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Adams proud of his time in office

In a candid interview with The Albany Herald, Mayor Willie Adams agrees the city has had its scandals, but says he believes he's largely leaving it better than when he found it.

Albany Mayor Willie Adams checks his notes before speaking at the ribbon-cutting of the city’s first completed gateway sign near the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport last month. Adams hands the gavel over to Mayor-elect Dorothy Hubbard Jan. 9 after serving eight years as mayor.

Albany Mayor Willie Adams checks his notes before speaking at the ribbon-cutting of the city’s first completed gateway sign near the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport last month. Adams hands the gavel over to Mayor-elect Dorothy Hubbard Jan. 9 after serving eight years as mayor.

— Sitting in the fifth-floor mayor's office he's occupied for the last eight years, Dr. Willie Adams has started packing up nearly a decade's worth of photos, proclamations and municipal knickknacks.

Adams, and the city he's presided over, have come a long way since he was sworn in Feb. 10, 2004.

There have been ups — like Wal-Mart's decision to build a second Albany-area store in East Albany last year and the fact the city hasn't raised its property tax rate in better than five years — and downs — the closure of Cooper Tire and Merck, not to mention a handful of scandals. Adams, however, says he believes that the City Commission has weathered the controversies and come out on the other side smarter and better equipped to handle future challenges.

"I defy anyone to run an organization of this size for eight years and walk away and say they haven't lost anything," Adams said. "It's almost impossible. You just learn from your mistakes to plug up those holes and try not to make those mistakes again."

Adams acknowledges that he and the commission made some decisions that ultimately cost the taxpayers — the biggest and most recent example being better than $350,000 repaid to HUD for a failed housing development that was initially approved by the commission in 2005 — but points to the fact that the commission has balanced an annual budget averaging more than $100 million every year he's been in office.

"There's no question about it," Adams said. "When you're dealing with the number of people and the amount of money we deal with — a rough guess over that last eight years would be almost $1 billion — if you count up we may have lost a half-million dollars. We're not proud to lose one penny of taxpayers' money, but if you're dealing with almost a billion dollars and you have mishaps of only a half-million, that's a pretty good record."

WORKING TOGETHER

Adams said he's most proud of the fact that the city has managed to keep a stable fiscal ship while navigating turbulent economic waters.

"We have an excellent team and we've managed to keep the city financially solvent during some pretty tough times without having to furlough anyone or having any layoffs," Adams said. "The bond rating for the city was increased by Moody's, which has helped us save thousands of dollars by refinancing bonds."

When Adams took office, he joined a commission table that was — and had been — filled with colorful personalities from each of the city's six wards.

So colorful, in fact, the city had become the focus of ridicule from other governments across the state who pointed to the city's televised meetings as being more akin to a circus than a functional city government.

And while the board still has its flashbacks to the absurd, Adams said he's proud of the board's ability to work together.

"I'm very proud of the working relationship my fellow commissioners have. It's no longer newsworthy that there is interracial fighting between them and on issues. That makes me proud," Adams said.

The outgoing mayor also pointed to the commission's response to the scandal that centered around former downtown manager Don Buie — implementing new, tighter controls on how the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority spends its money and how the CEO for the organization is hired — as an attempt to win back the public's trust.

"We're very disappointed that Mr. Buie had the type of problems that cost us some problems ... it was not a big money loss, but it was more of a violation of the public trust type thing," Adams said. "It's amazing how well received and how well loved Mr. Buie was by a lot of people, so he not only fooled us, he fooled a lot of people.

"Anytime you're in the public eye, whether it's me or you, you have to be very, very careful about when you wake up, what you do after you wake up, where you go to eat, where you go to sleep, because people will be watching you and some people are hoping that you will fail," he said. "All-in-all, we'll take the Buie case, we'll take the Cutliff Grove case, we'll take that as our failures, but all we ask is that you look at the positives as well."

'PERCEPTION BECOMES REALITY'

Adams did take aim at those he said he felt were content to lob criticisms from the relative safety of homes and offices far removed from the Government Center downtown.

"It's not perfect. It can be improved. And those people who criticize it; if they think they can improve the situation, come get aboard," Adams said. "Don't stand far away and throw rocks. Jump in. The water is fine."

During his tenure Adams has taken positions on some issues that sometimes put him at odds with people who perceive him to be of like mind.

An obstetrician, Adams has been increasingly vocal over the course of his terms in pushing for welfare reform in an effort to curb teenage pregnancy.

"I still believe that we have to strip away the incentives for having babies," Adams said. "We can say, 'Hey look, you had one baby and we're giving you assistance, but if you have two, we're cutting off the spigot and, by the way, we're going to drug test you as well.' Then I think you'll start to see things change. It won't fix the problem, but it'll cut the incentives out."

Drug testing for government beneficiaries has been a concern of Adams' since he was sworn in. He pushed, along with a group of other commissioners, to mandate that the commissioners themselves consent to random drug testing before they can be paid.

Adams said he also believes the state should review statutory rape laws to strengthen the penalties and that the judiciary should more stringently enforce them.

