Issues

During my time as Mayor of Columbus, you have been my most important priority.  Your health, safety, access to resources, inclusion in the community, and financial stability have been at the forefront of every decision I have made and every initiative I have created. 

Our city is growing and evolving for the better; and I am so proud of the steps we have taken to make Columbus a standout city in our region.


But we’re not done yet.

You, your family, and your neighbors are our community’s greatest natural resource.  As your mayor, I will continue to invest in you with initiatives aiming to provide our city with safety, structure, and dynamic leadership across the board.  Cooperatively, we will continue to make Columbus a strong and positive place to live, to do business, and to play.

I will continue to be accountable to you, and I promise to be open and transparent on where I stand on these paramount issues facing our community - and any and every issue that affects you personally. You are welcomed and encouraged to engage with me on social media, over the phone, or in person. I know that you have questions, comments, and concerns, and I will be there to provide you with a platform to let your voice be heard. We have come so far as a community, but I harbor no illusions about the challenges ahead.

Together, we will foster further economic development, championing local businesses and working to attract new companies and greater job opportunities to the Chattahoochee Valley.

​We have plans and initiatives in progress to equip local law enforcement with resources in a judicious, expedient manner to bolster public safety, enhance our quality of life, and make Columbus safer for all citizens.

I will continue to nurture and support our diligent, disciplined, forward-thinking educational system capable of both nourishing and retaining homegrown talent to power our economy.

I served Post 10 for 20 years as city councilman and demonstrated experienced, proven leadership as your mayor. With your forward-thinking guidance, infectious passion, and gracious support, I seek to serve each and every one of you, once again, as your mayor.

 
 
 
 
 
 

pUBLIC sAFETY

A crucial goal of my first term was to support and strengthen public safety, funding and administering precious resources for local law enforcement agencies, and forging community bonds that seek to build bridges rather than draw dividing lines.

It is my opinion that one of the primary responsibilities of any government - and therefore any mayor - is to make sure that the people who live in the community can lead lives of safety and security, and be guaranteed the opportunity to take advantage of the other amenities of the community. Anytime a city’s citizens feel like they are unable to do that because they don’t feel safe, well, that is a problem we need to address with all the resources, manpower, and passion we can muster.

Unfortunately, this isn’t something we’ve been able to cure yet. But we are making progress. 

During my term in office, we have made an unwavering commitment to turn this trend around with many initiatives put in place to bolster public safety.  We established the Clergy Commission to ensure that we are communicating with all Columbus neighborhoods and understanding each district’s varying needs and concerns, street by street. 

We secured competitive pay rates for our public safety officers.  I believe paying our public servants a living wage is a key component connected to the success of our city.   We also set up Recruitment and Retention programs, to strengthen our law enforcement division and encourage citizens to invest in our community through this important line of work.

We have gotten law enforcement officers back into the neighborhoods.  We have devoted resources to building relationships with some of the individuals who at one time did not trust, like, or even respect our public safety officers.

We have partnered with organizations like Cure Violence, to not only address the crime epidemic that we face in Columbus but to provide our city’s leadership and citizens with the tools and resources to treat and cure Columbus of ongoing violent crime.

We are consistently working towards a safer Columbus.  Let’s continue that work, together.

What We've Done

  • Hired three new public safety leaders: a new police chief, a new warden, and a new fire chief.

 

  • Increased police pay by 10.5% since 2019.​​

  • By the end of 2022, police officers will have received an additional $11,650 on top of their salaries in bonuses.

 

  • Created a Recruiting and Retention Package for new officers.

    • The package includes a $5,000 signing bonus.

    • The new Cadet Program partners with schools in Muscogee County to train and recruit public safety officers right out of high school.  These recruits are offered a competitive salary and on-the-job training, eventually working their way up the ranks to become a police officer in our community.

 

  • Conducted a Compression Pay Study

    • This study is currently in progress, with $325,000 invested to ensure the competitiveness of police pay in Muscogee County. This study is set to be completed in 2022.

    • $10.5 million is set aside to implement this plan in 2023 for Police and general Government Employees once completed.

 

  • Invested $20 million from OLOST funds in capital resources for new police vehicles, uniforms, weapons, tag readers, and other public safety materials.

 

  • Established a Clergy Commission, which meets monthly as a touchpoint to communicate with all neighborhoods in Columbus. Community involvement with our local churches has been an invaluable resource for our city to empower citizens to do the work on the ground.

 

  • Began a Mental Health Initiative through the Columbus Police Department in partnership with New Horizons Behavioral Health Center.  This initiative aims to provide the best response to mental health distress calls in our area - keeping citizens and our officers safe.

 

  • Began working with Cure Violence through the Department of Public Health.  This program is a long-term response to crime in our area.  Cure Violence looks at a city’s crime rates like a pandemic, with symptoms that can be cured - and they work diligently within the community to find the cure.  We have committed up to $500,000 over a period of three years to develop and implement this grassroots initiative to make Columbus the safest city.   I knew as soon as I took office that we needed a holistic, boots-on-the-ground approach to treat violent crime in Columbus. Cure Violence is just that - a cure that our citizens can maintain, and that will help make Columbus stronger, and safer, for the next generation.

