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Popular businesswoman mulling run for mayor

ALBANY -- While it wouldn't be her first choice, popular local businessowner B.J. Fletcher says she's prepared to step up and run for mayor if no other quality candidates come forward.

Fletcher, who is perhaps best known as general manager of the Ole Times restaurant on Dawson Road, recently opened Cafe 230 in downtown Albany and says she has real concerns with the leadership in Albany and that change, beginning at the top, is needed.

"I've sat here for the last seven years and watched as various decisions were made, and I'm concerned about the direction the city is taking," Fletcher said.

With the mayor's race still more than a year away, Albany Mayor Willie Adams has said that it's simply too early to make any kind of decision on his political future.

"It's just too early to say, at this point," Adams said Friday. "We're looking at another year and a half on this thing. To me, that's part of the problem; people spend more time running than they do actually doing the work."

Fletcher said that she considered a run at the county commission seat currently held by Dr. Charles Lingle, who has announced that he will retire from public service when his current term expires in December.

But she's been told that "a qualified person" has signaled their intention to run for that seat, so Fletcher will not run.

Speaking at Cafe 230 Friday, Fletcher said that eight years ago she was living in Valdosta and left for Albany because of the shape the Azalea City appeared mired in.

"Now look at it," Fletcher said. "That was just eight years ago. I believe the same thing can happen here. We just have to have the right leaders in place. We have the tools and the potential, it's just a matter of leadership."

Fletcher has been a supporter of the local tea party movement, which promotes fiscal responsibility and has come out against what the group believes is a spend-happy government.

Another local businesswoman, Traci Howell, is also considering her first foray into political life.

Howell said she feels that all of the yelling and screaming for change in Dougherty County has done little and that now is the time to act.

"I want to see things change," Howell said. "Stomping my feet, honking horns and showing up with signs isn't doing much, so it's time to be a big girl and take action."

Howell currently lives in County Commission District 1, which is served by incumbent Lamar Hudgins. That seat will be up for re-election in 2012.

Howell said she'll be working to learn as much as possible about local government so that she's prepared when the race kicks off in earnest.

"I'm a registered Republican, but honestly I'm sick of politics. ... I believe in small conservative government, and that's what I'll be centered around," she said.