Baker says 'no plans' to run again for mayor

Baker says 'no plans' to run again for mayor

June 12th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

ROSSVILLE ELECTIONS


Qualifying is Aug. 29 to Sept. 2 for the mayor's office and two council seats in Rossville. The election is Nov. 8.

Rossville Mayor Johnny Baker says he has "no plans to run for a fourth term," but that could change if no one he feels is qualified to lead the city files to be on the ballot.

"All in all, I'm sad to leave this job," he said Thursday. "I want the wheels to keep rolling the direction they're rolling."

Baker, 75, said his final decision will hinge on who qualifies to replace him.

"If no one runs for the job, I will not leave the job unattended," he said.

Councilman Teddy Harris has said he is looking seriously at a mayoral campaign if Baker doesn't run. Harris said Thursday he will run for office, but is trying to decide among the mayor's office, his current council seat and the District 2 state House seat. Incumbent state Rep. Martin Scott, R-Rossville, has said he will not seek again.

Les Coffey, controversial owner of the Peerless Mill in Rossville, also is considering a mayoral run, promising to fight what he calls corruption among officials.

"At this point I'm serious about it," Coffey said.

Coffey was named one of the Walker County Sheriff's Office "Most Wanted" fugitives on June 2 on charges related to alleged tampering with the Rossville sewer system and felony escape. He had not been arrested as of Friday, but said he may eventually turn himself in.

Baker, who worked in sales and marketing at Coca-Cola for 41 years before retiring in 1999, said his health is not a factor - he mowed grass 3 feet high at two abandoned homes in the city Wednesday.

He said he just wants time to enjoy his retirement. Unlike Fort Oglethorpe or many other cities in the region, Rossville doesn't have a city manager, so the mayor is relied on for many of the city's day-to-day operations.

Baker said he is proud of the progress made in sprucing up the city's downtown. He said department heads are working together in "total harmony" and the city is well-positioned to keep improving.

Baker drew heat for firing some city workers shortly after taking office in 2000 and for casting the deciding vote in support of a traffic camera ordinance in 2006. He turned against the cameras two months later after seeing more research.

But his most contentious time in office was selling the City Council on allowing the sale of packaged beer and wine in Rossville, a battle that took place in 2002 and 2003.

"That was very unpopular, and I guess I was the one headed straight to hellfire and damnation," the mayor joked.

But seven years later, such sales bring in about $60,000 in taxes annually and have not caused any increase in drunken-driving arrests, the mayor said.

Baker said he's lost some friends over the last decade because of politics, but he is proud of what he and other leaders accomplished.

"When I walk down the street, not everybody speaks to me," he said. "When I worked for Coca-Cola, everybody spoke to me."