Former Locust Grove City Councilman Robert Price, is now unopposed in his bid to become mayor of the Henry County city.
Once outgoing Mayor Lorene Lindsey recommended him for the job, he left his city council post with two years remaining in his term. As a result, a special election to fill Price’s remaining term on the council is part of the Nov. 8 general election. That contest will pit Richard “Rick” Begin against Sammy Brown.
Councilman W. L. Carter also decided not to seek re-election. His term ends this year.
That means there are three at-large council seats, with four-year terms, up for grabs, and four candidates are seeking to fill them: Incumbents Frances Ward and Otis Hammock, along with challengers Justin Flynn and Vernon Ashe. The top three vote-getters will win.
Richard “Rick” Begin, 50, has lived in Locust Grove for eight years, and has worked as a tow truck operator for seven years. Previously, he worked as an auctioneer at Metro Auction, for 20 years. “I have worked in Locust Grove for 22 years, I like Locust Grove so much I moved here,” said Begin. He said he had lived in Morrow for 42 years.
He said he was encouraged by others to delve into politics. “I intend to be accessible to the people,” he said. “They can e-mail me, call me or visit me face-to-face. It is not like I am going to be behind a closed door.”
Begin said he would like to make Locust Grove a more desirable place to live, and offer it his common, working man’s point of view. “I support the sagging pants ordinance,” he said. Hampton is the only city in Henry County with the “sagging pants” ordinance. “I oppose Sunday alcohol sales,” he added.
Begin said he would like to use the experience he has gained through City Councilman Billy Carter. “He brought business and commerce to Henry County, and I want to use that as a guide to bring commerce into Locust Grove,” he said. Begin has been married to his wife, Brenda, for 18 years. They have two sons.
Sammy Brown, 62, is a lifelong resident of the city. “I live in the house I grew up in,” said Brown. He is a U.S. Navy veteran, and retired after 30 years with the Georgia Forestry Commission. He was the local Forest Ranger.
“In my 30 years of working with the state, we had to deal with the public, on a day-to-day basis,” said Brown. “We ran the Forestry commission like a business; we had to watch our budget, and adhere to it. If I get elected, I’m going to look and listen to see what I really need to do.”
Brown said he will follow a preservation legacy set by his parents. He said his interest is to preserve the historical aspects of Locust Grove. “I want to help Locust Grove grow, but yet retain our small-town charm,” he said. His father, James P. Brown, Sr., was chairman of the Henry County Hospital Authority; his mother, Bernice, was a retired teacher.
Brown does not like the sagging pants style. “But, I believe in America, we are free to wear what style we wish, as long as it is not obscene,” he added. “I don’t think it is the government’s job to enforce a dress code, unless it borders on obscene ... I support Sunday alcohol sales.”
Brown, and his wife, Claire, have been married 26 years. They have two children.
Francis Ward, 85, has served on the council for eight years. She moved from Atlanta to Locust Grove in 1964. “I have experience, I worked as the Locust Grove city clerk for 25 years. I am dedicated,” said Ward. “However I vote, I always consider what would be best for our residents.”
Ward said the city council worked together to acquire a new water tank, and a Walmart store, which brought jobs to the area. “I am not in favor of any annexations in the near future, for subdivisions,” she said. “I am in favor of annexation ... for commercial purposes. Because it would offer employment.”
Ward said, “I don’t care if Sunday sales of alcohol passes, or not.”
Ward has been married to Charles “Ray” Ward, 88, for 65 years. They have two daughters.
Otis Hammock, 61, is ending his first, four-year term on the council. He is a lifelong city resident. He retired as a traffic engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation, in 2000. He retired from the Army National Guard, in 2001.
“I am familiar with road construction projects and intersection improvements,” said Hammock. “We’ve gotten some sidewalk projects, downtown streetscape improvements accomplished,” he said. “I’m just one person on the council and we work as a team to get these things done. This year, we completed our new public works facility, on Mose Brown Drive.
“I’m retired, and I have the time during the day to do what is necessary to work with the citizens and City Hall staff ... to do what I can to make improvements on operating the city.”
He said the current city council is working to bring new development to Locust Grove.
“I am oppose to the Sunday alcohol sales. I voted against having the referendum,” said Hammock. He has been married to his wife, Bonnie, for 32 years. The couple has eight children.
Justin Flynn, 29, has lived in the county for 13 years, first in McDonough, but he has spent the last three in Locust Grove. He owns WOW Inflatables of Locust Grove, and a printing company, 4go Print.
“I volunteer with the city on a regular basis ... I coach a local baseball team, Lil Sluggers,” he said. “One of the reasons I am running for office is because of the lack of communication between the business owners, and the city officials,” said Flynn.
Flynn does not like seeing “sagging pants.” He said he is against Sunday alcohol sales. “We should have at least one Holy day,” he said.
If elected, he said, he would “lighten” the rules on signage, “so we don’t end up like Peachtree City, where you have a sign height, and style, signage restrictions.” He has been married to his wife, Misty, for more than a year They have three children.
Vernon Ashe, 76, has lived in Locust Grove for 17 years. He is from Murphy, N.C. He retired after working 34 years with the U.S. Postal Service.
“I started out in Atlanta, then I went to College Park, and spent 27 years in Riverdale,” said Ashe. “I met a lot of people delivering mail on the streets. You get an idea of what people like, and what they don’t like.”
Ashe has been at 99 percent of the city council meetings for 17 years, he said.
“I just like to see what goes on, and how they help the people. Sometimes, it’s not so good,” said Ashe. “I like to help other people. I have always been like that, and I am going to continue.”
Ashe said he would like to see an “overhead bridge,” or “underneath bridge,” to help drivers get across the railroad tracks. “In the event of an emergency, there is no way for an emergency vehicle to cross the tracks, unless you drive five to six miles out of the way,” he added.
Ashe said he has some concerns about the city’s drinking water. “We have terrible water here in the city, and nobody has seemed to come up with a solution for it. They got wells here. The water is not good. We have to buy water to drink. You can’t drink the faucet water,” he said.
“I support the saggy pants ordinance ...” said Ashe. “It is a disgrace to people that wear them. If you go to Walmart, you see people with the sagging pants and its embarrassing. It should be embarrassing to them.”
Ashe said he opposes Sunday alcohol sales. “It is enough to sell during the week ... They can buy it on Saturday,” he added. He also said he would like to see home improvements stores in Locust Grove. “We really need something like that. It would bring more tax dollars in, it would help people all the way around if we could bring more jobs here.” He has been married to his wife, Margie, for 59 years. They have four daughters.