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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – 41NBC is continuing conversations with candidates running for office.
Candidate name: Al Tillman
Running for: District 9 Macon-Bibb Commissioner (as incumbent)
Occupation: Booking and talent agent for 25 years; military veteran
Campaign Website: altillman2020.com
Campaign Facebook: Al Tillman, Community
Q: I’ve been here since 2012. I know you were involved in the community long before you were in public office. Why do you do it? Why were you involved originally, and now that you’ve held office for some time, why do you want to continue holding office?
A: My whole thing man is a second chance. I got involved in the community trying to teach young guys the important of staying in school, gang members the importance of changing their lives and living a second chance. Somebody gave me a second chance. The military changed and saved my life. My father was shot and killed by law enforcement when I was one year of age, and I’m walking, living proof that second chance exists.
I just think young people need the opportunity to know that it exists. I joined the NAACP back in 2005, rose through the ranks, became president of the local branch, became a national conflict resolution person here for the state of Georgia through that organization. Community engagement is what I’ve been practicing. I’m proud to say out of all the commissioners, I’m number one when it comes to community engagement. District 9, our community, is number three as far as the less-blighted districts, and so those are things we’re just proud of.
Q: You’re probably the only candidate I’ve interviewed so far that’s in office right now. I’ll ask a tough question here. What’s one weakness, you think—before I get to the positives—what’s one weakness you think that you can build on if you’re re-elected?
A: I think the weakness is we’ve just got to clean up this community. That’s one of the goals going forward. This community is filthy community. I think illegal dumping and folks just throwing mattresses and sofas in our community is something that we all as a community have failed at, and I think that’s what you’re going to see as a new initiative for me going forward. I think we can do a better job with that.
Q: Based on your experience—you are one of the unique ones that is in office now—how will it help you that you are already established as commissioner?
A: Being elected by my peers as the Mayor Pro Tem is a huge feat. I understand community and that you have to listen to the community. I don’t just wait until election season to get things done. We were very instrumental after 25 years of building Fillmore Thomas Park. We had 28 meetings for Fillmore Thomas Park. We had 16 meetings as it relates to Log Cabin Road improvements. We had nine meetings for Eisenhower business improvement–second most traveled street in Macon-Bibb County. We were instrumental in our blight funding for Napier Fire Station and deputy precinct. Ban the Box Initiative, where Georgia became the 14th state to Ban the Box, meeting with President Obama’s Justice Department and he eventually signed into federal law six months before he left, and so I’m just proud of those things that have happened.
The community knows me. They trust me, and they know they get the real deal with Al Tillman, and they know that nobody’s going to come in here and just take credit for what we’ve already done. So we just look forward to continuing the day-to-day operations, and I can’t wait until June 9th is over, so I can continue to do the work for the people and not just say what I’m going to be doing because it’s election season.
Q: One of the biggest talking points when I interviewed all the mayoral candidates, and all the rest of the candidates, too, is crime, obviously, for Macon-Bibb. How do you fight crime while also—with the current situation with law enforcement and the fear that you see in many communities—how do you balance that? The fear—while also reducing crime?
A: I’ve heard those mayor candidates make promises and commitments about what they’re going to do. They can’t do anything without the sheriff’s approval. We simply fund the sheriff and through his initiatives. Hiring 150 officers–no commissioner, no mayor can do that. Talking about somebody working and paying off child support–all that stuff is just false pretenses to get the voters riled up because it’s popular to talk about the importance of liking and loving our sheriff’s department.
The thing that we’ll continue to do is offer opportunities through sheriff dividends that Commissioner (Virgil) Watkins and I helped pass in that we encourage young folks in our community, from our community, to become a part of it through law enforcement. If you want to see something change and different, you have to become a part of it.
We’re not going to go back and hire and ask those that have retired 25, 30 years, that’s been a part of the problem for so many years to come back. We’re going to love and respect and teach those hopefully through the sheriff’s department that he will do sensitivity training and those sorts.
So I’m not going to sit here and make a false pretense and say I have something to do with the sheriff’s department. We have absolutely nothing besides just passing his budget and supporting him. We have no control over the sheriff’s budget, so when commissioners or those mayoral candidates say that, they’re not being honest, and I’m just just sorry. It’s just the truth.
And the sheriff is busy trying to defend his office with a person that’s running for his office, so he hasn’t said anything either, but most everybody knows that’s an elected official, those candidates can’t do anything with the sheriff’s department, so it sounds good, but I’m not going to give you that false pretense.
Q: Speaking of budgets, you mentioned the sheriff’s budget there. You guys have been working on hammering out the county’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. How tough has that been with the pandemic?
A: Well, actually, it hasn’t been as tough as it seems, because what we’ve done is we’re going to pass the same budget we did in 2019. The sheriff and all the departments and all the constitutional offices will still receive the same amount of money that they’ve been entitled to receive over the last couple of years. And so what we’re hoping to do is from the federal government standpoint is Macon-Bibb County, the world gets back to work–that things will improve and we’re hoping that through the federal government, through some of those gaps, will pick up some of the costs. But everybody’s just got to tighten up and do more with sometimes a little bit less.
Q: Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you wanted to hit on—why voters should vote for you again?
A: The thing is we’re going to continue to do what we’re doing in District 9. I think the voters understand that as we move forward, it’s to just partner and clean up this community. And we need buy-in from citizens, Solid Waste Department, our sheriff’s department, Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission. And hold me accountable, because I’m real about cleaning up this community and you’ll see. Your station will see that we’re going to try to offer incentives through Visa cards and try and get the public/private sector to join us in this effort in holding those accountable that trash our community and our neighborhoods.
A lot of the stuff is not a government issue when you’re talking about blighted properties. It’s a people issue. People have to take charge and be responsible for their government. So, no, I think you’ve covered everything.
I would encourage folks to put down the marijuana cigarettes and go out and get some of these great jobs that the Industrial Authority is bringing, like Kumho Tire, Irving Tissue and so many others that’s available just with a high school diploma or something. If that doesn’t work for you, go join the military. It helped save and changed my life.
Tillman is running against Brendalyn Bailey.