Candidates to appear at local forum

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce is holding a forum for local candidates seeking public office for both the Dougherty County School Board and the Dougherty County Commission.

Wendy Martin, the head of the chamber's legislative affairs program, said that candidates for the two School Board races and the two contested County Commission races have been invited to attend the forum, which is set for noon Thursday.

"We understand our responsibility to help educate the public on important issues, and we feel this forum is an opportunity for the community to listen to the candidates and make a well-informed vote," Martin said.

Among candidates for the School Board District 2 race, both Democrat Sherrell Byrd and Republican Donnie Smith have tentatively agreed to participate. Incumbent Democrat Milton Griffin has yet to confirm.

In the District 6 School Board race, candidate Darrel Ealum has agreed to be at the forum, while chamber officials have been unable to contact Dean Phinazee about participating. Both are Democrats.

Both incumbent and challenger in the County Commission District 6 race between longtime Commissioner Jack Stone and businessman Richard Thomas, both Democrats, have said they would be at the event.

Lonnie Smith, the Republican candidate challenging Democratic Commissioner John Hayes for the District 2 seat, has said he'll participate, while Hayes has not yet finalized his appearance.

The forum will be moderated by the Chamber's Legislative Affairs Committee Past Chairman William Hancock and will feature a panel of media representatives from Albany's two television stations and three newspapers who will ask questions of the candidates.

While the event is open to the public, anyone attending should confirm his or her reservation by calling Meghan Duke at the chamber at (229) 434-8700 or e-mail her at mduke@albanyga.com. While the event is free, there will be a $5 charge for a boxed lunch at the event.