City election 6 days away, new mayor to be elected

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lewisburg residents should know within a week who's to be their new mayor. The expectation comes as more than 300 people have already voted early.

Meanwhile, mayoral candidate Jerry Freeman, 52, of Finley Beech Road, has reserved Rock Creek Park at 3 p.m. Thursday for a "Meet the Candidates" program, although his rival, Barbara Woods, 61, Wedgwood Avenue, says she's taking her campaign door-to-door at that time.

Woods or Freeman will succeed Mayor Bob Phillips who, after 12 years in office, has decided against running again.

And since Councilman Phil Sanders isn't running again, the Ward 4 race between Leland Carden and Ronald McRady is the other contest without an incumbent. Elsewhere in town, Councilman Hershel Davis faces Ronnie Joe Hudson in Ward 2. Councilman Odie Whitehead is unopposed in Ward 3.

Four years ago, 697 people voted before election day in the mayor's race. Given the participation so far, one might conclude that the total voter turnout might be lower this year. Total voter turnout was 1,464 in 2005 when Bob Harris challenged Phillips.

In the last weeks of the mayor's race, Woods said she's been speaking to many organizations about recycling, an interest she's picked up in recent years after a career as a teacher and principal.

Freeman said he's been working in his construction management business. One of his friends bought an apartment building and he's getting it ready for tenants. The former public housing executive says he wants to clean up the city and provide more affordable housing for low-income people.

"What we need to do for the city is get rid of the slum lords," he said.

Freeman has been known as a firebrand among residents attending City Council meetings where he's complained about the current administration's management. To further publicize his position, Freeman has posted documents on his web site,, which he says exposes mismanagement.

"Most is my argument is about the Housing Authority and the mayor's appointment," the former Housing Authority executive said, complaining a city employee, a police sergeant, is leading the authority board.

He also points to an August 2006 document that is inconclusive about a public housing resident obtaining $383,716 from the authority for maintenance work and reporting annual income of $8,606 which would qualified him for residency in publicly owned and subsidized housing. The state Comptroller's Municipal Audit Division could not get records reflecting the man's business costs.

As for Freeman's rival, Woods is recognized by her former students and their parents as an educator in the Marshall County system.

Yet, the past two years have seen a ground swell of public interest on landfill issues since Waste Management sought to expand Cedar Ridge Landfill and establish a replacement for it at Cornersville.

In response, Woods suggested recycling, was appointed chair of the Recycling Committee and on Monday was asked about Waste Management's promise to provide free dumping for Lewisburg if it gets a state permit to expand the landfill west of town.

While recycling reduces loads of trash taken to Cedar Ridge, Woods was asked, how is recycling going to benefit the city if Waste Management gets a permit to expand Cedar Ridge and the city can just discard all its collections without paying tipping fees?

"Now, she replied, "you sort of see the benefit with a lower tipping fee."

Loads are lighter because recyclables are not thrown away, she explained

"But the real benefit of recycling is to do the right thing and not put into the landfill things that can be reused and made into new items," Woods continued.

At the same time, various public leaders, including Marshall County solid waste consultant Bill Griggs, have heard nothing about whether the state will or will not grant Waste Management permission to expand Cedar Ridge. If granted, Riggs said the landfill might have capacity for seven more years of trash deliveries from all of the company's customers. If the permit is denied, the landfill will probably close this year.

"The landfill situation we have here sort of heightened the awareness of people here," Woods said. "Now people are really aware of the need to recycle.

"Many were like me," she continued. "I didn't know, before I started recycling, that there was a tipping fee. Now, I think people are realizing the benefits of recycling."

Early voting ends at 4 p.m. Thursday. Polls reopen at 7 a.m. Tuesday next week.