Statham will have a new mayor for the first time in more than 20 years, and the tenure of Robert Bridges led to a diminishing of the mayor’s power as the council agreed on a charter amendment.
Three candidates, two newcomers and one native, are seeking the post. Candidates are Eddie Jackson, who has served on the council for two years and has a long history in the town; Rudy Krause, who has lived in Statham more than 30 years and has an active family in Barrow County; and Joe Piper, a retired electronics specialist and computer technician who has been in the town a bit more than three years.
All three candidates promised “transparency” in their actions. Jackson, the only one who has held elective office, qualified that to be “as much as possible.”
Jackson, who had to resign his seat in order to run for mayor, owned and operated The Grocery Store for 19 years. He said he thinks the city needs a “mayor who was born and raised” in the town.
Krause, whose wife Debi, is a chamber of commerce officer and a member of the county board of education, also has a daughter and son-in-law, who are educators in the county school system.
Piper, who started repairing clocks as a hobby and now has a business that he says is as much about the clock stories as the repairs, is a former technician for bank equipment with Diebold.
Krause and Piper cited “serious” issues the city should address.
Piper said he began attending council meetings within a few months of moving to Statham “to see what was going on” in the city.
Piper said the city needs “some fresh blood, fresh ideas.”
Krause said the city should have officials that are “forward thinking.”
Jackson said he would hold quarterly town meetings to answer questions.
He said he would “answer the best we can” those questions. Jackson said officials should do “due diligence” and learn about problems in the city.
Krause said he would seek answers and information about residents’ questions. City officials should “have all the data you can collect” about an issue.
“If someone comes to city hall and has a question, that question should be answered,” he said.
All three men pledged to pay attention to water issues in Statham.
“What is going on with our water,” Piper wondered. Jackson and Krause cited the city reservoir's shallow depth – it is only about six feet deep.
Jackson said the summer heat is the biggest problem for the water system, but he also noted the lack of depth.
He said the water meets state standards, “but it does sometimes have an odor.”
Jackson said he would plan to get audits completed so the city is eligible for grants from the state and federal government.
Piper was the only candidate who mentioned the lawsuits brought against the city because of actions by former police officer Marc Lofton and Chief Allan Johnston. He said he began attending council meetings when that controversy was prominent.
Piper is from Pennsylvania. His wife and he are active in the local chapter of the Gold Wings motorcycle club.
He said he would be “fiscally responsible” and promote “transparency” in government.
“I have no intention of keeping anyone in the dark,” Piper said.
He said information about the city should be posted on the Statham website.
Krause works at the Johns Manville plant in Winder. He spent nearly 20 years in telecommunications and worked for MCI World.com, much of it traveling.
He compared the plant to a small city and pointed to some similarities.
Statham has been “a wonderful place to live,” he said.
He does not travel as much now and is close to retirement. Krause said those factors make time available to serve the city.
Jackson said he would focus on five issues in his first year or so. They are working on getting audit complete, getting federal and state grants, holding quarterly town meetings, being as “transparent as possible” and the city’s water quality.
He said farther in the future would be seeking new business for the town.
Jackson said he has some rental properties now, is involved again with dirt racing in Winder and is a real estate appraiser. He said he studied accounting at the University of Georgia.
As for the two council seats up for election in the regular election, incumbent councilwoman Hattie Thrasher, who has been on the council for more than 20 years, and Gary Venable were the only candidates to qualify for the two open seats. Venable, an information technology specialist in Clarke County, will replace councilman Perry Barton, who chose not to seek re-election. Venable worked in Madison County as an IT specialist for 17 years.
Qualifying for the special election to fill Jackson's unexpired term on the council is set for Sept. 3-5. That special election will be held Nov. 5 in conjunction with the mayoral election.