News Courier: The city’s most recent financial audit was released last week in a special session. City leadership says the audit paints a positive financial picture. As mayor, what will you do to ensure the city remains on sound financial footing, despite continued economic uncertainties?
J. Bradley Horner: I believe the audit was forthright and honest. It tells us the current condition of our city and government. I would like to see long-range savings plans that would allow us to increase our ratings as our city population grows. This would allow us to be better prepared for a natural disaster and to get our businesses running at full production in a shorter amount of time. I believe that creating a community of confidence in ourselves and those around us will encourage a stable economy. I would encourage development in a balanced economy that is equally weighted for income and growth potential. The 10 major business models that have had growth in the last five years should be alive in our community to deflect any uncertainties that may arise in the future.
NC: The city and county have worked together to land new industries over the last two years, while providing an atmosphere that allows existing industries to expand. What specific plans do you have to keep Athens on the radar of any industry or business?
Horner: Success is when preparation meets opportunity. I do believe that the key to any business sector growth is infrastructure. We must have sewer, water, electricity and natural gas readily available for any industry that will move here. This also includes Wi-Fi and high-speed Internet services available with continuous service. With technology changing in shorter cycles than any time in our world’s history, we must be able to adapt to the market’s demands at a fast pace.
As mayor of Athens, Alabama, it is my opportunity to seek out the businesses that have long range plans and encourage them to build here in Athens. It is our opportunity to advertise in trade magazines that business owners are gleaning their information regarding profitable places to plant and grow their business.
NC: The city recently gave $10,000 for the renovation of the old Trinity School/Fort Henderson project and $10,000 for the renovation of the Beaty-Mason home on the campus of Athens State University. Historic structures can be found throughout the city, yet the city’s Historical Preservation Commission only addresses historic homes in a handful of neighborhoods. Do you think the city needs a commission that would oversee historic preservation of structures throughout the city? Why or why not?
Horner: I believe the commission should work with the community as a private partnership. The Historical Preservation Commission (HPC) could purchase the homes, fix them up to their standards and sell them to the community. The profit of the sale of these homes could allow them to continue this process as long as they desire. This private entrepreneur approach allows them to showcase homes in all neighborhoods.
The HPC could also work with private owners of homes where the owners would like to restore their property to the original look and colors. I am personally very familiar with restoring historical homes, and realize a lot of detail is involved with historical renewal. Most require the homes to be cleaned down to the structural framing to allow for new amenities to be installed in the same spaces. The HPC could also help with designs of new homes on empty lots near the current historical homes to compliment the original structures of their era.
I believe the private approach to design, refurbish and selling these homes will be more efficient in the private sector. I believe the city of Athens can encourage the private partnership by reducing or forgiving the permit fees of the houses the HPC chooses to take into its care. This action will encourage growth and increase the values of the homes in these areas.
NC: The Limestone County NAACP recently asked city leaders to do more in terms of hiring minorities for open positions. As an elected official, what would you do to ensure the city fosters an environment of inclusion and exhibits a diverse workforce?
Horner: When we consider this minority/non-minority issue of hiring in the workplace, there is a point in this conversation that I contend. I believe in equal opportunity for all, but do not believe that we should regulate results. We as a community should say one to another, “You can have the same opportunity as I do.”
Opportunity can be defined as “we all have the chance to train ourselves to be anything we desire.” When it comes to regulating results of any hiring practice, someone is getting an unfair treatment. This goes against the equal opportunity belief system.
I believe that we can train our young people in this community to meet the qualifications to be a police officer, firefighter or provider of any other service to our community. I believe training begins in our homes, continues at our churches and throughout our schools. This training will result in a true equal opportunity for all.