While the mayor has no bearing on the administration of public education, Adams, a former school board member, hesitantly gave his thoughts on how best to improve the quality of education in Dougherty County, which he said is inextricably linked with prosperity.

"Perception becomes reality in people's minds at some point and it becomes critical at a certain point, in my opinion, that if the tide is against you and the perception is very negative that somewhere along the line someone is going to have to make an important decision," Adams said. "I trust that the people on the school board side will make the right decisions."

RACE STILL A CHALLENGE

Looking ahead, Adams, the city's first African-American mayor, said he believes that race relations continue to be the city's biggest challenge, but that as the older generations pass on, African-Americans should revive the vigor shown in the push for equal rights in the 1960s — but this time, behind a rallying cry for improved public education.

"There's always the word race and racial divide that come up, and maybe I'm an optimist but ... it is what it is," Adams said. "This community, demographically, is almost 70 percent African-American. That doesn't mean we should just look out for African Americans, we should look out for the entire community. It's our job to make sure everyone feels comfortable living in the city.

"I think sometimes the more we emphasize the racial divide the more it becomes a reality. I think we just need to realize that we're all God's people and that we need to work together."

Adams was a little leery when asked about any advice he may have for Mayor-elect Dorothy Hubbard, nodding to her six years as a city commissioner as evidence that she knows how the process works and saying that she will likely have her own agenda to put before the commission.

But Adams did caution her and other commissioners against attempting to micromanage the various city departments.

"It's a big challenge keeping the individual commissioners from going out to individual department heads suggesting things and trying to get certain things done," Adams said. "It's not their responsibility. It's the responsibility of the city manager."

While 2012 officially began Sunday, Adams will still preside over at least two more meetings. The first is today's work session. The last is the Jan. 9 work session, which he will convene only to hand the gavel over to Hubbard after she is officially sworn in as mayor.

Despite now being in his 70s, Adams says he intends to continue his medical practice for at least a few more years, but will bow out of public life once Hubbard takes office.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4i_faSnBN8

Comments

whattheheck 2 years, 6 months ago

Willie and Barrack seem to have the same opinion of what constitutes success. Downhill is not where we need to go although there are things difficult to influence much less control. But perhaps we should not expect more from a Mayor since the Commission is his version of the Congress which is perhaps guileless at best.

His estimate of tax money we "may have lost", half a million, is miles off target. This is the amount we know of that was virtually stolen. But in reality monies spent during his tenure have left us a future of certain continued cost as we struggle to pay for social services and crime created by subsidized housing sought after by the city--home to the babies he correctly says we buy through the generous welfare system.

I certainly agree with his comments on the school board. It's time for the BOE to put on the big boy pants and quit whimping out on the taxpayers.

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VSU 2 years, 6 months ago

Proud of what? Being the worst mayor in the history of Albany? Albany once was the good life city, now it's the no life city. Crime rate higher that it's ever been. How many businesses packed up and left during his watch? Delco Remy, Merck Chemicals, Cooper Tire and a few more that I can't even think of at the moment. Adams has accomplished nothing during his 8 years in office. Oh wait a minute, I forgot about the arch over the Oglethorpe bridge. He said they haven't raised the property taxes in the last 5 years, but they also haven't lowered it either.

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wonderbread 2 years, 6 months ago

The arch over Oglethorpe was a County Commission project. Check the crime rate today versus 8 years ago. The companies that left did so because of GATT/WTO which was a Bush/Clinton bad deal.

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bubbavet 2 years, 6 months ago

I GUESS YOU HAVE TO KNOW HIS DEFINITION OF "PROUD". IT MUST BE LIKE THE GOVERNMENTS DEFINITION OF "FREE".

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Cartman 2 years, 6 months ago

It might not be fair to blame Mayor Adams for all that happened during his watch. I'm not sure that George Washington could have pulled this city off the sliding slope. FWIW, I do think he tried to do a good job and I thank him for that. Maybe we could have had a better mayor. But we could have had a worse one too. Buckle up for this year folks. Watch the spending.

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VSU 2 years, 6 months ago

Well I guess maybe you are right, maybe it's not fair to hold him accountable for everything that went bad. These things might have happened no matter who the mayor was, but I guess he just happened to be in this position at a bad time, but I guess we'll see how the new mayor does.

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Duane_Kelley 2 years, 6 months ago

As I sit here and look at some of these comments I see why Albany has some of the problems that it does...The continued divisiveness sickens me.....How can you possibly blame Mayor Adams for plants leaving? What are you doing about the problems besides complaining. All I ever see in these comments is constant bickering and it always seems to be along racial lines....unlike many of you I post my name on this site and do not hide behind screen names cowardly. Instead why not make some sort of attempt to address issues instead of taking pot shots. This city will continue to spin its wheels until that happens.

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Abytaxpayer 2 years, 6 months ago

In order to change things you have to get out of your chair. Government works but not by words in a blog. Who cares what you think? But action! A Citizen who tears himself or herself away from their self-righteous blather to actually participate in government is a force to be reckoned with. The more Citizens involved = BETTER government.

