Tuesday night, the candidates for Mayor of Reidsville, Sydney Clifton, Eddie Rewis (I), and Susan Fountain Thomas, gathered at the Tattnall County Courthouse for a forum held by the Greater Tattnall Chamber of Commerce.
Moderated by Mark Thompson, candidates were offered a one minute introduction, six general questions through rotation, and rebuttals for questions.
The questions and the candidate responses are below.
Susan Fountain Thomas – Joined city council in 2012. Ten years experience as assistant city clerk and clerk under three different mayors. Thomas said her quality of listening to the will of the people makes her uniquely qualified to be mayor, illustrated most recently during the controversy of the Cheney Law Office. After hearing from constituents, she felt the best thing to do was to slow down, table the vote, and investigate other properties. She said she prayed about it and asked the Lord to guide her. Thomas also said people have learned she will answer any question.
Eddie Rewis – Began by stating most everyone knows him as he has been around a long time. Through his tenure as mayor, he tried to keep council informed of what is going on in the city if necessary saying he has worked tirelessly for the City of Reidsville. Rewis said he wants to be mayor again because he tried to make the best mayor the city of Reidsville could possibly have. Rewis continued on that he accomplished things in the last four years that should have been done in the previous 18 years. He said 18 roads have been paved and resurfaced and the thanked the city council publicly.
Sydney Clifton – Been actively involved since 1983. Retired in 2005 from the Georgia Power company and spends his time working with the Shriners, Tattnall EMA, Fire Department, Lions Club, and a member of the new Kiwanis club. He was a union representative from 1999-2002 to negotiate salaries and benefits. He just wants the best for Reidsville and Tattnall County.
QUESTION 1: What are the three most pressing issues facing the City of Reidsville and how do you plan to address each if you are elected?
Clifton – Day to day, jobs are started but never finished. Street pavings in particular. He wants to see Reidsville prosper in the future.
Rewis – 1. Economic development – Ecconomic development will take care of a lot of other problems in town. 2. Finishing roads and sewage reconstruction. Since he’s been mayor, the city has obtained multiple grants for such to continue paving and drainage systems.
Thomas – 1. Reidsville needs to be able to attract businesses, and in order to do that, there needs to be parking and a growing downtown. Property that’s affordable needs to be scouted to turn it into a parking lot.
QUESTION 2: Would you make any administrative changes in terms of heading up different departments in the city?
Rewis – The folks the City of Reidsville know what they’re doing. At any time, he can go to the correct person directly about problems. He would not make administrative changes.
Thomas – At this time, she does not feel there would be a change. Thomas said she feels everyone does their job, and cannot commit to never have administrative changes but is willing to work with anyone who is willing to do their job.
Clifton – No plans to change any administrative personnel, but internal things such as working hours and procedures. Specifically speaking, the city hall should be open to better accommodate citizens. Clifton said shutting down the city administrative building at 4:30 p.m. isn’t working. Public works could be 8-5 instead of 7-3.
QUESTION 3: Would you make it part of your mayoral duties to attend ribbon cuttings, chamber after hours, and other community-wide events and do you currently attend those events? If so, how many in the last year?
Thomas – “I try to attend as many as I can and how many I’ve attended in the last year, I’m not certain. I have not been to that many ribbon cuttings but I would say probably in the last year…two. I try to go to the business hours as much as I can. If there is anything else I am asked to go to, I try to attend.”
Clifton – “I’ve attended several of the ribbon cuttings over the last four years. I also will make time for other events if elected.”
Rewis – “There’s people that have been there and see me there at events. When I’m not busy, I am there. Member of the Chamber of Commerce, it is my duty to attend…On a weekly schedule, I am pretty sure I spend 25-35 hours on city business.”
QUESTION 4: If you’re elected as Mayor of Reidsville, what will be your goals for the city over the next four years? How do you plan to pursue those goals?
Clifton – Says his goals include working in harmony, which is important in government. He said he welcomes a difference of opinions. “If we don’t get difference of opinions, we don’t get any new ideas.”
Rewis – Said his number one goal is to continue progressing Reidsville. That is the number one goal and it is necessary to look after “our people” and do what is right for the citizens. Then, Rewis said he would postpone buying the Cheney Law Office, which was followed by applause. He said he wants everyone to be pleased with the building and that no mayor in the last sixteen years has done what his administration has. He will keep improving economic development, too.
Thomas – Wants to see Reidsville grow in addition to hearing from the public on issues. Include the public in projects so that Reidsville progresses but with the help of the public.
QUESTION 5: What efforts will you make to protect the beautiful oak trees that have taken a beating in the last year?
Rewis – In the last two weeks, he has been approached about planting live oak trees. Rewis said also worth considering is a protection ordinance.
Thomas – Said she has a family member she consults with when she has any type of horticulture problems. The City needs to not hastily cut down trees, but only do so if it is a hazard.
