The Telegraph of Macon's editorial board has begun their process of interviewing candidates ahead of the first elections for the soon-to-be-consolidated Macon-Bibb County government. Three of six men hoping to be the first city-county mayor were grilled for an hour each Monday evening by a cross section of community members.
Former Bibb County Commission chair and retired deputy Macon police chief Charlie Bishop said his top budget priority as mayor would be making sure the county sheriff’s department—which will absorb the city police—is sufficiently funded. "Because if you don’t, you get poor quality people down there," he said. "You think anybody’s going to work here when they’re cutting the pension plan way down, and you can go out to Warner Robins, you can go to Houston County and their pension plan is better? And they’re talking about cutting it? You’re going to get the people that nobody else wants."
Self-described “outsider” candidate David Cousino said his number one priority would be "to make sure that businesses have one building to go into to get their licensing and registration and everything," he said. "When these businesses come into this town now, they’ve got to go here there and everywhere, and then they wait 30, 40 days before they can even get anything done. But if you’re part of the good ol’ boys system, they can get it done real quick." Counsino agreed in response to a follow-up question that consolidation will help with that problem.
Longtime county commissioner Joe Allen said he would lobby the state legislature to allow the mayor or the mayor’s designee to serve as a ninth voting member of the Bibb County Board of Education. “The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing," he said. "That’s the reason I pushed so hard for consolidation. Let the mayor sit on that school board. And then he can take back to [the city-county commission] what they plan to do, and then they’ll be working hand in hand together."
Macon Mayor Robert Reichert and his predecessor C. Jack Ellis will come before the editorial board Wednesday, while County Commission chair Sam Hart is scheduled to do so next Monday. GPB and The Telegraph will post the complete mayoral candidate interviews online once all have been conducted.
The election is set for July 16, however the U.S. Department of Justice may alter that schedule under the Voting Rights Act.