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Four more candidates qualify for alderman

With a looming deadline for new candidates to qualify for municipal elections, last week saw a frenzy of activity at the city clerk’s office: two incumbents finally launched re-election campaigns, and two new challengers appeared.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates and Ward Six Alderman David Phillips both qualified to seek new terms of office.

Phillips initially won the Ward Six seat in a 2008 special election and netted a full term in the city’s 2009 elections.

Bates is a longtime board member pursuing his seventh term of office.

Robert Berry qualified as a Democratic challenger in Ward One, facing off against another longtime incumbent, Dorsey Cameron.

In Ward Four, Danny Keene qualified as a Republican to challenge incumbent Republican alderman Shirley Estes.

Estes had previously been facing no challengers.

With a final qualifying deadline of Friday, new candidates have less than a week to enter the race.

Ward One

Berry enters a crowded field, all vying for the Democratic nomination. Cameron, hoping to capture his fifth term in office, must now fend off election bids by Randy Belcher, Kermit Sartin and Berry.

No stranger to political campaigns, Berry has run several times for the office of Lincoln County sheriff.

Brookhaven’s 2007 annexation brought Berry into the city limits and the needs of those annexed areas are at the front of his mind as he prepares to hit the pavement and ask for votes.

“The annexed area needs to be brought up to the standard of the pre-existent city,” he said. “I feel like I know the needs in the annexed area because I’ve lived there.”

He also called for more attention to drainage problems in the ward, alongside other infrastructure needs.

His work experience includes nine years with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, time as a private investigator and most recently, a stint as an inspector at Georgia-Pacific. He left that job in April 2012.

That work experience has put him in frequent contact with the public, Berry said, and he feels qualified to pursue his electoral ambitions.

Ward Two

Bates’ formal entry into the race means Ward Two finally has a candidate seeking office. And for now, he’s unopposed.

A 24-year alderman, Bates admitted he’s contemplated retirement but decided he’s still got the drive and energy to continue seeking to serve the residents of his ward.

“The longer you stay, the harder it is to get out,” he said, laughing. “I thank the people for supporting me and putting up with me.”

Looking ahead, Bates would like to tackle several projects in Ward Two. He wants to see turn lanes on Monticello Street and traffic lights at the intersection of Monticello Street and Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Drive.

He also highlighted the needs of the annexed areas as a significant challenge still facing aldermen.

“It’s going to cost the city a lot of money,” he said.

Ward Four

Keene said he’s pondered pursuing a role in the political process for several years now. In mounting his campaign to challenge Estes, he sounded some familiar themes candidates across the city have stressed.

“You have to address the issues at hand,” he said. “Right now, that’s infrastructure in both the old and the new (parts of the city).”

That particularly includes the areas of the city annexed in 2007.

“This is the sixth year from annexation,” he said. “We need a plan.”

Keene owns a consulting and management agency, Keene Financial Group, which helps operate a number of financial service centers.

Through his work experience, Keene said he has a solid background in many areas of relevance to city government, including compliance with federal regulations, auditing, payroll and employee management.

“I’ve handled a lot of different areas,” he said.

A Brookhaven native, Keene added that he wants to help make Brookhaven the kind of place his children could call home.

Ward Six

Phillips enters a race facing two challengers hoping to take his place, David McCoy and Mackie Gipson.

Both the challengers are competing for the Democratic nomination, while Phillips is running as an independent so he’ll only face one of them on the general election ballot.

The incumbent, also the president of Phillips Bark Processing, hopes to continue the work begun in his time already spent on the board. That includes pushing for fiscal responsibility and efficient management of the city’s resources.

He also believes attitude will play an important role as aldermen and the mayor help lead the city forward.

“We need to work harder at creating a ‘can do’ image of the city,” Phillips said.

In his first term, Phillips was instrumental in creating a recycling program that eventually led to a curbside recycling service.

He also pushed the implementation of a nuisance property ordinance in response to recurrent criminal incidents in Ward Six.

The next four years on the board should prove as challenging as the last four, Phillips said.

“I believe the revenue is going to be flat for the next few years,” he said.

He also counts bringing infrastructure to the city’s annexed areas among the unfinished business of the last term and pledged that as one of his priorities for a new term.