 

Economic development

When I came into office our community was facing some serious issues, and the value of taking a deep dive into what we have gotten right and where we have fallen short has allowed us to clearly identify where to focus. 

 

It always comes back to Economic Development, a major cornerstone of my first term.

One of the initiatives of Columbus 2025 is a cradle-to-paycheck type of initiative that aims to provide citizens with highly-valued skills and opportunities to put those skills to use. A higher standard of education is directly linked to economic development.  We have worked diligently to identify programs with the best track record of providing superlative education and training to Columbus youth who are ready to step into careers.  

 

We are already seeing success for many of our young Columbusites through programs like Truth Spring Academy, Construction Ready, and the Mayor’s Youth Summer Employment Program, and this is just the beginning.

 

Our office was nimble enough to react early on to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we were ready to address its impact on local businesses, especially our hospitality industries.  In the last three years, we made sure our local restaurants had the support and resources they needed to recover from unexpected closures, we’ve supported the opening of four new hotels in Uptown to support Columbus as a growing destination for tourism, and we’ve encouraged more businesses to relocate to our city, creating more job opportunities for our citizens.

 

Columbus’ unemployment rate is 2.8%, down from 5.9% this same time last year, and this happened during a pandemic.

 

Capitalizing on Columbus’ potential was one of my prominent first-term goals.  We’re ready to expand on that goal further in the next chapter.

What We've Done

 
  • Implemented workforce development programs aimed to empower our citizens with access to jobs.  These programs include:

    • Partnership with Truth Spring Academy provides job-specific training while students are in school, with the goal of helping graduates obtain employment upon graduation. 

    • Construction Ready is a program that trains men and women of all ages in a 5-week boot camp.  The program ends with a construction job for each newly skilled participant.

    • Mayor’s Youth Summer Employment Program provides students in Muscogee County an opportunity to gain work experience (with pay) and develop job-ready skills prior to graduation.

    • City Partnership with Columbus Technical College, which is a program developed as an accessible path to certification for trade jobs.

 

  • Expanded available job opportunities in Columbus through employers like Path-Tec (300+ new jobs) and Kaiser Warren (200+ new jobs).
     

  • Created a Restaurant Coalition in 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on our community’s restaurants.

 

  • Invested $881 million in capital investments for Columbus businesses.  This includes:

    • The development of three new hotels in Uptown Columbus.

    • Opening a new campus for the Mercer Medical School in Columbus, bringing 90+ high-paying jobs to the area.

    • Providing small businesses grants to local entrepreneurs.

 

  • Our current unemployment rate is 2.8%.  This is down from 5.9% this same time last year.  This is the lowest the unemployment rate Columbus has ever seen.

 

  • Installed 14 technology kiosks in recreation centers throughout Columbus.  These kiosks provide access to job and education opportunities.  Users can search job listings, schedule interviews, and send job applications regardless of internet access at home.

 

FiscAL responsibility

A mayor must be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars, making sure that the funds entrusted to their administration by the citizens are used in the most beneficial and fiscally-sound manner possible.

I had the great privilege to serve as budget chair during my time on the city council, and the honor of guiding your taxpayer dollars during my first term.  I believe the reason I was elected over 10 times by my peers to serve as chair of the budget committee, and elected by you to serve as the leader of this city, is because I respect people’s opinions; my leadership experience has shown that I’m going to try to steer us towards a consensus, and I’m going to try and keep the meeting running and make sure everyone has the opportunity to express their desires so that we can come up with the best possible outcome based on a vote of the entire committee. I have a thorough knowledge of the budget as a result of having served in these capacities, and I can tell you that we have made tremendous strides forward, but a budget is like a living thing - we have got to make sound and effective decisions to take care of it.

In the last four years, the city government has not raised your taxes.  We recognize the unexpected hardships we’ve all faced, especially in the last two years, and have sought to make sure your taxes did not become an additional burden.

In short, the city of Columbus's finances have never been in a better place.  Because of forward-thinking leadership and our proven ability to prioritize, we know how to manage the city budget so that Columbus will continue to thrive, not just survive.

Read more about our city budget here.

What We've Done

  • Provided an increase in pay to all city employees that do not affect their contributions to retirement plans.

 

  • We did not increase property taxes, and did not increase other taxes during my first term.

 

  • 59% of city spending goes into public safety.

Poverty

Many of our fellow citizens are in pain. Some of them are caught in cycles of poverty, domestic abuse, or addiction. A lot of the single parents are out of the house by necessity, working two and three jobs just to put food on the table. When you’re trapped in that cycle, it can be hard for an individual or family to provide structure for their children; but we have put plans in place (and more on the way) to provide stability for all of them. 

 

For those that want higher-paying jobs, we have got to make sure they are available. For those who are caught in some type of cycle that they can’t break loose from, we have to get them into mentorships, get them into the church, anything we can bring to bear to get them involved, engaged, and hopeful for the future.

 

For our neighbors who are in need of a place to call home, we must close the affordable housing gaps and continue to support the development of safe, efficient housing in every neighborhood.  

