Three candidates seek mayoral seat

Published 9:30 am Friday, May 10, 2024

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After the passing of LaGrange’s most recent mayor, the next election will once again hold a race for the city’s mayor.

Jim Arrington will be running for mayor for the second time against challengers Chalton Askew and Israel Barsh.

Arrington, who served on the city council for six years, gave up his seat to run for mayor against Dr. Willie Edmondson last year. The LaGrange native has worked in construction for the past 34 years and operates his own home-building company, Arrington Builders.

Askew, also a LaGrange native, worked for Interface for 30 years before retiring. In 2021, he became the first executive director of the Racial Trust Building Initiative in LaGrange, which works to eliminate barriers and to shrink the racial divide in the community. He also serves on  the Troup Transformations board and the Troup Strategy Center board.

Barsh, an Army veteran and former social worker, has run for the city council twice and is now running for mayor. He received his bachelor’s degree from Washington State University. He operates a LaGrange-based nonprofit organization called Lionsgate Coalition of LaGrange. He also runs the Office of Nonprofit Global Experts and is a preacher of the LaGrange City Worship Embassy of the King Church.

What inspired you to run?

This will be the second time that Arrington has run for mayor. After a former mayor, Jim Thornton, resigned, Arrington ran against the late Mayor Willie Edmondson. He said he was ready to run again after Edmondson’s unexpected passing.

“My council experience is the reason I’m running for mayor,” Arrington said. “I’m the only candidate with experience that’s running.”

Meanwhile, Askew said he was inspired by the late Edmondson’s vision of the city. Askew served on the former mayor’s campaign.

“I was thinking I am not ready for us to have to set a start over to build back up to this point,” Askew said, adding that he had seen Edmondson beginning to address a need in the community that he hopes to continue.

The former city councilmember Frank Cox and Mr. Griggs, Barsh said, inspired him to run first for city council and now for mayor. He said he was further inspired to act by the lack of affordable homes, the homelessness, troubled youth, gang violence and shooting in the city.

“You got to know the heartbeat. I feel the heartbeat of LaGrange,” Barsh said. “It’s really in critical condition right now.”

Why do you think you would be the best candidate?

Arrington said that after six years on the city council, he has developed the relationships and background knowledge needed to act as mayor.

“I’ve been on city council for six years,” Arrington said. “And that’s given me a vision for LaGrange and I’ve been able to work towards my vision for Lagrange, and that is to make Lagrange a thriving city where all residents can have a high quality of life.”

Askew said that his cost accounting background, his ability to work collaboratively and his desire to see change in the community are what make him the best candidate for mayor.

“I’m already current on issues already at the table trying to make an impact,” he said.

Barsh said he has kept an active role in the city government and community concerns for many years. He said he is committed to the city of LaGrange.

“I’m the top candidate that they can trust,” Barsh said. “Experience does not mean results. I have experience with proven results.”

Main focuses

Arrington said that thanks to his time on the council, he has a plan for the city. His main focus is on public safety from replacing street lights to supporting the police station. But he also said the current housing issue and student participation in trade school programs are important to him.

“If you feel safe, that’s part of quality of life,” Arrington said.

Askew said his platform can be summed up with three words: educate, elevate and empower.

“Aligning the understanding of decision-makers with the reality of the people that live in the community, and also giving the citizens a voice,” Askew said. “… Education is understanding issues from all angles. I think that is needed in the community.”

Barsh said he plans to bring equity and diversity to the forefront of the city. He also plans to support public safety, stimulate growth for affordable housing and create youth “fun spaces.” He also mentioned working with nonprofit organizations to improve homelessness and supporting bridge-building in the community. He plans to stimulate communication and connection through think tank-like events such as a “Champions Breakfast” and “LaGrange Connect” meeting.

“The citizens need a voice that will speak their heartbeat,” Barsh said. “I would be the voice for the citizens to speak their heart.”