B.J. Fletcher, right, signs paperwork Friday that makes her an official candidate for the Albany City Commission Ward III seat in the Nov. 5 municipal election. With Fletcher is her campaign manager, Cindy Shute, center, and Elections officials Ginger Nickerson, left, and Tekita Honer. (Laura Williams)
ALBANY — There were no surprises during week-long qualifying for three Albany City Commission seats being contested in the Nov. 5 municipal election, which ended Friday, with only previously announced candidates officially joining the race.
Friday’s qualifying saw businesswoman B.J. Fletcher join the battle against Ward III incumbent Christopher Pike, who is seeking a second term in office. School bus driver Cheryl Calhoun also qualified to challenge Pike.
“Several years ago I made a commitment to Ward III and to the community to help our downtown,” Fletcher, who qualified at 1:30 p.m., said. “Ward III is the heart of our community, and like everything else, if the heart is not strong it weakens the entire body. The body of Ward III has seen little growth over the last 10 years, and it has begun to rot from neglect.
“Would this kind of thing happen in Northwest Albany? I don’t think so. We have some fine commissioners and some strong leaders in our city, but we’re not getting the kind of leadership in Ward III we need to make it strong again.”
Fletcher was instrumental in bringing several existing small businesses to the downtown district, and she said Friday she’s ready to continue her efforts with the commission.
“I’ll go ahead and get it out there: There are people in our community who are determined to make every issue a black/white issue,” the businesswoman said. “I’m not going to fall for that. Our issues are not black and white, they’re green. As in the green of money that we need to bring jobs to our community. We have got to use our assets to improve economic development.
“People have asked me to comment about the other candidates in this race, and I will say this: Mr. Pike has a record, that’s why I’m running. And Ms. Calhoun is a fine lady who seems to be concentrating on crime and stopping the violence. That’s important, but there’s so much more that needs our commission’s attention.”
Fletcher, who was the leading vote-getter in a three-way primary race for the mayor’s seat in 2011 and eventually lost in a runoff to current Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, said government leaders too often overlook the “small” issues.
“We need somebody in office who’ll look at all of our issues: from community development to potholes,” she said. “I’m willing to do that. We can’t continue to let our city’s core deteriorate. If you let the core of a town go bad, the whole community will suffer.
“I don’t plan to make a whole lot of campaign promises, but I will promise three things: You will always be able to find me and discuss the issues with me; I will know the issues that concern you and either address them myself or take them to the proper department; and I will never vote on an issue until I know how you feel about it, how it will impact Ward III and how it will impact the entire community.”
With qualifying now closed, Pike will face Fletcher and Calhoun in Ward III; Ward II incumbent Ivey Hines is being challenged by Demetrius Love and Bobby Coleman, and Ward V’s Bob Langstaff will be awarded his fourth term in office unopposed.