Interest in mayor’s seat grows

Published 9:28 am Monday, April 25, 2011

Less than two weeks after longtime City of Atmore Mayor Howard Shell announced he would not seek re-election in 2012, three residents have already stepped up, announcing their intentions of running for the vacant soon-to-be seat.

A few hours after Shell made his announcement during a council meeting, current Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Staff tossed his hat in the ring announcing that he will run for the mayor’s office following his third term as the District 5 councilman.

“We’ve got some prospects looking at us and I don’t think we need a hiccup in the chain of command,” the 70-year-old councilman said. “I’ve met with all of the folks in Montgomery during my time in office. I don’t know them as well as the mayor does, but I’m sure over the next year, I’ll begin getting to know them even better.”

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Shortly after Staff announced his intentions, resident Chad Thrower, a gaming agent for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ Tribal Gaming Commission, began posting on Facebook that he will be running for mayor in 2012. Photos of Thrower standing beside the parking spot reserved for the city’s mayor and in front of City Hall are currently posted on his group page, Chad Thrower for Atmore Mayor 2012.

“At this point I am only committing to run for the office,” Thrower told The Advance via Facebook earlier this week. “I will most likely make a public statement to officially announce my candidacy. I will be providing date, time and location to the press at a later date.”

Thursday, 40-year-old Bernard Bishop, founder of Dr. Bernard Bishop Ministries, a community non-profit outreach ministry, announced his “plan” to run in the next mayor’s race.

“My first reason for wanting to run is my love that I have for the city, where I’ve called home for many years,” Bishop said. “This is a place that I feel like I have grown a lot spiritually and as a person, and I want to make a bigger difference for the city that has been so good to me. I want to make a bigger difference and I think from that particular office I can touch more lives than I’m already touching, and I can help grow this city and take it to the next level.”

Bishop is a 1990 graduate of Escambia County High School and also served in the Armed Forces. He is currently the president of the United Fund of Atmore and on the steering committee for Youth Leadership Atmore. He said Shell’s announcement earlier this month was not a shock to him.

“I was not surprised,” Bishop said. “That is one reason why I was considering running because I felt that (Shell) was going to call this his last term. I didn’t get any word from him about that, but I just kind of felt that he had probably done his time and was going to go home and retire.”

Bishop believes his leadership qualities and experience as a leader would make him an ideal candidate for office.

“I think I have the experience as a proven leader in the community,” Bishop said. “I’m a visionary and I think I can be one of the young, energetic, educated people that have a vision that can help lead the city. I think it’s time for a change, and I think I can make the change the city needs.”

Staff believes his experience is what best qualifies him for the mayor’s office, and is looking forward to working closer to state and national politicians to help lead the city in a new direction.

“I’ve got the most experience as to what is happening within the city,” Staff said.

Staff added that he believes more candidates will step forward to run for mayor within the next year, which does not surprise him.

“I’m sure there is going to be plenty of opposition, but that’s the nature of the beast,” he said. “That’s the reason we have elections; to let the public speak.”

As for Shell, he’s standing behind Staff.

“Mr. (Jim) Staff as mayor pro-tem has done an excellent job and I would like to say he’s in training,” Shell said. “So we’ve got some good leadership coming on.”

Thrower was not available for any further comments.