Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final part of coverage from the mayoral forum.
Perry Vickers was the last candidate featured at the Republican Women of Coffee County’s mayoral forum last Wednesday. His opening statement is as follows, followed by his answers in the Q&A session:
“This is one of the few times that all the candidates have an opportunity to come together and speak about why they wish to hold a political office in Enterprise. I’m not going to go into who I am; most of you already know who I am. I’m very proud to say that in the past three and a half years, the Enterprise City Council has accomplished most of what I said we needed three and half years ago. Sometimes, we were able to accomplish things in spite of efforts to delay and to thwart.
“Having inherited an aggregate debt of over $100 million, this council has been able to lessen that by $25 million. Right now, we stand at about $76 million in debt. I think that’s one of the prime accomplishments that we have done. The other one was being selected for the site of the veteran’s home. This was done by the council having the forethought to buy the tract of land that the home is going to be placed [on], and also by the work of the Coffee County Commission, the Industrial Development Board and a committee of citizens all working together for the common good. That’s how we got that home. When the veteran’s home is up and running, Ben E. Keith up and running and Wayne Farms up and running, we will have another industrial expansion and will add approximately 1,350 jobs to Coffee County and to Enterprise. That’s a great accomplishment.
“In these many accomplishments as councilman and Council President, I can truly say that I had the privilege and the honor of being a part of it. As mayor, I want to see the veteran’s home that everybody worked for up and running and our veterans receiving the kind of care that they so righteously deserve. I want to work with the council to develop a plan to get our streets up to a passing grade. I know you’ve been listening and reading in the newspaper, right now our average grade for our roads and streets in Enterprise is a 52. It’s going to take years and a lot of money to get our streets back to where they need to be.
“I want to work with the Industrial Development Board. We have a problem right here in Enterprise in the fact that a lot of monies are being leeched by Dothan. We don’t have the retail establishments that they do. What we need to do is work with the Chamber and Main Street and try to get new retail establishments to come into Enterprise. Right before COVID-19 we were ready to do that, but that stopped a lot of things.
“I want to ensure there is better communication between the mayor and city council. As there is a strong possibility that the city may witness some retirements and the incoming council will be the one to select the new department heads, I think it’s critical that the mayor and the council work together in order to build a good team.
“The school system has been a major part of our growth. Like Bill [Cooper], I spent 38 years in the school system as an administrator, and I know how they talk and I know how I communicate with them. Fort Rucker is a driving engine for Enterprise. It needs to be more than just, ‘We appreciate your service.’ It needs to be that Fort Rucker is their home and we are their neighbor.”
As mayor, how do you plan on addressing the changes in our revenues, especially once the Paycheck Protection Program loans and unemployment dries up if our sales tax revenues do greatly decrease?
I need to tie-in one thing that I did not say before. The council has been able to increase our reserve funds from approximately $3 million and now it’s over $11 million. Another thing is the fact that we looked at May and we were holding our breath when the financial reports came in. We knew that we were going to be alright, but we were still holding our breath. What was great to see, though, was that Enterprise people shopped in Enterprise. It was because of them doing that that we kept on trucking when a lot of people weren’t. It’s something that this council constantly looks at as far as the finances are concerned; that’s our job. That’s what we’re supposed to do, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
What are your top three priorities to maintain the continual growth of Enterprise?
Those plans are already underway. The citizens of Enterprise deserve ways in which they can increase the quality of their lives. I’ve pushed, and some of the other councils have pushed, that hopefully we can build a new recreation/administrative building along with a wellness center. It’s more than a pool. Right now, there are plans underway in order for us to build a soccer, multi-purpose complex. The thing about recreation is that [it] brings money into Enterprise. You would be astounded at how much money a baseball tournament brings in to Enterprise, and if we can build those facilities, we can see Enterprise grow. Along with that comes your retail establishments. We have got to do something in order to diverse what we have. Not to play on, but to diverse.
The Day of Prayer event was canceled at the beginning of COVID-19, even though it was outside and people could have easily distanced themselves from each other. How will you gauge the serving of Enterprise citizens regarding events if you’re elected mayor?
Being a retired Methodist minister myself, within the Bill of Rights there’s a little thing called freedom of religion. If you interfere with that, you’re going to be in trouble. And we don’t need to [interfere]. People should have the right to worship when, where and how they wish to.
Who are the top five business donors to your mayoral campaign?
I’ve had one business entity to contribute to my campaign. He’s a lifelong friend, and he donated $1,000; but, he does not do business with the City of Enterprise.
With the uprising of lawlessness and protests being held in cities across our nation, what are you prepared to do to maintain law and order if such a protest breaks out in Enterprise?
A little while ago when we had that demonstration, one of the other groups that was involved in talking was the city council. I think the city council, being the representative of the districts throughout this town, also need to be involved in the communication as to what’s going on. It’s a situation, I’m afraid to say, in our country right now where it is extremely hard to find a police officer. Enterprise is short. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s going to get worse if we don’t support them.
We have a homeless problem in Enterprise. What are your ideas on addressing and helping with this problem?
I agree with Mr. Cooper, but ladies and gentlemen, it’s a double-edged sword. The more you help, the more you’re going to get. If you don’t realize that, look at Dothan. Dothan has a huge problem. Now I’m not saying don’t help people, but I think it needs to be more of a faith-based helping than the city helping. When you’re $76 million in debt, it makes it very difficult to start adding on other things.
I understand we are still waiting on this year’s audit, and here it is three months before October. Will you require the city to have an annual audit by a reasonable date each year?
Since taking office, the financial records and financial audit have been a huge problem. The firm that is doing the audit right now came in back in November and promised that they would have the audit quicker than any other time. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re three months away from the end of the fiscal year so don’t tell me that we need to wait. We need to make decisions on what we’re going to do next year. We can’t afford to wait. Give us the audit.
Will you be willing to allow neighborhoods that should be in the Enterprise city limits, meaning neighborhoods all around them are already in, to also be annexed into the city limits?
It has to be a 100 percent agreement if they want to annex into the city. Lately, we have annexed some portions out in the county, but it was places that were going to be built into subdivisions and there was only one owner on the property. They requested it, so it’s a lot easier when that one person requests to come into the city than when you have 20 or 30 or 40. That’s the way it’s been done lately.