Clifton – Said that some of the live oaks are diseased and are dying. He mentioned that it can be difficult when the tree becomes so diseased that the limbs begin falling off and onto property and structures. Like the one that was taken down at the old Post Office where it posed a threat to the building, they should be taken down if they are a hazard. Georgia Power confirmed that one should be removed.
QUESTION 6: What are you plans in terms of revitalizing the city? What steps will you take to make Reidsville more beautiful to attract tourists and businesses?
Thomas – Thomas said one thing that’s been in the works since 2012 is the new entrance signs. The old ones with the club signs will be added with ‘Welcome to Reidsville’ in several locations. Additionally, there will be new bushes around the signs. She also mentioned the importance of revitalizing just one corner completely in downtown Reidvsille, it will make all the difference.
Clifton – The City of Reidsville is doing an excellent job, according to Mr. Clifton. He’s been attending the meetings where they’ve discussed new city lighting around town, but he would like to see the citizens take a more active part in their area by looking after their own neighborhood. Help could be as simple as picking up trash by the road. City employees also need to take a more active role. They can stop and pick up trash as well or at a minimum, turn in a work order.
Rewis – Finish the peripheral lighting on 23 and include a new fountain at the current City Hall. He, like Sydney Clifton, hopes and prays people will take more pride in their businesses and will clean up when they can.
SPECIFIC QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES:
Sydney Clifton –
- What do you believe to be the mistakes by the present mayor that should lead to votes for you?
First and foremost, the message is not reaching the citizens. He will have an open office. He says he has a pretty good idea what everyone feels about what is going on and he will continue to talk to everyone as a whole. He said he doesn’t feel the others put forth that same effort.
Eddie Rewis responded that he gives out his cell phone number and returns calls to hear problems and invites them to office. The City of Reidsville employs the mayor.
Susan Fountain Thomas had no comment.
2. Regarding the purchase of the Cheney Law Office for City Hall, how would you proceed?
Eyes should be open. This was an eye opening experience. He said he thanks everyone who has voiced their opinion and attended the meetings. He understood the frustration of not being able to voice their opinions, but he would have looked into other properties.
Susan Fountain Thomas said she would have established a committee to help with ideas and worked harder to ensure people were happy with the building purchase.
- You previously reported former city building inspector looked at the Cheney Law Office was that in the formal capacity of a city role?
He said he never asked Lew to inspect the building, just to look at it. He said Lew quoted him $25,000 to tear down walls.
Susan Fountain Thomas
- What mistakes were made by the present mayor that led you to run?
Thomas said it is important to follow the rules and the Charter and that has not been happening. Additionally, people will know what will happen, they don’t have to worry. Thomas also said things have been talked about but not followed through, like a bike trail and the entrance signs. Some things shouldn’t take that long. Follow through with what you start.
Eddie Rewis responded the DOT has to say when the Brumby bike lane can be finished. He also said he can’t think of a rule that has been broken.
Sydney Clifton returned to an earlier point stating Eddie Rewis has changed his tune on the City Hall remodeling. First it was $15,000 and now it has jumped to $25,000.
2. In September, there was a closed meeting about paying back sick time transferred to your daughter-in-law for maternity leave. You agreed to pay the money back, but in recent ad in the Tattnall Journal, you said otherwise. Can you clarify when the leave was transferred, whether you were aware you were not eligible to transfer the time, and the actual date?
Susan responded that she could sit with both hands on a Bible. She said it did happened, the mayor at the time approved it, and she can not offer an exact date.
Eddie Rewis was asked why it took four years to address the sick pay and was it for political reasons. He responded that Kellie Murray was changing software when she found the error.
Sydney Clifton was asked how he would have handled the situation differently. He said he wouldn’t have hired Susan as a consultant for the City. Clifton also said he agreed with Susan that four years was a long time to wait and that the issue should not have been brought up during election time.
Eddie Rewis it was about the computer software. No one knew before.
- Why should the citizens of Reidsville keep you as mayor for four more years?
He began with the statement, “I don’t know.” He said he cares, wants Reidsville to grow, and he is proud of it. He wants to be involved and know what is going on and making it better for everyone.
Clifton said he believes more of the same will continue. He said this is his home.
Thomas said it doesn’t matter if she is mayor or a citizen, she will do whatever she can to help the City of Reidsville.
2. There have media allegations of acts of procedural violations and a lack of transportation. How would you respond to these allegations and how will you ensure City business will be transparent according to procedural law?
Eddie Rewis said Georgia law says an executive session doesn’t have to be posted within 72 hours of posting. He said he did not say why and that was the first time he did not tell the meeting attendees why. That’s the only procedural mistake he believes has been made.
Sydney Clifton was asked whether he believes he should be the representative for the citizens as he was the night of the approval of the purchase of the Cheney Law Office. He responded ‘absolutely not. Any citizens that came that night should have been allowed to speak.”
Eddie Rewis said you must be placed on the agenda if you want to speak.
Susan Fountain Thomas said if elected, she will change the time of the meetings so more people can attend, use the news box the City of Reidsville pays for in the Tattnall Journal to publish meeting notices and be more transparent about what is going on in the city.