Incumbent mayor draws first challenger

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 3, 2008

FRANKLIN—Businessman and civic activist Gregory McLemore announced his candidacy for mayor on Wednesday.

&uot;I feel it’s time for a change,&uot; he said.

McLemore will oppose Jim Councill, who will be running for his seventh term as mayor in the May election.

McLemore, a Madison Street resident, has recently been in the news for securing computers that were donated to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and for his plan to turn the old Hayden school building into a performing arts school. He has helped organize a concerned citizens meeting in Ward 3 and neighborhood crime watch meetings.

&uot;I’ve had some help circulating petitions, and I’m getting a lot of support from people,&uot; he said.

A mayoral candidate must secure 125 signatures from registered voters before his name can be added to the ballot. That, along with other qualifying paperwork, must be filed by March 4.

McLemore’s platform includes electric and utility reform to lower bills for residents, creating good-paying jobs, creating affordable housing, improving the school system, and addressing the problem of escalating crime.

&uot;I would also like to see Franklin go more green,&uot; he said. &uot;We need to find ways to clean up and protect our environment.&uot;

McLemore said he also thinks that Franklin is not a business-friendly city.

&uot;We need to change some of these ordinances that are choking the small businessman,&uot; he said.

In addition, he feels that the city should work more closely with Southampton and Isle of Wight counties in regard to any common issues.

Increasing recreational programs and lowering taxes are also part of McLemore’s platform.

McLemore said that he thinks the current mayor has done a great job, but &uot;sometimes you need someone else to bring in fresh ideas,&uot; he said.

The city’s current mayor, running opposed on four occasions, most recently against Clarence Baker in 2006, said that any registered voter and resident of the city has the right and privilege of running for public office.

&uot;I appreciate (McLemore) having said that he thinks ‘the mayor has done a great job,’&uot; said Councill.

&uot;I have worked many hours — long and hard — to serve the needs of and address issues facing the entire city.

&uot;I represent the city at the state level (Virginia Municipal League) on the executive committee, and regional levels (Mayors and Chairs, Hampton Roads Partnership, Chairman of Southside Mayors & Chairs, Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance, and Opportunity Inc. Workforce Development Board). It takes a lot of time and I have the respect and appreciation of each of these organizations for my contribution to them.&uot;

Councill noted that change is the one constant on which we can depend.

&uot;Fresh ideas are always welcomed,&uot; he said, &uot;and change is always going on around us. We embrace change constantly throughout the city to adapt to new challenges and needs of the city all the time.

&uot;I am currently involved in the flood study work with Corp of Engineers and we have a number of projects facing the city which I think need experienced leadership,&uot; he said.

McLemore, originally from New York City, has been a Franklin resident intermittently for 30 years.

He is small-business owner, patented inventor of McLemore Collectible Displays and a retired radio broadcaster and program director. A former restaurant/nightclub owner, he has also managed several hotels and nightclubs in the Hampton Roads area.

McLemore notes that one of his passions is helping people and he wants to be &uot;a candidate of the people&uot; who need a voice in local government.

&uot;I care with passion about the growth and future of our city and will fight for the people and businesses of Franklin,&uot; he said, &uot;for a better quality of life and a fair opportunity to grow for our businesses and children.&uot;