Leesburg candidates at odds on issues

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Leesburg City Council candidate Jeff Sexton offered "three solemn oaths" to city voters at a called news conference on the Leesburg City Hall lawn Tuesday evening.

Sexton, who is facing telecommunications business owner Rhonda Futch for a vacant City Council seat, vowed to "protect and defend our Constitution," to "preserve, protect and promote our rights to know what our government is doing," and to "never vote to raise our water or trash rates, or any other tax, fee or any other creative name used to hide a tax increase."

Sexton, a political blogger and Web designer, also accused the Leesburg Council of "holding the city back."

Asked after reading a prepared statement to elaborate, Sexton said, "Primarily, the City Council is holding Leesburg back because it promotes a closed government. No one knows what's going on (in the city) unless they're at (City Council) meetings. If the process were more open, more people in the community would be involved."

Futch called Sexton to task for a number of the statements he made.

"I've said all along that I'm not in favor of raising taxes," she said. "And I think the city has done a good job in that respect. I can't remember the last time the city has raised taxes. But I don't know that I could promise not to raise (utilities) rates. The city is not trying to make money on those services. And they don't know what charges are going to be leveled.

"I also don't see how anyone could say the council is holding the city back. I've lived here since I was 4, and I don't see that. For a (city government) to be effective, it takes the entire body working together."

Sexton, meanwhile, said he plans to be "the voice" of Leesburg citizens.

"I'm the most open candidate, quite possibly, that this county has ever seen," he said. "There are six ways that people can contact me, and five of them go directly to my BlackBerry. People can get in touch with me 24-7.

"I love this city, and I love its people. It is for that reason that I announce the solemn oaths."

Futch, who had drawn some fire from Sexton supporters for statements in a recent Albany Herald article concerning her opponent's videotaping of city and county government meetings, said she should clarify her statement.

"I'm not against the videotaping of meetings, I just feel that if it's going to be done it should be done on a secure website -- not YouTube -- so that children as well as adults can view the videos," she said. "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing correctly."

Futch also said Sexton had misstated when he told The Herald, "(Futch) admitted that she had not been to a (council) meeting since she was a child."

"That's not true," Futch said. "There have been issues in recent years where I have been one of the lead people adressing them before the council. I have been to several meetings as an adult, and I have worked to get issues handled."

Sexton said Futch "implied" she hadn't been to a meeting since she was a child during a conversation at the August council meeting.

"I guess the lesson is you have to always be careful of the implications of the words you use," he said.

Sexton also said he is trying to work with national playground builder KaBoom to "reclaim Leesburg Central Park from the reputation it currently has."

The special called election to fill the council seat vacated by Steve Kitchens will be held Sept. 21. Early voting in the election started Tuesday.