COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – With election day less than a week away, we're taking a closer look at the incumbent and her opponent in the race for Columbus City Council District 9 at-large.
"We are at a critical crossroads in our city's history." That's part of a new TV and online ad released by political newcomer Reggie Liparoto, which somewhat takes her back to her roots.
"I worked in radio and television in Columbus for many years. My on-air name was Reggie Richards," said Columbus City Council District 9 candidate Reggie Liparoto.
She's taking on incumbent Judy Thomas, who's in her 8th year at city council member-at-large for District 9. Thomas is hoping voters give her a third term to serve them.
"I was born in Columbus and lived here until I was an adult. I taught school at Bibb Elementary for a couple years," Thomas said.
She later worked for Columbus' mayor-at-the-time Jim Wetherington, saying she learned a lot on that job.
Thomas' opponent this time around, was also a teacher. Liparoto worked years ago at Shaw High School.
She said, "I have never run for office before. I've assisted, volunteered on many campaigns."
Liparoto led revitalization for South Columbus Concerned Citizens - learning, she says, politics gets in the way.
Thomas said she's learned city councilors need to be willing to learn, listen, and even change their mind.
"I enjoy being able to be out in the community meeting people and working with people to help solve some of the problems," Thomas added.
"I'm Reggie from the Southside. I've done everything. I've had to struggle," Liparoto said. "I am more in touch with what the average citizen goes through every day in their lives, as far as take-home pay and their insurance."
Liparoto said her top priority is safety and increasing pay for police and firefighters."We've got a huge issue which is a critical shortage of police officers," she said. She's promising a five percent increase for every year for five years until we get up to where we need to be.
"We've got to find a way to better compensate not only our public safety employees but all city employees," Thomas agreed.
But they have different ideas on how to get there.
Thomas said, "We (Reggie and I) may be political opponents but we're not adversaries. We are both looking at what's best for our community."
Liparoto argued, "during her watch, many things did not progress the way they should have. Things that are really critical right now in our city need to have a fresh set of eyes on them."
Thomas counts experience as critical.
The incumbent said, "on the Other-Local Option Sales Tax, I was instrumental when that was developed, so I know all of the history of that."
With history in mind, voters will decide the future for the city council District 9 at-large seat in Columbus.
While Thomas says people appreciate her willingness to ask questions in council and not take things at face value, Liparoto makes her case that she could bring a new energy and perspective.
You can cast your early ballot weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Columbus City Services Center. Early voting ends Friday, May 19. Election day is Tuesday, May 22.