February 25, 2013 9:39:26 AM
Jeff Clark - [email protected]
Incumbent Bill Gavin and challenger Whirllie Byrd will mean business when they face off in the upcoming Columbus municipal election primary.
The turf both candidates will try to capture -- Ward 6 -- extends along the Highway 45 corridor and is the retail shopping center of the city. According to the 2010 Census, it was the most populated ward in the city with 3,940 residents.
Byrd currently serves on the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau board. Both are running as Republicans and face no Democratic opposition to date. Although the two candidates have different views, both agree that growing retail in Ward 6 is one of the key issues they face if elected.
"We have to continue to grow retail and economic development," Gavin said. "I'm working with the Leigh Mall to try and bring in some more retail. We've added over 40 retail stores, restaurant and hotels and that created over 400 jobs. Things are different these days with industry. An industry more than likely is not going to locate in Columbus. We have to continue to work to bring more retail to Columbus especially along Highway 45. We have to turn our attention towards retail."
Byrd also said she plans to make retail development a top priority.
"We need more businesses," Byrd said. "But we also need to keep what we have. I would like to see more growth, particularly in the Leigh Mall area. I'm also concerned about the streets near the mall. They always seem to need repairs. I hope to see more retail growth in the Leigh Mall and the surrounding area."
The deadline to qualify this year's election is 5 p.m. on March 8. The primary election will be held May 7. A run-off, if necessary, will held May 21. The general election is June 4.
Running unopposed to date are Mayor Robert Smith, Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor and Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box.
In Ward 2, incumbent Democrat Joseph Mickens is being challenged by Republican Susan Mackay. Mickens defeated Mackay in 2009 by 36 votes.
Longtime Ward 4 Councilman Fred Stewart faces challengers Marty Turner and Maurice Webber.
Incumbent Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem will face challenger Kenneth McFarland.