Council race tightens

Published 10:48 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The 2012 race for the Atmore City Council is heating up already. With just over a full year before the elections, two candidates have surfaced in the race for the District 4 seat currently held by John Garrard.

Larry Houck announced his intentions to run for the position over the weekend. Houck will be facing Escambia County Board of Education head nurse Susan Smith, who officially announced her candidacy in late September.

Houck, an Atmore native, is a graduate of Escambia County High School and Troy University, where he earned a degree in resource management.

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Prior to college, Houck formed a career in the U.S. armed forces, serving first in the U.S. Army before joining the Alabama Army National Guard. While part of the guard, Houck graduated from the Army’s Command and General Staff College. He was deployed during both Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom, and is the recipient of the Bronze Star, two Meritorious Service Medals and the Alabama Commendation Medal.

Houck spent his civilian career as a retail store manager and an operations manager and retired in 2004 as a general manager in the steel business.

Houck continued his service to his country after retiring. He acted as the executive officer of Task Force Alabama during the response to Hurricane Rita in Louisiana in 2005. He retired in 2011 as a lieutenant colonel after 31 years of service and is now an active member of Atmore’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post 7016.

Houck, a registered Republican, has never held public office, but said he believes his lack of political experience will be eclipsed by the skills he has gained after years spent in leadership roles and in the private sector.

“People know me as a soldier,” Houck said. “But some people don’t realize I spent 40 years in the business world.”

Houck and his wife, Betty, returned to Atmore in 2004. He said his major motivations for seeking a seat on Atmore’s city council have come from the things the community has done for him, and his family, over the years.

“The community has been very good to me, and it’s time to give something back,” he said. “I wasn’t ready to retire completely and I wanted to contribute something, somewhere.”

Just how he will give back, Houck said, is through acting as a “fiscal conservative,” and an “open minded, methodical problem solver.”

Houck said his focus, as a councilman, would be the long-term financial stability of Atmore.

“I’d like to take a long hard look at Rivercane and see what we can do to make that better,” he said.

He also voiced his strong support of “Main Street” and local businesses.

“I really don’t want to see Main Street die out,” he said. “In Atmore, small businesses on Main Street, Ridgely Street, Ashley Street are our base.”

Houck also pointed to Atmore’s current administration’s work to clean up the city as a big success, and said he would continue that effort as a city councilman.

As of now, Houck’s only competition for District 4 has come from Smith. Garrard remains undecided about seeking re-election.