Decision 2020: Meet Cliffard Whitby, candidate for Macon-Bibb mayor
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Five candidates are qualified for the upcoming Macon-Bibb mayoral election.
Lester Miller, Larry Schlesinger, Blake Sullivan, Cliffard Whitby and Marc Whitfield are competing to fill the seat held by Robert Reichert since 2007.
Reichert, who was inaugurated in 2007 as the mayor of the City of Macon, won a runoff election against C. Jack Ellis in October 2013 to become the first mayor of what is now consolidated Macon-Bibb County. His term ends in December.
41NBC’s Tucker Sargent spoke with each candidate ahead of the June 9 election.
TUCKER: Cliffard Whitby joining us now—candidate for Macon-Bibb Mayor. Cliffard, thanks for coming on to talk with us.
CLIFFARD: Thanks for having me, Tucker.
TUCKER: I want to start with your priorities for Macon-Bibb—just a few. I know all of you have several, but what are your priorities if elected Mayor of Macon-Bibb?
CLIFFARD: Again, thanks for having me on your show today. I’m excited about the opportunity to share out platform with the citizens and the voters of Macon-Bibb. One of the things: It’s going to be imperative in this community, and that is some of the economic issues, the income disparities that exist in this community. We cannot continue to thrive as a community when the gap between the haves and the have nots continues to grow. So one of my number one priorities is to assemble a team that will harness all the resources in this community, that will allow for a level playing field for the community to be able to enjoy to enjoy the luxuries of this technology age and harnessing the desire to see that everybody—all of Macon-Bibb—do well and have opportunities, the same opportunities. So the economic issues are first and foremost for a Whitby administration and I think I have a track record that proves I have the ability to do just that.
TUCKER: Well you talked about your priorities there. What are some strong points for Macon-Bibb? How can you possibly bring in businesses? What are the selling points for Macon-Bibb?
CLIFFARD: You know, as the chairman of the lead economic development—about 12 years I served on the industrial authority—many of those as the chairman and the acting day-to-day operations at the authority. We revamped economic development in Macon-Bibb and enjoy a track record of being probably the most—if not. Well no, we enjoy a record of having the most productivity in the history of the industrial authority. That was done, Tucker, with the community coming together and putting a priority on economic development. So we will continue to build on those successes that we generated at the industrial authority, but more importantly, Tucker, we’re going to invest in Macon-Bibb. We think there’s human capital that exists right here in Macon-Bibb. We can do better by way of providing opportunity for our young people, providing opportunity for people who just have the spirit of entrepreneurship, whether they’re 20 or 70. We have great human capital in Macon-Bibb, and I think we can turn Macon-Bibb around just by providing a level playing field and investing in our community, and that is an absolute priority for a Whitby administration.
TUCKER: There’s been lots of talk lately about a pay scale study, and it’s being implemented now, to give county employees pay raises—to pay them a fair rate. What are your thoughts on that?
CLIFFARD: I support completely the assessment of our pay scale in Macon-Bibb. Everybody deserves to earn a fair wage for their services. We have a lot of rebuilding to do in this community to create that type of mindset and that type of attitude to where head of household incomes is what’s needed, and if we do that, the entire community will benefit from just making those adjustments: paying a person a fair wage. One of the things I’m proud of as we assess our economic development strategy is we benefit when we value our employees. There’s a lot of talk about first responders, and I’m very supportive of the people on the front line in Macon-Bibb, but frankly it’s not just the first responders. It’s every employee that services and provides services to this community. All of us—all of them—need a fair, equitable salary for their town, and treating people right is part of what builds the cohesiveness in the community. So I’m fully supportive of this pay scale adjustment, and it doesn’t (inaudible) when I think about figuring out how to provide for our employees. I welcome that challenge. That’s it. Here in Macon-Bibb County, people need to be of value. They need to feel appreciated. They need to recognize that we have their back and we’re not going to abandon our commitments to those who serve this community.
TUCKER: You touched a little bit on public safety there. Crime is a huge concern among residents and the candidates. Do you have plans to support the sheriff’s office, and what are those, to try to reduce crime in Macon-Bibb?
