DECISION 2020: Meet Mallory Jones, seeking re-election for District 4 Macon-Bibb Commissioner

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – It’s election season, which includes Macon-Bibb voters electing commissioners.

41NBC News is introducing you to commissioner candidates for your district.

Decision 2020: Meet Mallory Jones, Macon-Bibb Commission Candidate for District 4

Candidate name: Mallory Jones

Running for: District 4

Occupation: Current Macon-Bibb District 4 Commissioner / Realtor

Campaign Facebook: Mallory Jones for Macon-Bibb Commissioner

Q. Mallory Jones, you are rerunning for your district in district four. You’ve been a big advocate on making sure that our first responders get pay raises and really pushing that county employees get pay raises. Do you think right now, with recovering our economy, that’s going to play a toll in those pay rates? Where do you stand now with everything?

A.  We’re going to deal with a budget like we’ve never had to deal with it before. Because we’re dealing with something we’ve never dealt with before. Hitting community, state and nation in the world will the Covid-19. My goal is to still have a pay raise, and that still be part of the budget. As you know, the budget is the mayor’s budget. He presents this to us and you see it just as soon as we see it, the same day and I think that’s going to be May the 19th. We’re still meeting by Zoom, but  I feel like that will be a part of the budget. We’re waiting on the final results of the pay study that was authorized. That’s really my number one goal — to make sure everybody gets a pay raise, especially public safety officials. As you know, law enforcement is not paid competitively with the surrounding counties. For instance, a certified deputy starts at $34,500 and we know Monroe County, for instance, they start at $40,500. So we’ve got to be competitive in the marketplace. We’re a bigger community of roughly 154,000 people. And our people take on probably more risk. And so they take on more risk and more danger potentially, and yet they’re paid less amounts of money. So we’ve got to be competitive with the marketplace. Number one goal for me for Macon, Georgia is to have a safe place in which to live, work and play. If we don’t have a safe community, we don’t have anything at all.

Q. When you see that budget in a couple of weeks, what are some things that you’re looking forward to? Because this is, like you said, we have never experienced anything like this. How do you plan on working with the mayor and what are some things you’re looking for in this fiscal year budget to make sure we can pull out?

A. Well, working with him and maybe more so with other commissioners, and the role of government is to provide for public works, solid waste and all the things they do. Public safety, fire and police, emergency management. And there are many things in the budget that are wonderful things that are in our community that we may not be able to accommodate this year. And we’ve already taken a hit on the sales tax. We don’t have the figures yet. But those sales tax figures for April, will probably drop like a rock. And I’ve talked to some of the hotel, motel tax for instance. And talking to Charles Olson the other day. They hadn’t had any occupants in like 10 days, and he had two people coming in. So I mean all the motels have gotten clobbered, all that, all those sales tax revenues. We don’t know what the figures are because they haven’t been tabulated yet, but we should be getting them for April pretty soon and it’s going to be like dropping a rock off a cliff. So it’s going to be some real challenges to fund. We’re going to have to make some tough decisions and fund what we have to fund. And the mayor has said he does not see a tax increase. You may or may not remember, I voted no on both tax increases in the last six years. Many good things are in the budget, but there were things in the budget that shouldn’t have been in the budget, for instance. So pay raises, especially for public safety, is paramount in my mind. That has to be done. We’ve got to be competitive in the marketplace because if we’re not a safe community, we’re not a community at all.

Q. Do you think we need to push for the OLOST more now to make sure we can find those funds somewhere to recover?

A. Well, as you may know, I was the main proponent of the OLOST last time and we couldn’t get it done. The state legislature has to approve that. And what I wanted was, the final plan I ended up with was 80% to go as a rollback on taxes, which would have been six mills, which would equate to exactly what the increase was in the last three years. And the other 20% could go toward public safety, which would have been another, I think, four or five million dollars. That’s not going to pay the public safety budget, but it would have helped. Then at the end, I even told him, they didn’t, What they have to do is get every consolidated government in the state to agree to this is the new model. This is the new law. The only law that is up there is one that Columbus, Muskogee passed many years ago and it’s 100% toward a rollback. So finally I said, “Okay, just give us 100% rollback. That’s good. We’re good with that.” But as you know, the state legislature has to put it on the ballot and if they pass it out, they have to get Athens, Clarke, Columbus, Muskogee, all the consolidated governments and you get them to say, “Okay, this is going to be the new law.” Because Columbus, Muskogee had 100% rollback, but it froze property values. After the fact, they said, “We wish we hadn’t have made that a part of it.” Because what you did was froze property values for someone who bought a house maybe in a period of time, and then they went to sell it. They couldn’t sell it for more because they wouldn’t allow it to be sold from over. So that was not a good thing. And Dale Washford and Robert Dickey agreed with me on that. Yeah, we don’t like the property freeze, property value freeze. But even that didn’t get passed and put on the ballot. So we ended up with nothing. But to answer your question, yes, I think the OLOST would maybe more now than ever be a good thing.

Q. With combating the Sheriff’s crime issues and addressing the citizens concerns on crime, how do you plan on continuing your efforts to do that?