 

Through industrious, progressive plans and initiatives, and an amazing partnership with Columbus2025, we have lowered the poverty rate in the Columbus region over the last three years.  

 

We have created more affordable housing, more access to living-wage jobs, more access to healthcare and nutritious food, and more investment in the education of our youth.  When we continue to pour into the community bucket, the entire city will benefit.

What We've Done

  • Reduced the number of citizens living at or below the poverty level in Columbus. Poverty has decreased during my time as mayor.

 

  • Added new affordable housing options in all Columbus neighborhoods.  We have been able to achieve this through partnerships with NeighborWorks Columbus, Housing Authority, and more.

 

  • Invested $2.1 million to restore neighborhoods in need, through the demolition of unstable buildings and neighborhood blight.

  • Established a Commission on Public Health to address access to affordable care options for all Columbus citizens.  This commission has created mobile units that provide health screens and farmer’s market foods, so everyone in Columbus has access.

 

  • Partnered with the Food Mill to fund a driver for their mobile units.  This food resource strives to reduce food insecurity in our community, and provide nutritious food options to all.
     

  • Established a Mayor’s Commission on Re-entry which assists members of the community with criminal records in finding housing and employment during their re-entry into the community.

 
 

Inclusion

Columbus is my home. I love this community. I think it’s incredible how far we have come in the past twenty years; and I’m excited about the progress we’ve made on making this community a more inclusive place to live.

I am dedicated to transforming this community for all of our fellow citizens. I am a very inclusive leader; and I embrace everyone who wants to get engaged, roll up their sleeves and put their shoulder to the wheel. 

A hallmark of my first term was to champion a Columbus that everyone has a place in.  With transparency and a servant’s heart, we have been able to communicate with individuals of diverse backgrounds; to make sure all our citizens are represented here.  With that goal in mind, I’ve served on multiple diversity and inclusion committees to better understand how to lead our entire community forward, safely, and with compassion.
 

During the summer of racial unrest, we supported the creation of an art mural in Uptown Columbus to ignite conversations around the injustices that minority communities face in their everyday lives.  We also celebrated the first public lighting of the menorah in Uptown Columbus this past holiday season.  

 

It was also important to me to be a visible presence at marches, demonstrations, and parades.  As your mayor, I want you to know that I am here for you.  To listen.  To serve.  To stand with you.

What We've Done

  • Supported the Mayor’s Commission on Unity, Diversity and Prosperity, which directly supports the implementation of the Remembrance Project through the Equal Justice Initiative.
     

  • We welcomed the addition of the LGBTQI rating for the city of Columbus. This rating has increased during my term in office each year.

COVID-19

Covid-19 made an unexpected appearance in all our lives in March 2020.  Luckily, we were ready to act quickly to provide our community with transparent communication and guidance aimed at keeping you safe and healthy.

 

At the first understanding that we were facing a global pandemic, we created the Mayor’s Medical Response Team in February 2020, before Columbus, or even the state of Georgia, saw the first COVID-19 case.  This team welcomed leaders in the medical, educational, military, and business communities to work together to build our response to the pandemic.

I also served on the Governor’s COVID commission to increase communications between Columbus and other regions in the state and to ensure that we had access to the medical resources and tests that we needed.

 

Because of the quick action, because of the transparent communications, because of leadership, the COVID-19 situation in Columbus became a footnote in Georgia’s experience with the pandemic - we never became a headline.

Because Columbus was a leader in our region with a plan ready when the first case arrived, our team was able to keep our community safe and business open.  Thankfully, our budget and economic results reflect our preparedness.

At the height of the pandemic, I personally visited many testing site to thank our first responders and to check on operations.  I was humbled by the ingenuity, perseverance, and caring that I witnessed from our citizens - stepping up for each other, working together, and offering help so we could stay open and continue enjoying our community.

Like many of you, I am hoping the end of our time in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is somewhere on the horizon.  If we should find ourselves in the thick of it again, I know experienced, proven leadership combined with Columbus’s preserving spirit will help see us through.

What We've Done

  • Established a Mayor’s Response Team before Columbus, and before the state, had reported the first case of COVID-19.  Our response team consisted of community leaders from various industries including:

    • Health

    • Education

    • Public Safety

    • Military
       

  • Conducted the Mayor’s Vaccination Call with Fort Benning, Emergency Medical Assistance, the Muscogee County School District, hospitals, and more to keep up to date with COVID-19 numbers and protocols.

 

  • Engaged in regular calls with a variety of Columbus businesses (both big and small) to stay in touch with the latest safety measures, and to make sure all of our businesses were following safety protocols.

 

  • Worked closely with the Governor to ensure we had access to enough tests and supplies.

 

  • Made transparency and communication a priority, releasing daily reports so everyone was informed on where Columbus stood.

 

  • Prioritizing city services based on health.  

 

  • Provided a one-month rebate to citizens to compensate for delays in city services.
     

  • Became a national vaccination site and created a model on how to efficiently run a drive-through vaccination site for other communities.  We were able to achieve this in collaboration with the office of the governor.

  • Ensured everyone in Columbus had access to vaccinations through a variety of vaccination sites.