CLIFFARD: I think we’re the only campaign that has put out a crime plan. We will continue to partner with Sheriff David Davis, but we have a six-point plan. The core of that plan centers around the community and stakeholders involved in our community: bringing ideas. If we don’t engage with our young people and provide opportunity for our young people, there’s no way we can provide enough services to Sheriff Davis to render the crime problem that we have in Macon-Bibb. That starts with engaging with our community, engaging with our young people, engaging with the families, engaging with the stakeholders like the ministers in the community, like the youth directors at our community centers. There are many opportunities, but the first thing, Tucker is, (inaudible) mayor who really is ready to roll up his sleeves and get engaged in what it takes to change the paradigm that exists. The root cause of crime–Why are we having young people in the streets with very few options to fulfill their dreams? There’s a lot of issues that’s centered around the reality of our crime problem here in Macon, but it starts with getting engaged and doing what’s necessary to be on the front line of crime prevention. I welcome anybody to go to our website,cliffwhitby.com, and look at our six-point crime bill and our plan that we will implement and we will engage with the stakeholders in this community. We will partner with our sheriff. We will make sure that our sheriff’s department and the deputies have what they need and not have to constantly look, seek other employment for comfortable salaries, etc. We can do better, and we will do better, Tucker.
TUCKER: Shifting back to economic development, which you mentioned was your priority—one of your main priorities—downtown since I’ve here in the last decade or so has really grown a lot, and it is amazing to see how it’s changed in the time I’ve been here. But some people may have concerns with maybe there’s too much focus on one particular area and feel they’re neglected in their part of the county. What are your plans to reach out to those areas and get other areas thriving as well?
CLIFFARD: I was a part of Mayor Reichert’s—and previous mayors as well—strategies and priorities of developing our urban core. I do think it’s important for any community to assist in develop the urban core, but we have a model in place that we know works. All we do is we take that very model, Tucker, and we transfer it over to the Bellevue area, we transfer over to the east Macon area. They’re stakeholders. This didn’t happen in a vacuum. It was a very intentional effort to revitalize downtown, and if we show the same amount of effort to other areas of this community, we can have the very same results. I’m not one who wants to point fingers and say other areas of the community are the way they are because we focused on downtown. I think we can do both. I think we can assist downtown in making sure that we have a solid urban core, but I also think we can use that same model and that same effort to partner with other areas of this community and see the same—the exact same—results. But you just don’t throw money in a particular area without a economic development strategy, and all of that starts with making sure there is fair, balanced, equitable distribution of opportunities in every area of Macon-Bibb. So we’re going to come in with our eyes wide open, being very intentional of how we have sustainable in the areas we focus on, and when this community focuses on achieving the goals and the priorities that we all collectively come up with, we can achieve these goals. But it’s going to require a mayor who has a track record of building bridges and working across party lines, working across racial lines, working across economic lines. Together, we can rebuild Macon-Bibb to something that is the envy of the nation, and I believe that at the core of my being. I’m a product of Macon-Bibb County. I was born and raised here. My family is here. I have a stake in seeing Macon-Bibb—all of Macon-Bibb—move forward in a positive way. And we can do that, and under a Whitby administration, there is no doubt—no doubt—that we’ll get it done.
TUCKER: You mentioned you were born and raised here. You also mentioned your several years of service to the county. A lot of people remember that or may know you, but for someone who doesn’t, and may only know you because of the federal bribery trial two years ago in which you were acquitted on all charges, I want to give you a chance to reach out to those people who may have doubts—or may feel you’re not the right person to lead them. What do you have to say to those people?
CLIFFARD: Tucker, we live in the greatest country in the world, and frankly, I am so pleased. Now, don’t get me wrong. Our family experienced a rough period there. But I’m so pleased that the United States Justice Department presented a case, with charges, that we completely refuted. Completely. Thoroughly. A jury of my peers—nine whites and three blacks—after nearly a three-week trial came back in minutes—minutes, Tucker—not guilty on every charge brought by the most powerful justice department in the land. Tucker, is there anything to talk about? I wouldn’t be sitting here today if there was any doubt, so I’m very proud of my record of service to this community, and I think by the 116 endorsements, to date, from stakeholders—many of the clergy of this community—Macon-Bibb is pretty proud of the service also.
TUCKER: Cliffard Whitby, candidate for Macon-Bibb Mayor. We appreciate you coming on to speak with us.
CLIFFARD: Thank you, Tucker. I appreciate it.
UPDATE: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Wednesday it is investigating Whitby regarding allegations of payments owed to the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority during his time as chairman of the Authority. Click here to read the full story, which includes Whitby’s response to the active investigation.
Snippets from all candidates’ interviews will air on 41NBC News at 5:30 p.m. and 41NBC News at 7 p.m. on Bounce TV Macon. All interviews will also be posted in full on 41NBC.com on the following days: