Gloria Gaines (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — In what could be a doubly historic political first in Dougherty County, District 5 County Commissioner Gloria Gaines officially announced her candidacy for the commission’s chairmanship Monday morning.
If elected, Gaines would be the first black and the first female to hold the post.
“I’m aware of that historical fact, but I wouldn’t consider that such an oddity,” Gaines said after Monday’s commission work session. “I live in my skin, so it’s not that big a deal to me.”
Like her already-announced opponent, former Dougherty Chief Assistant District Attorney Chris Cohilas, who now practices law with the Watson Spence firm, Gaines said she decided to take a close look at the chairman’s seat when current Commission Chair Jeff Sinyard announced Jan. 27 that he will not seek re-election.
“I looked around at who was saying they might run, and that’s why I sent out the initial announcement expressing my interest in the position,” Gaines said. “I wanted to see if there was anyone with depth interested in running. And while some good people have expressed interest, I didn’t think they had quite the heft that the position requires.
“I think this position is about finding the best way to market and utilize our abundant resources. Jeff (Sinyard) has done a marvelous job of making that work, and I want to take the opportunity now to thank him for his service. He has played a huge role in promoting our community. But change is the only thing in life that is certain, and I want to help the community make this a positive change.”
Gaines said she expects the campaign for the chairman’s seat to remain about the issues.
“To his credit, Mr. Cohilas reached out to me last week, saying he wanted to meet with me,” Gaines said. “We got together for a brief period on Friday. He’s a very nice young man, and I was appreciative of the opportunity to talk with him face-to-face. We both pledged not to let this race turn into a mud-slinging contest. We agreed to make this about the issues.”
A native of Albany who made the announcement on her birthday, Gaines is in her sixth year on the commission. She chairs its Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and has also served as the county’s representative on the Southwest Georgia Regional Council, the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission Renewal Task Force and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia Policy Council.
As part of the executive team of the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Gaines helped develop and manage an annual $1 billion budget with assets in excess of $4 billion. She was responsible for launching a multimillion-dollar partnership in Atlanta to develop the mixed-use City Center in Buckhead, and she sold real estate in metro Atlanta for 13 years. She currently serves on the advisory board of Capitol City Bank’s Albany branch.
Noting that she is part of a fourth-generation Dougherty County family and was educated locally — at Monroe High School and Albany State University — Gaines said her education stretches beyond the walls of academia.
“My education in Dougherty County is not just formal education,” she said. “My association with the people of the county has not only nurtured me, it’s broadened my education.
“I see Albany and Dougherty County as part of a global phenomenon caught in the middle of so many economic shifts. We need to be at the table when decisions are made so that we can best utilize our resources such as agricultural interests and our great water supply.”
County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said Monday morning she believes Gaines will have to resign her position on the commission when she qualifies to run for the chairman’s seat. Since Gaines’ District 5 seat would then be vacant in the middle of its term, Nickerson said a special election would have to be called to complete the unexpired portion of the term. Harry James, whom Gaines defeated when she first claimed office in 2008, said Monday morning he is “strongly considering” a second run for the seat.
Qualifying for all local offices, including the chairman’s seat and Districts 2, 4 and 6 of the commission and Dougherty School Board, will start March 3 at 9 a.m. and conclude March 7 at noon.