign up for those things… I do think as a city, we can move forward. But in order to encourage more participation in those sports and at those basketball courts, but I don’t necessarily think it’s something that the city council can do by themselves.”

WORKING WITH COUNCIL MEMBERS

The candidates were asked how they would work with other city council members to get things done in Hogansville.

Ayers noted that during his four years on the council the city has had three different city managers and has seen other leadership positions turn over. 

“Everyone comes in with different experiences and different agendas and different plans and different experiences,” Ayers said. “I just believe that I can sit down with any new council member or you know, any other employee that comes in. And let’s just talk that out.”

Porter referenced his athletic experience in high school when answering the question. 

“In football, it takes a team to work together to win a game,” Porter said. “People come from different backgrounds, so you have to adjust to them. You can’t just you know, just be out front and be your be what you want to be. You’ve got to take from them and put it together and compromise and work as a team.”

LIQUOR STORES

The candidates were asked about the city of LaGrange’s recent discussion on possibly limiting liquor stores in the community and whether it might be a good fit for Hogansville.

“I think actually it could help the community,” Porter said. “I haven’t done all the research on that. But I’m pretty sure it’s a certain tax that is placed on alcohol, that actually I think could help actually maybe lower the utility bills and help the city as a whole.”

Ayers said the location matters but he doesn’t believe limiting liquor stores is the right move.

“The idea that a liquor store on the corner breeds crime is something that I think is an older idea or something for much larger cities, where things are different, and situations are different,” Ayers said. “No, I would not want to see a liquor store, right downtown, where children and families are walking and where people are at the elementary school with all of us combined and right there. But at the same time, I do see the tax revenue, and what that does for other small towns.”

UNDERUTILIZED SITES

The candidates were asked how they would encourage the development or redevelopment of underutilized sites to increase the city’s tax base.

“One thing that we have tried to do was enact programs and incentives to make sure that businesses or buildings don’t sit empty,” Ayers said of commercial properties. “If they’re empty, if they’re dilapidated, they need to be torn down.”

He said the residential side works hand in hand with the commercial side. He said with more businesses, there’s more foot traffic, more workers needed and more interest from developers.

“I believe the city needs to advertise itself, come up with ways to advertise ourselves to bring businesses in,” Porter said. “… I know a lot of people want to do things and want to bring a service to the community, but they just don’t believe in themselves or don’t have think they don’t have the city’s support. So that’s what I think we need to show.”