ALBANY — The problems Albany faces, similar to those in many municipalities across the nation, have been well-identified over the course of months of campaigning — among them crime, lack of jobs, crumbling infrastructure and poverty.
While acknowledging those issues, incumbent Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said that she and the current commission have been working to address them. Hubbard is asking for four more years to continue moving forward with policies that she says are making an impact.
The incumbent, who faces Albany attorney Kermit “Bo” Dorough in the Tuesday runoff election, pointed to the new Georgia-Pacific plant under construction, downtown redevelopment, new crime-fighting initiatives developed with citizen input, and increased spending on the city’s sewage system as proof of progress.
That progress isn’t always rapid and flashy, but it is the policies put in place along with cooperation with other entities that has made them happen.
“I would certainly like for (citizens) to remember the Georgia-Pacific plant that is opening next year with good-paying jobs,” she said. “That happened because we were shovel-ready. I would like to get another site shovel-ready so when we get that kind of opportunity, we’re in the mix.”
She also pointed to the city’s work with local, state and national officials in keeping the Coats & Clark distribution center in the city after the Jan. 22, 2017, storm that destroyed that facility, leaving more than 100 out of work. Less than a year later, the workers returned to a rebuilt facility.
The city also dealt with devastating weather events over the previous three years, including Hurricane Michael in October 2018.
“With the tornadoes and storms, we’ve been with the people through that time,” Hubbard said. “We could have lost Coats & Clark.”
Another economic success, she said, is the recovery of airplane manufacturer Thrush Aircraft, which earlier this year faced bankruptcy.
“We worked with them to get them through the bankruptcy courts,” Hubbard said.
Downtown, Hubbard pointed to new restaurants and businesses, including the Pretoria Fields Brewery and a new hotel that will open in the former Water Gas & Light building that is being renovated.
“Certainly we are excited about downtown revitalization that has happened,” Hubbard said. “We certainly want to continue that. I think people want to see a vibrant downtown.
“We have a lot of things in the pipeline. We will be starting construction on a new bus station.”
To foster future job opportunities for residents, Hubbard said she would build partnerships with educational institutions including Albany Technical College and Albany State University.
“There are jobs out there — welders, electricians, plumbers,” Hubbard said. “I’m always in the schools, telling people to stay in school.
“Albany State has one of the few Nexus technology centers in the state. We just believe if we work together, we can get things done.”
Albany’s crime rate, particularly that of violent crime, has been raised by candidates as the biggest concern for residents and is one that Hubbard identified as her “No. 1 priority.”
To tackle that concern, Hubbard formed the Safe City Coalition, which brought together city officials and residents who identified problems and suggested solutions.
“The chief (of police) is now implementing some of the solutions that were identified in that plan,” Hubbard said.
Other crime-fighting initiatives announced this year include the relocation of a Georgia Bureau of Investigation drug task force from Sylvester to Albany and cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to assist by taking some cases to federal courts, where prison sentences can be tougher than those often handed out in the state court system.
Police Chief Michael Persley also has initiated a conflict resolution program that is geared toward resolving disputes between parties before they turn violent.
“We will continue to be open to new ideas,” Hubbard said. “We will continue to provide new technology (to police).
“We ask communities to come together and be vigilant about looking out for each other, neighbors looking after neighbors. We always say, if you see something, say something.”
During her time as a city commissioner and mayor, Hubbard said she has gained experience that will pay off as programs and policies put in place during that time bear fruit.
“I’ve learned how to work with commissioners from different (areas) and to work together to get things done,” she said. “I hope I can stay the course; I can work with other people and get the job done.”