Trio of mayor candidates say why they should lead the LaGrange

Published 10:55 am Saturday, April 27, 2024

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The candidates for Mayor of LaGrange faced off on Thursday in the final forum for the May 21 election hosted by the LaGrange Troup County Chamber of Commerce.

Three candidates will vie for the mayor’s seat: Jim Arrington, Chalton Askew and Dr. Israel Barsh.

Arrington is a former LaGrange City Councilman and previously ran for mayor, narrowly losing to the late Mayor W. T. Edmondson. Arrington works in construction and has owned a local company in LaGrange for 27 years.

Askew has retired from Interface after three decades. He became a licensed minister in 2001 and served as pastor at Church of the King for six years. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Troup County Racial Trustbuilding Initiative.

Barsh is a 10-year Army veteran and former social worker. He served as a juvenile justice administrator for 15 years. He currently serves as the CEO of the Office of Nonprofit Global Experts and is the Senior Prophet at The Embassy of the King Church.

The forum was hosted by the Troup County-LaGrange Chamber of Commerce and live-streamed by the LaGrange Daily News. Each candidate was given 90 seconds to answer a series of questions, with two minutes for opening and closing remarks.

The full live stream of the forum can be found on the LaGrange Daily News Facebook page. Below are some of the questions asked and answered during the forum:


What do you see as the biggest responsibilities of the role of mayor?

“The biggest responsibility of the role of the mayor is to be in touch with the citizens what’s happening with the citizens. I think also that you keep a pulse check on supporting leaders and the agencies that affect the city. We want to represent the city in the best light so that the work and the progress that’s being done in the city can continue,” Askew said.

“The responsibility of the mayor is to preside over meetings and also to ensure the city departments are moving swiftly and smoothly and providing leadership services for these citizens. The mayor is the official spokesman for the [city] government,” Barsh said.

“One of the most important things that I would do, over the last five years we have had meetings that have been completely an atrocity. So I will make sure that I will actually preside over these meetings that we have city council leaders who walk in diversity and make sure they have diversity training,” Barsh said. “I’ll make sure that the city council runs smoothly and that we represent this great city called LaGrange.”

“The mayor is the driving force behind the council. The mayor steers the ship. The mayor lines up the things to do that he wants the council to work with the council as they’re the ones actually making the decisions,” Arrington said. “The mayor should be seen around the city out in public. The mayor should be a person who is utilizing everything that the City of LaGrange has to offer. We should be in the entire city, the figurehead for districts one, two, and everybody else.”



How do you intend to work with the city council members in order to achieve your vision for the City of LaGrange?

“One of the first things we’re going to do the first 100 days is that we’re going to have a week with the City Council. We have we have a great team of men, a great team that’s in this office. But what we need in LaGrange is diversity training. We did not need to be in the newspaper concerning bad attitudes and character,” Barsh said.

“First of all, you’ve got to have a relationship with the city council members and I have that relationship now. Matter of fact I speak with most of them, I’m not going to say daily or weekly but at least monthly. A few of them I speak with weekly. They respect me. I respect them,” Arrington said.

“They’re some times that things get a little heated but I think we can we can overcome that. That’s not a huge issue. It’s not something that we’re proud of and that’s something that we don’t want to continue but I do believe that is very overcomeable with the right mayor and with the right leadership,” Arrington said.

“I would work with the city council. Whatever the relationships that have been, that’s our starting point. I believe that in order to pull a train forward you have to make a connection. So I would look for ways to deepen the connection with the council. I would remind the council that the work that we’re doing for the city is not about us, but it includes us,” Askew said.


What role should the city play in infrastructure and housing development?

With all new apartments being built in the city, many local citizens have expressed various opinions that there are too many apartment complexes, the apartments are too expensive, or there are not enough single-family homes being built.

“We don’t have any role in the free market just coming here. We do create conditions for them to come but they come on their own,” Arrington said. “We’ve got about 2000 [apartment] units that are coming up, but we also have about 1500 single-family residences. You always see the apartments because they’re on the main roadways. The single-family houses are out inside the subdivisions and you don’t necessarily see those.”

“Speaking to them being high-priced rents, I was talking with one of the guys. They have one of the apartment complexes and they are already starting to rent their apartments but they’re having to decrease the rents on it. This city council, we all felt that this saturation was going to make the rental prices come down. We’re going to start seeing that I believe,” Arrington said.

“In terms of apartments that are being built, I’m excited to see them coming. Because to me, it says that we’re making progress and I know that people can look through a different lens,  but what I believe is that we need to look out further we need to be futuristic. We need to begin to think in terms of decades,” Askew said.

The most important thing is that as mayor, we will form a citizen’s task force. We have citizens in our community who don’t feel valued,” Barsh said. “We’ll make sure that we have monthly meetings at either the Griggs Center or at Mike Daniel and give the citizens time to say what they want, what they like, and what they don’t. We literally have people here who don’t feel valued and they have not been heard.”