Mayor Edmondson looks to 2024

Published 5:09 pm Saturday, December 30, 2023

Looking back on a year in LaGrange that wasn’t particularly easy, especially in his first year as mayor, Willie Edmondson is able to look forward to a bright and united 2024 for the city.

In a year marked with tragic youth violence, LaGrange also had its share of triumphs with many long-term projects finally coming to fruition this year or next year.

When Edmondson was elected mayor in March in the special election to replace former mayor Jim Thornton, LaGrange was already marred with tragedy. In January, two tornadoes ripped through LaGrange damaging homes and businesses throughout the city. Miraculously no one was killed by the storm.

Less than a month later, another crisis hit the city, when a 15-year-old was shot and killed near Handley Street. The following month, just two weeks prior to Edmondson’s victory for the mayoral seat, tragedy struck again when 16-year-old Nassir Truitt was gunned down outside Southbend Park, sparking a call against youth violence in the city.

During his campaign, Edmondson ran a slogan to “Unite LaGrange.” Since then the city has been united on at least one concern — ending youth violence in LaGrange. Though people don’t always agree on the best way to do it, everyone agrees the shootings need to stop.

At the suggestion of Edmondson, the LaGrange Police Department held a gun buyback which removed over 200 guns from the streets of LaGrange. The city has also supported youth mentoring initiatives in an effort to keep them out of gangs. The council also provided additional overtime funding for police to run extra law enforcement details through the end of the year, a move Police Chief Garrett Fiveash said is already providing results.

“I’m proud of how the crime rate has come down. We were able to get police officers and every community that we were having problems with,” Edmondson said. “It seems to have curtailed some of the shooting.”

Edmondson hosted a pair of events toward the end of the year aimed at further uniting the city, first with the city’s annual birthday party to celebrate LaGrange’s incorporation, and secondly with the inaugural Mayor’s Christmas Ball. The Christmas gala was held at the new Oakfuskee Conservation Center and served as a fundraiser for scholarships and a toy drive for Toys for Tots.

“The mayor’s ball really showed that LaGrange is coming together and has come together. We were able to get scholarships for children and also toys for the children for Toys for Tots,” Edmondson said. “The scholarships will go to deserving students as well as at-risk students.”

Edmondson said there are a lot of things going on in LaGrange to be proud of. From the beautiful newly renovated LaGrange Memorial Library to the renovated William Griggs Recreation Center and the Moss & Wood Park, many projects were completed in 2023.

More are expected to finish in 2024, including the long-awaited Griggs Center Pool. The Don Weatherington Aquatics Center is projected to be ready for summer 2024.

“I was proud that we were able to help the county with the pool at the Griggs Center,” Edmondson said.

Looking forward to 2024, Edmondson said the city has its work cut out for them. He said the first priority is hiring a new city manager. City Manager Meg Kelsey announced that she will be leaving the city to take a job with the City of Newnan effective Jan. 12. Utilities Director Patrick Bowie has been named interim city manager.

Edmonson noted that it certainly hasn’t been easy in his first year in office.

“I’m one of the only mayors that has had to replace a fire chief, then a police chief, and now a city manager,” he said.

Edmondson said the search has already begun for a new city manager, but they have Bowie in the interim.

“That’s a good thing,” he said.