CARLTON FLETCHER: Local candidates work across party, office lines

OPINION: There are still politicians who put the voters first

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Let’s work together, come on, come on, let’s work together.

Canned Heat

I feel certain there will be those who use terms like “tempest in a teapot,” “much ado about nothing” or even “too much too little too late” after reading the following. I prefer, perhaps naively, to think it’s the start of something good.

In the last few days, Albany and Dougherty County politicians have stepped up to do what precious few state politicos manage and virtually no national elected official would even consider.

Risking the scorn of their colleagues and their respective political parties, Dougherty County commissioners, Albany city commissioners and Dougherty County School Board members or candidates are — what?!! — publicly working together to tackle issues of common interest.

On purpose.

In the April 27 edition of The Albany Herald, a front-page article chronicles the efforts of freshman Ward II Albany City Commissioner Bobby Coleman and District 3 County Commissioner Clinton Johnson to publicize the many issues surrounding the East Broad Avenue underpass. Both commissioners have brought up their concerns about potholes, uneven pavement, broken guardrails, no lighting, plant overgrowth and litter to their respective commission colleagues, and both have sought support in an effort to force improvements at the thoroughfare.

“We don’t want just a coat of paint thrown at it,” Coleman said.

“This has become a public safety issue at one of our downtown gateways,” added Johnson.

Both have vowed to keep up their campaign until considerable improvements are made.

Three days after that article appeared, incumbent District 4 County Commissioner Ewell Lyle and District 4 School Board candidate Aaron Johnson announced that they were holding a joint meet-and-greet at the River Pointe Golf Club clubhouse, in the heart of the district. Not only was this event a case of County Commission and School Board candidates meeting with voters side-by-side, it marked one of the first in recent memory jointly held by a Republican candidate (Lyle) and a Democrat (Johnson).

“We’re having this event to show the voters of District 4 that elected officials in Albany and Dougherty County can work together,” Johnson said. “It’s also important that we get across that the school system — serving our children — is not a partisan issue.”

Lyle, meanwhile, said his most important concern had less to do with party politics, more to do with allowing voters to get to know the candidates who want to represent them.

“We’re going to talk with the people who come out about their concerns, not the concerns of one political party or the other,” the county commissioner, who is wrapping up his first term in office after running unopposed four years ago, said.

Lyle will face the winner of the Democratic District 4 showdown being waged by a pair of first-time candidates: Darton State College assistant English professor Pat Garner and dental assistant Tracy Taylor. Either Garner or Taylor will take on Lyle in the Nov. 4 general election.

Johnson, meanwhile, is being challenged by Melissa Strother for the District 4 seat on the Dougherty School Board. The seat became vacant when outgoing School Board Chairwoman Carol Tharin announced she would not seek another term in office.

The mention here of these local politicians is not intended as endorsements. I would certainly hope that voters plan to learn as much as they can about each candidate before deciding which ones they’ll support in the May 20 primaries. But it is worth noting that, at a time when partisan politics has made a laughingstock of the state and national electoral process — creating a maddening gridlock in Washington that has no foreseeable end — there are at least some office-seekers and -holders who are willing to look past the usual stumbling blocks that generate alienation and are actually working together to serve the best interests of the people who put them in office in the first place.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.