A. Well, number one is we’ve got to have a pay increase there so that he has the tools. Sheriff Davis has done a good job. He just doesn’t have the tools when you’re, you hear different numbers, anywhere from 130 to 140 deputies short. And he’s in a reactive frame of mind instead of a proactive. We don’t have enough people on the street to deter crime. So we’ve got to give him the tools, and the main tool we can give him as a competitive pay scale whereby he can not only attract new people, and it’s hard enough for him, as he’s told us, you might interview 20 people and maybe one of them are a man or a woman who he thinks will be a good deputy that meets all his criteria. But we’ve got to have the pay scale in place to not only attract new people, but also retain the people we have. Because someone could leave Macon-Bibb County and say, “Well, Hey, I can go to Monroe County and have less stress and less risk and make more money.” So we’ve got to be competitive. So that’s the main thing we need to do to deter crime. That’s step one and then that gives him, and that won’t happen overnight. You’re not going to all of a sudden hire 130, 140 deputies in one fell swoop. It’ll take months and even years.

Q. What about blight? What is your stance on blight? I know you guys over at the commission currently have worked hard to address commercial and residential blight. With the new group of commissioners coming in, how do you plan on continuing your efforts to address that issue as well?

A. Well, we’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing. The land bank authority, as you know, is a partner in that, and I think we need to also partner up with the Board of Education, because they have some funds that they could use, properties that may be very next door to or very close to a school. And we finally got a board member on the land bank authority. So we need to partner with them. We need to keep doing what we’re doing. We’re not going to be able to rid it in one year. Nobody likes blight. And of course I’m well aware of how blight affects property values because I’m in real estate. But it doesn’t matter whether it’s next to you, if it’s in our Macon-Bibb County then it’s a negative impact. So we’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve had great assistance from tax commissioner Wade McCord you may recall. And he’s got a new program in place where he is auctioning properties off and he’s had some creative outside of the box thinking on some ways that we have approved and that has helped. But it took us 40 or 50 years to get into shape. So we’re not going to clean it up in one year, but we need to continue our efforts. And blight goes hand in hand with crime. It’s intertwined with the crime factor.

Q. What do you think Macon-Bibb has that other areas in middle Georgia don’t that makes us so special?

A. Well, we probably think ours is better. We’ve got a great vibrant downtown in normal times with bars and restaurants and great places to walk around. We’ve got a great historical heritage in it, and I think we were founded in 1823, so we’re an older city. There’s a lot of beautiful historical architecture like you see in Savannah, similar to that. And we’ve got a tremendous musical heritage, Capricorn Records. Now it’s coming back to me.  So Capricorn Records has been totally redone thanks to Mercer University. So that’s going to be a tremendous draw because we have the big house, the Almond Brothers house on Vineville Avenue. That’s a tourist attraction and we’ve got the Cherry Blossom Festival. Hey, people don’t know but the Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the top 100 events in North America. Think about that. One of the top 100 events in North America. So that’s a huge thing there. And we’ve got two major hospitals, ACA Coliseum and Navicent Health — two world-class hospitals. We’ve got tremendous medical doctors and nurses here. They do a fabulous job and they’re working like crazy now. So we’ve got all … I think this is Geico’s largest plant that’s here for employment. YKK zipper is here. All sorts of things. I’m sure I’m leaving out some things that somebody is going to say, “Hey, why didn’t you mention me?” But those are many of the things that are great draws. We’re in the middle of the state. If you go back, way back to 1922, we were actually the trade hub, the shipping hub of the state of Georgia, and we consider ourselves the hub of the state of Georgia. So got four or five interstates or routes that come through here. So shipping is coming from I-16. So we’re in the middle of the state, we’re conveniently located. We’ve got all sorts of good things, we’ve got the new baseball team, that’s a draw where college players are playing. I mean, all of this stuff has really just stopped, as you know, here in this COVID-19 crisis, but gosh, we’ve got so many things. If somebody says they don’t have anything to do in Macon, Georgia, they must be living under a rock.

Q. Is there anything else that you would like your constituents to know before heading to the polls June 9th? Anything else you would like them to know that you’re going to continue fighting for, advocating for?

A. Well what I’m going to continue what I promised them way back in 2013 was that I was going to be their voice in their government, in their community. That I was going to represent their values, and the concern, if it’s important to them, it’s important to me. And we do all sorts of things. We get calls from all sorts of things, not always under our purview. Sometimes you’re like a traffic cop sending somebody to the right department, but I’m going to continue to listen to the public and respond in a timely manner, which I’ve done for over six years. And when they call about needing a traffic light at Mass Road in Providence because we’re having accidents here — so we got that done. When they call about the intersection in front of Camden North on Highway 41 — that was totally restructured. That took 15 months in concert with GDOT. And when they call, and we got clobbered just recently, Stone Edge, by the storm and tornado that hit in April, Mother’s Day. The next morning, actually, early hours of the morning. So I convinced county, the county manager, we need to reinstate yard debris now. We’ve taken it away because we’ve got all this excess garbage and we’re helping advance disposal services, but we need to reinstate it. That was reinstated April 27th. And you know Hurricane Irma — when it hit years ago, the cleanup that was in concert with FEMA. That stalled for neighborhoods like Stone Edge and Lake Wildwood. Well, I got involved with emergency management, we expedited that and that cleanup was completed. So in a nutshell, I’m going to continue to be their voice and can continue to represent their values in making Georgia what I feel like, and what I’ve been hearing all these times from emails and phone calls. I’m going to continue to represent them in their government, that they will have a voice. I will listen and will speak up on their behalf as I’ve done for over six years.

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