ADC hosts mayoral forum

Published 8:21 pm Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mayor Shell speaks at the ADC mayoral forum

Atmore’s three mayoral candidates tried to articulate what separates them from their rivals during a forum hosted by the Alabama Democratic Conference Thursday night.

Mayor Howard Shell, who is retiring, was also honored for his 24 years of service to the City of Atmore.

Forum host Ulysses McBride presented Shell with a plaque, before giving the candidates a chance to present themselves to a full audience. Lloyd Albritton stressed values, Bernard Bishop stressed unity and Jim Staff emphasized his experience.

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The candidates spoke in the order they are to appear on the ballot.

Albritton, a Republican, said that, regardless of party affiliation, Atmore residents all desire the same outcome. Municipal candidates in Alabama do not run based on party.

“We want a high quality of life,” Albritton said. “Everybody wants the same thing. This race in the municipal election is not a partisan election. It’s about values.”

Foremost among his values, Albritton said, is the idea of servant leadership and he read a passage from Robert Greenleaf, one of the most well-known proponents of the idea.

Albritton said he’s against long-term incumbents mainly because of his belief in giving every resident a chance to serve their community.
Albritton wants to see traditional divisions ended.

“I wish we could tear the railroad tracks down because they just divide us,” he said.

Albritton concluded by saying, “I don’t believe I have all the answers, but I do believe the answers are there.”

Bishop stressed the importance of Atmore residents working together in unity.

“I am a lifetime resident of Atmore,” Bishop said. “I only went away for a brief time to serve my country.”

While the military afforded Bishop the opportunity to serve his country, he said he has sought the office of mayor so that he can serve the people of Atmore, many of whom he knows on a first-name basis. Sharing a bond with residents is key for Bishop, he said.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Bishop said.

Bishop said he is concerned because in speaking to residents, he has witnessed fear in many with some not even wanting to use the city’s public parks. What is most troubling is many crimes are committed by people of a young age. Bishop suggested the solution will require showing courage in the face of adversity.

“If I can change, if you the people can change, then together we can change the city of Atmore,” Bishop concluded.

Jim Staff stressed his experience, noting he was born and raised in Atmore and has watched his six children graduate from schools in Atmore. He also pointed out he’s served for 12 years on the city council and already has a good working relationship with politicians such as state Rep. Harry Shiver and U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner.

Staff said he sees positive signs in Atmore already.

“All of our churches have good youth groups,” Staff said. “We’ve got a good community, we really do.”

He concluded by citing his honesty and many years of service in multiple roles with the city of Atmore.

Just prior to the candidates speaking, McBride presented Mayor Shell with a token of appreciation for his long service to the city of Atmore.
Shell was given a chance to speak and focused on two things: the Rivercane development and his efforts to reach out to all of Atmore’s residents.

“One of the first things I did was try to meet all sides of town,” Shell said. “We all had the same goals. All we wanted was everybody to be treated equally and move the city forward.”

While Shell faced criticism for putting the city in debt when Rivercane first came into play, Shell was thinking of the project from a different angle.

“Cities are a long-term investment,” Shell said.

“You never reach an end point. There’s always something a little on down the road.”

Atmore residents will make the decision of who will next serve the city as mayor in less than two weeks when municipal elections are held Tuesday, Aug. 28.