SOCIAL CIRCLE -- Mayoral candidate Hosea Jackson said bringing life back to Social Circle's downtown is a priority for the health of the city.
"We need to get creative and get downtown moving again," Jackson said.
One problem, he said, is there is no place for people to congregate and socialize. Having a central location where residents could feel a sense of community, like a coffee shop, would go a long way toward revitalizing what Jackson sees as the core of Social Circle.
Jackson decided earlier this year to run for mayor once he learned Mayor Jim Burgess would not seek re-election. While this will be Jackson's first foray into elective politics, he said he is ready.
"I've been thinking about this since 2004, and it was the right time now," he said.
"I'm more of a leader and I think my ideas are better served if I'm leading."
Jackson is a lifelong resident of Social Circle and recently retired from Leggett & Platt as the plant superintendent. He and his wife, Clara, have two grown children, Rico and Laquita.
"I have lived in this town all my life, and I see the town drying up and no one seems to care," he said.
Jackson said economic development must focus not only on new businesses, but also on retaining existing ones. He said Solo Cup and General Mills were offered incentives to locate their distribution centers in Social Circle, and he would like to see the same emphasis placed on recruiting businesses to the city's historic area.
"I think we should do something like offer incentives to bring businesses downtown, give them a break," Jackson said. "We also need to reward those businesses who have been here a long time."
Jackson said he is concerned that promises of economic growth have yet to materialize, pointing to the bypass around the city that is not yet completed and is devoid of industry. Projections are that the second half of the bypass will be finished in 2012.
"I know the economy is bad; it's bad for all of us," Jackson said. "But look at cities like Madison and Monroe. They're doing better. We can too. We may not be able to do as well as we did in the '70s or '80s, but we can do better too."
If elected mayor, Jackson said he would work hard to make sure the local government is accessible to all people and that a variety of voices are heard.
"The more ideas the better, and with input from all of us, then the mayor and council can hear and decide which ideas to expound on," he said.
At the same time, Jackson said, he does not want the local government to become too intrusive in people's lives. He said the city's emphasis on code enforcement can verge on overreaching.
"It's all about personal responsibility," Jackson said. "We should try to educate people first. The less government, the better. The more government, the more confusion you have."
Qualifying for the Nov. 8 municipal elections begins Monday and will run through Aug. 2. So far Jackson and retired local banker and former Social Circle School Board Chairman Hal Dally have declared their intentions to run for mayor. City Councilman David Keener withdrew last week from the race.