Shortly after the May 3rd primary for the upcoming city election, each candidate in contested races on the June 6th New Albany general election ballot received an identical questionnaire from NAnewsweb.com. Each was asked to answer four questions. These are the responses in the candidates’ own words. The responses being posted today are the ones of the two candidates for First Ward Alderman. Those for Alderman at Large and Mayor will be posted during the next two days.
- What would you like our readers to know about your family, your residency in New Albany and your education?
- Would you tell us about the career you have pursued to earn a living?
- Why are you running for the office you seek, and, if elected, what do you hope to achieve during your four-year term of service?
- What do you believe are the top challenges New Albany faces in the future?
What would you like our readers to know about your family, your residency in New Albany, and your education?
New Albany has been my home for over 40 years. I can think of no other place I would rather have grown up. My parents moved from Birmingham AL in 1974 with my brother Brian and me when I started first grade at Mattie Thompson Elementary School. My parents are Ellen Olson and the late Raymond Olson. My mom worked at First National Bank in New Albany before it changed to Union Planters then to Regions. My dad was the comptroller at Piper Industries. My brother works at American Furniture as production scheduler/analyst.
In 1994, I married my high school sweetheart, Tracy Jo Futato. Three years later our daughter Kristen Blair was born at Baptist Memorial Hospital in New Albany. In 2003, Tracy was diagnosed with leukemia. She fought bravely for six years before she passed away in 2009 at the age of 38. Ironically, she died of the same disease that claimed my dad’s life in 1988. I’m so blessed to have my daughter Kristen in my life as she is a so much like her mother.
After graduating from W.P. Daniel High School in 1986 I attended Mississippi State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business & Marketing.
Tell us about the career you have pursued to earn a living?
I began my business career in golf management at Holiday Golf Club and Plantation Golf Club in Olive Branch where I was an Assistant Golf Professional. I then moved into the food service industry. I have extensive experience in sales, management, planning and marketing with 13 of those years serving as a business development consultant for Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream over the West Tennessee and Mississippi territories. I currently assist in running a dynamic local restaurant and catering company, Tallahatchie Gourmet, in New Albany. We have recently opened a second location in Oxford, MS.
Why are you running for the office you seek and, if elected, what do you hope to achieve during your four-year term of service?
First of all, it has been an honor and privilege to serve as an Alderman for Ward one. I believe that my years as Alderman have well prepared me for the office of Mayor. I want to see New Albany flourish. I want to see it become the community of choice for those looking for an awesome ‘small town” – one that is attractive to retirees, young couples with children, and individuals. I want to see it become THE community everyone is talking about in very positive ways. With any influx of newcomers, challenges of growth pop up.
As mayor, it is my plan that by working together with input from our citizens, we can develop a framework for growth so that we can maximize our city’s budget. We will plan ahead so that we know ‘what’ to expect ‘when’ so that the work we do is not wasted, so that your tax dollars are spent wisely, so we know how much match monies we have in order to apply for more grant funds for capital projects. To achieve such, we will focus on four key areas:
- Improving communication and collaboration between local government, the private sector and general public
- Updating and implementing a strategic master plan for commercial development and enhanced quality of life elements
- Continuing to improve our infrastructure in a proactive manner
- Seizing new economic opportunities for higher paying jobs
In specific detail there are several projects that I want to get from the planning and funding stage to completion:
- I want to strategically locate and build the proposed new police station and Light, Gas & Water headquarters by the end of 2020. We have outgrown our current facilities and need to modernize them for future years of service to this community.
- I want to continue to work with Bill Mattox (Director of NALG&W) and his team to aggressively upgrade and expand our water system so that it will become the highest quality water in this region. We also need to focus on construction of a new waste water treatment plant to facilitate future growth beyond our current city limits.
- Along with the Board of Aldermen, I would like to appoint a ‘task force’ to assess the current state of all of our streets and prioritize ones that need immediate repair and then implement a prioritization plan going forward to getting all of our roads in good condition.
- I hope we would be able to refurbish and upgrade all recreational parks throughout city and connect them with sidewalks and bike lanes. Also, it is important to visitors to the Tanglefoot Trail and to our local bikers to have New Albany certified as a “Bike Friendly” city for safety purposes.
- New Albany needs to be ‘recertified’ as a Tree City USA community in order to preserve our mature tree canopy for generations to come. Trees add to the value of property and community.
- I hope we (Mayor and Board) will revisit and update our comprehensive plans from 1997 and 2009. I hope citizens will express their own visions for growth for the coming years. Such a blueprint will provide a detailed land use map that promotes investment and economic benefits for New Albany. With that I hope we can create a community development and planning position to ensure that an adopted plan is followed and implemented.
What do you believe are the top challenges New Albany faces in the future?
- Managing our future growth- housing / reinventing our city environment
- Traffic congestion – Hwy 30 from Bankhead St. to Wal-Mart Distribution Center and Coulter Drive
- Economic development – seize new opportunities / take good care of existing businesses and industry
- Public safety – police and fire
- Education- Continue to support our excellent innovative schools, so they continue to be ranked among the best in the state in all aspects.
- City budget – The cost of running a city will continue to rise dramatically. It is our charge (as Mayor and Alderman) to maximize efficiencies and eliminate deficiencies in all of our departments.
- Cleaning up blight, replacing with affordable housing
To read posts of other candidates in contested races: