City runoff ahead

Published 6:00 am Saturday, September 29, 2012

Two seats on the Atmore City Council remain open following August’s municipal elections. Candidates for both Districts 4 and 5 continue to campaign during run off elections scheduled to be decided in a Tuesday, Oct. 9 vote.

In District 4, Larry Houck, who received 217 votes in the municipal election and Susan Smith, who received 240 votes, will appear on the October ballot.  With less than two weeks until the election, both candidates are working to get their message out to as many voters as possible.

“The main thing is we’ve got to get the people out to vote,” Smith said. “It is still an important election, even though it is a runoff. Who they vote for and who they elect is going to be their voice, and that’s important. It’s important for, not only everyone in their district, but in their city government.”

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Smith said voter turnout is even more important during this year’s election, as many new officials will take office.

“There’s going to be a lot of changes,” Smith said. “You’re going to see some new faces and you have to have confidence in those new faces. You need to have confidence in who represents you. It’s crucial people get out and vote and don’t get complacent and say ‘it doesn’t matter.’ When you get complacent you’re basically saying you don’t care about this city and what happens to future generations.”

Both candidates emphasized points they covered during the general campaign, adding their platforms have not changed simply because the election was extended by a run off.

“I would just like to remind people of a couple of things,” Houck said. “I was born in Atmore and graduated from ECHS with the distinguished class of 1969. I would also like to emphasize that, besides being an executive in industry, I was a National Guard officer, so I had dual careers and I have experience with having success with much larger budgets than the budget for the city of Atmore.  I’ve made decisions in the boardroom and on the battlefield that impacted people’s lives immediately and I’ve taken those decisions extremely seriously.”

Houck also pointed out a set of unique skills he would bring to the city council that would be useful in the event of a natural disaster like Hurricane Ivan, which pounded Atmore in 2004.

“I would like to emphasize my natural disaster response experience,” Houck said. “I’ve worked on local, state, national and international levels. I speak FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association), EMA (Emergency Management Association) and NIMS (National Incident Management System). And that’s what you want during a natural disaster. You want someone with that kind of experience.”

Houck also stressed the importance of voter turnout.

“This election is important,” he said. “It’s about $30 million of Atmore taxpayer’s money over the next four years. I believe we must elect the right guy.”

Smith also said she would like to simply reiterate what she has already covered in her campaign.

“There’s nothing really any different other than the fact that I just want to reemphasize the fact that I ‘m going to do the very best that I can possibly do,” Smith said. “Atmore’s very important to me and I want to see us move forward.  I think that we can be better than what we are now. I’m just anxious to get started and get working on doing just exactly that. We still have the same issues that we had at the beginning of this campaign. Nothing’s changed.”

Houck said he too is anxious for the vote and the chance to get to work for the city of Atmore.

“My first goal would be a top down review of the city budget,” Houck said. “How we are spending our money?  That would be my first project.”

Houck also said a quick move from the current city council schedule of 4 p.m. to a later time that would make the meetings more accessible to the public would be a top priority.

“That’s an absolute,” he said. “I think that’s something that all of us can agree on. The time needs to be better suited to the citizen’s schedule.”

The runoff for District 4 will be decided Tuesday, Oct. 9.  District 4 voters may submit their ballots from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at Escambia County High School on South Presley Street.