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KaosinAlbany 2 years, 6 months ago

You are very correct, Abytaxpayer. Too much apathy and not enough good folks to get involved in what is going on. Attend commission meetings and heck, if you don't like the way this town is being run then run for office. It's time to stop complaining on blogs and get involved. I find the commission meetings entertaining at times. Sometimes it's better than the movies. I must remember to bring popcorn next time though.

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Sally_O 2 years, 6 months ago

I'm sorry! I find it laughable to tell someone who is not happy with the way things are going to run for Mayor. The best qualified candidate couldn't get past the entitlement crowd. BJ Flether has already been there, tried that and lost.

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Sally_O 2 years, 6 months ago

Well Mayor Adams can't be blamed for everything that has gone bad, with that being said, I firmly disagree that Albany is a better place than when he took office whether it's his fault or not. Crime, curruption and fraud is relevant throughout the city.

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cdeiter1 2 years, 6 months ago

Dr. Adams thank you for jumping in a game nobody could win and not many would even join. You were not afraid and told me that you would like to make a difference and bring the city together. Unfortunately, the other leaders in Albany do not want to be "together". They have their own obvious agendas based on color and will sacrifice anyone even our school system to get what they want. Thank you for your efforts and for caring enough to try.

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Amazed2 2 years, 6 months ago

Mayor Adams you make the statement that the money illegally dispered thru the Facade Grant Program was not a large amount. I know for sure he wrote two $50,000 dollar checks from the Facade Grant Program that were fraudulently issued. That is in addition to checks he wrote to others including his wife and he made side deals with the Dollar Store where he had a side deal to not actually pay rent. I guess you statement just backs up how detached from the real world politicians become with the rea world. You think of money like monopoly $$$$$$$$$$

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Amazed2 2 years, 6 months ago

Jamison Mattress here since 1961 says Goodbye to Mayor Adams and Goodbye to Albany!!! Instead of giving out all this money to failed housing ventures and scams it would be smarter to put some financial efforts into retaining companier here.

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Justice4Moma 2 years, 6 months ago

We all have our own way of thinking and speaking.That is not just part of our Rights,but GOD gave us a mind to think with.He also gave us the brain to tell us when we know things are not right. I get really tired of the race card getting pulled into everything.I read some really smart words the other day.And maybe some of you did not,because of it being in a diffrent paper.But it said we are all Americans,dont matter the color of ones skin.As with me,i dont care what color you are,how much you have or dont have,you treat me right and i will do the same.We are all GOD Children.But i do think it s time for us all to pull together.We vote these people in,and we can vote them out.And as far as what some of you say on here about using your real name and if you are going to write about it then do something about it.Alot of people cant do that.WE dont have the money,nor would we have a chance with the way Albany is being run today. Alot of us try to do things to help,they may be small things,but we do what we can.But when we vote,we expect the people who are elected to work for US,THE PEOPLE.Not there buddies,not there co workers.That is one reason we are in the mess we are in. Sure when someone is running for office they will promise you the moon.But that is most of the time empty pormises.We need our town back.And untill we get rid of some of the greed here it will never happen.Me,i have turned all my worries over to the GOOD LORD,now you all who were elected as far as i am concerned will have to answer to him.I learned when i found out i had cancer,that you can not control everything in life.But i also learned that i do have a voice,and i am FREE.So i can write what i like when i like,and if it is not printed then so be it. We all need less GOVT. in our LIVES,and More GOD.That is what is wrong with this whole Country.Not just Albany.And Albany is not the only town with crime,look around,it s everywhere.You all can call me a Bible thumper or what ever you like.But i am an American,and i have Rights.And i will protect my Rights,to speak,to live,to learn,to share,and even to write on these blogs.Untill you feel you are LARGE enough to take those RIGHTS away from me.You dont have to read what i write.Nor do you have to comment!

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Justice4Moma 2 years, 6 months ago

Mr Adams,When i called you in 2007 about my Mothers Death,and one of your Officals taking things from my Mothers home,you would not even talk to me,you pushed me off on Alfred Lott.Still till this day you would not talk to me,or say that you were sorry as how i was treated at the time of my Mothers Death.You and the Good Ole Boy System suck right together.And for that i will never forget you or any of them.I do FORGIVE tho. You did not want to hurt anyone of your buddies,nor did any Judge want to handle my case here.Today i am still waiting.You all fell down on your Jobs when it came to my Mother.I hope none of you have to go through what i have. Yet i had to write and tell you myself how i felt,since none of you would even talk to me.(That was before i got a Lawyer) I never wanted to hurt any of you.All i asked for was Justice.Untill this town can get someone that will fight for everyones Justice,it will be the same ole S---,just diffrent day.I do not trust our leaders,nor do i trust our Justice System in Albany.So for That,i guess i should say thank you,to you,Nathan,Alfred,and the rest who would not even take the time to talk to me.And to the City of Albany who would not even investagate..I hope it never happens to anyone else,but if it does i hope they know they can fight back.Untill i see changes that should be made in our system here,all i can do is Leave it in GODS Hands.That is what i have done.GOD BLESS you and Yours.

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