Hogansville post 5 candidates talk platforms during forum

Published 2:12 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

With election day only a few days away, the candidates for Hogansville City Council post five had a chance to win over voters Monday night in an election forum at the Hogansville Public Library.

Both Kandis Strickland and Jason Baswell are newcomers to politics in Hogansville, running for a seat where the incumbent, Toni Striblin, is not seeking re-election.

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

Baswell has worked in fire service for 28 years and currently works as a battalion chief.

Strickland is a teacher at Hogansville Elementary School and serves on the downtown development board.

Each candidate was given 90 seconds for each question, plus two minutes each for an opening and closing statement. Baswell spoke almost five minutes more than Strickland, who was much shorter in her answers.

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

QUALITIES/EXPERIENCES

The candidates were asked about the qualities and experiences that make them a strong candidate.

“I’m currently on two committees with the city of Hogansville, so I have experience with that. As the director of a social service program, I was responsible for the planning and implementation of contracts and those deliverables in the contract for the state and federal government,” Strickland said. “Because I’m a long-term resident, I been able to talk to a lot of people to be able to see what they need, and I’m here to voice their concerns.”

Baswell said in his time working in city and county government he’s been in charge of several budgets.

“I love just serving people,” Baswell said. “That’s why I became a firefighter. And I just think I got a heart to serve.”

BUDGET

Both candidates were asked what makes them qualified to manage a $15 million budget like the one the city of Hogansville operates on.

Baswell said the budget he helps manage currently is right at $12 to $13 million.

“You’ve got to work well with all the people in the city, you’ve got to depend on the city manager, deputy city manager and all the other departments,” Baswell said “You’ve got to have trust and build that relationship. Fortunately for us, we’ve got great city staff in Hogansville. They brought the budget in line, they’ve been doing great. The drawback to Hogansville right now is we don’t have a lot of tax base.”

Strickland said she’s already managed a budget that large.

“As the director of a social service program, I was responsible for the planning and implementation of that program, as well as a budget of over $15 million,” Strickland said. “Also, I was a program specialist. And as a program specialist, I was responsible for the planning and the ins and outs of the entire business. So that’s why I’m qualified.”

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

The candidates were asked about the challenge of affordable housing in Hogansville and how they’d address that issue.

Strickland said she serves with the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing, and she said they are training right now so that plans can be created.

“We’re still in the work stages of that, but I believe as citizens we have to be marketable,” Strickland said. “We have to have some type of training to be able to make ourselves where we can be able to afford things, but things are high. So to make it affordable, we would have to sit down and look at the budget, I would have to work with the mayor and council to be able to look at things to see how we can take it.”

Baswell said it’s a tough question because the city cannot dictate the pricing of homes. However, he said the city can work together with surrounding counties to bring better paying jobs to the area, making it easier for families to afford more expensive homes.

“Unfortunately, the housing being built in Hogansville right now is considered affordable housing compared to if you just go north of us, or you just go south of us. It’s still reasonably priced here in Hogansville,” Baswell said. “Unfortunately, it’s still out of the price range of many people. So the best thing we can do as a government is the mayor and council can get together with our surrounding partners in Coweta, Heard, Meriwether, Harris County, and try to bring good paying jobs instead of trying to make housing affordable.”

INCREASING TRANSPARENCY

The candidates were asked about increasing transparency in city government, if elected.

Strickland said when campaigning it’s clear that people just want to be heard.

“I want to be able to provide chats with counsel, going out campaign, and I’ve talked with a lot of people, and they just want to be heard,” Strickland said. “Chats with counsel will give them the opportunity to be able to voice those concerns.”

Baswell said he wants to improve the Facebook feed of council meetings so that it’s easier for citizens who can’t make it to watch remotely. He also believes the city does a good job of being transparent.

“Unfortunately, for us, we’re such a small city with such a small staff,” Baswell said. “It’s very hard for them, you go to a bigger city, you have advocates that work with inside of the city. I was telling you about the senior adults, there’s a lot of programs out there that will help them with their utility bills, will help them with their rent, it’s on our website. But unfortunately, a lot of them don’t know,” Baswell said. “It’d be great to have a community advocate, whether it’s a part-time position, or there’s probably somebody that would volunteer that could come in, the city personnel could train them to go out there into the community.”

The entire forum can be viewed on The LaGrange Daily News Facebook page and on www.lagrangenews.com.