By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Newcomer challenges Hamby for Porterdale Mayor's seat
Placeholder Image

Incumbent Bobby Hamby, a longtime fixture in Porterdale government, faces James Himes, a relative newcomer to the city but a forceful candidate, in the Porterdale mayoral elections on Nov. 6.

Hamby will be running for his second term. He was elected to a two-year term in 2005 after former Mayor Paul Oeland ended his term early when he moved outside the city's limits.

Prior to serving as the city's mayor, Hamby served on the Porterdale City Council for eight years. He also served as the fire chief of Porterdale's Volunteer Fire Department for 21 years. Hamby retired from the fire department four years ago. Hamby also sits on the Board of Directors of the Newton County Water and Sewer Authority

Hamby said his platform today is much the same as it was in 2005 - namely, to work to return respectability to the city of Porterdale.

"I've always wanted to serve the citizens of Porterdale in whatever needs they have," Hamby said. "I felt like the city needed a leader who could go in there and help re-establish the respectability of Porterdale. I've worked to do that."

Himes - who has lived in Porterdale for the past three years after moving from Rockdale County where he had lived since 1987 - has put together a campaign platform centered on improving city services and bringing more commercial and

industrial growth to the city. This is the first time he has run for an elected office.

Himes said he has not been pleased to see rate increases in city services (water, sewage and garbage collection) during the last three years while at the same time the city's garbage service has been cut 50 percent.

"Our service rates keep going up but our services keep getting cut," Himes said.

Himes said he would work to improve city services by bringing more balanced economic growth to the city. Himes accuses the city government of putting all of their eggs in one basket by banking on residential growth to fund the expansion of city services.

With the recent housing slump, Himes said he is not sure how the city is going to pay for infrastructure improvements unless it aggressively seeks more commercial and industrial development.

"Our budget was based on predictions of these houses being developed and us collecting the tap fees," Himes sad. "We should have been focusing on solid-based commercial growth. We are a growing town but we've got all our eggs in one basket."

Himes said he was interested in seeing how a Tax Allocation District could be used by the city to encourage further economic development. The city of Covington considered using a TAD to do the same thing in 2006 but it did not pass a public referendum.

Hamby also agrees that there needs to be more commercial growth in Porterdale but said he was proud of the economic growth - instigated by the Porterdale Mill Lofts development - which has occurred in the city over the last two years.

"I've worked very hard over the last two years to bring some economic growth to Porterdale," Hamby said. "I've worked closely trying to get the right kind of development and we've been able to attract some good developers."

Hamby said he is proud of Porterdale's working relationships with other county municipalities and the Newton County government, which have been reestablished under his watch.

"After I was elected I found out that we didn't have very good relationships with Covington and the county and the other municipalities," Hamby said. "I have worked to restore those relationships."

Hamby said he has also reached out to the county's state representatives to repair damaged relationships with them as well as other state agencies such as the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

"We've been able to work with the DCA and the other government agencies I think a lot better than what was done in the past," Hamby said.

Himes however is questioning whether or not Hamby has overstepped the boundaries governing the mayor of Porterdale as set down in the city's charter.

According to the charter, the mayor of Porterdale does not have a vote on the city council and only can use his/her veto power on city ordinance matters.

"There's a lot of changes I'd like to make, especially as far as the structure of the government by controlling the limited powers of the mayor," Himes said. "We need a mayor that will not overstep his boundaries."

Hamby however feels that he is in-line with the city's charter.

"My position with the council is that I'm there to lead and guide and advise the council," Hamby said. "It's actually the council who makes the decisions but I try to give my input and my guidance to them on the decisions that are made."

Himes also questioned why public attendance at city council meetings has fallen off over the past several years.

"No one shows up at the council meetings," Himes said. "You can talk to a lot of people in Porterdale. We feel we're not welcome down there. I want to turn the city around. I want to give it back to the people."

While Hamby agreed that public attendance was not what he'd like it to be at council meetings, he said, that he has seen greater civic participation through the city's new committees.

"I think the involvement has been fairly good. Of course I'd like to see more public involvement," Hamby said of the city's council meetings, which occur on the first Monday of the month at 6 p.m. "We've always tried to be cordial to everyone that shows up."

As part of his effort to bring respectability back to the city, Hamby has overseen the formation of several city committees including a committee to raise funds for the restoration of the Historic Porterdale Gym. That committee has now formed a 501©3 organization called The Friends of Porterdale.

A Parks and Recreation committee and a Public Safety committee, which works with the city's fire and police departments, have also been formed. A transportation committee, which has the responsibility of looking into the transportation needs of the city has been formed as well.

"I think a couple of them have moved along pretty well," Hamby said. "Some of the other ones haven't moved along as quickly."

Raised in Coweta County, Himes said he is semi-retired from a specialized service, which he described as catering to the automotive industry. Himes said he has followed politics all his life and through his job has traveled all over the American Southeast. His girlfriend, Linda Finger, is running for a Porterdale city council seat this November.

"I'm mainly doing it to get the government of Porterdale re-established to the charter that they had written," said Himes of his candidacy. "Porterdale used to be a very gracious town. Over the last couple of decades, that got lost."

Hamby has lived in Porterdale since 1980. Before that he lived in Covington. He and his wife, Debra, own a shop on the historic Covington square called Teacher's Toolbox. They have one son, Ashley. He is also a member of the American Legion Post 32 in Newton County. He and his wife attend Porterdale Baptist Church.

"I think we've been able to accomplish more in the two years than has been done 10 years before that," Hamby said of his time as mayor.