Tollie Strode, Jr., leader of a citizens’ accountability group which has wrangled with the city over finances on occasion, announced Monday plans to run for the District 10 at-large council seat should a special election be held.
“After discussions with family, close friends, and citizens throughout the Columbus community, I’m humbly offering myself for public service as a candidate for the District 10 at Large City Council Representative, Columbus, GA,” Strode wrote in a statement issued to the media. “... I’ve worked to improve our community through service on various boards, committees, and initiatives. I’ve advocated for citizens to ensure that their best interests were represented.”
Strode plans to vie for the seat which will be vacated by Councilor Skip Henderson when he steps down from the elected position in his bid for mayor. Strode filed a Declaration of Intent on Monday with the Muscogee County Elections Office.
The Declaration of Intent allows potential candidates to begin raising money, but they can’t officially run for office until they qualify in March. The qualifying period for the May 22, 2018, city election is March 5-9, 2018.
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When Henderson steps down from the council position will determine whether his successor is chosen by council or voters, according to City Attorney Clifton Fay.
Since Henderson has been in his job for more than 180 days, Columbus Council will appoint someone to fill his seat. But the timing of Henderson’s resignation and Columbus Charter, Section 6-201, will determine how long the appointed person holds the seat, Fay said.
“If the vacancy occurs prior to Feb. 19, 2018, then a 90-day call and notice will be issued by the Board of Elections and a special election to replace the Council appointee will be held on May 22, 2018 to fill the Council seat for the balance of the unexpired term,” Fay said in an email.
If Henderson waits until the qualifying period a couple of weeks later to resign, then the appointed person will serve until 2020, Fay said.
“However, if Councilor Henderson vacates his council seat after Feb. 19, 2018, or by qualifying to run for mayor between March 5-9 at noon, 2018, council then will appoint a person to sit in his seat until a special election can be held on May 26, 2020,” Fay said.
Strode first came to Ft. Benning after being commissioned as an Infantry Second Lieutenant at West Point United States Military Academy, according to the news release. After traveling throughout the U.S. and internationally, he and his wife, Gloria Branford Strode - a native of Columbus - returned to the area in 1983.
Strode served as Mayor Teresa’s Tomlinson’s campaign manager when Tomlinson first was elected in 2010. However, the two had a falling out after the election, and he became one of the mayor’s most ardent critics.
In February, Strode filed a complaint with the Office of the State Inspector General over 1999 SPLOST proceeds that continue to roll into city coffers. He appeared before council on behalf of the CCG Accountability Forum, which had just launched a “Columbus Refocus” initiative to “constructively guide the City Government on a path that improves the return on investment for financial sacrifices made by Muscogee County Citizens,” according to the group’s website.
Strode also served as chairman of the Muscogee County School Board’s Alternative Education Community Advisory Committee, established to in the wake of Superintendent David Lewis’ controversial proposal to hire Camelot Education, a private, for-profit, Texas-based company, to run three alternative education programs in the district. The school board rejected Lewis’ recommendation by a slim margin.
In Monday’s news release, Strode said Columbus is at an important juncture which requires strong leadership.
“Given the opportunity, I will continue with personal commitment, integrity, invaluable professional insight, and diligent focus to responsibly advance our city to excellence,” he wrote. “I will work on behalf of citizens and families, the business community, and government employees. I am vested in the Columbus community.”