Courtland to see first female mayor in town history; 4 mayoral positions up for grabs in Lawrence County

Peebles

Courtland will see its first female mayor elected in the town’s history this August while four other Lawrence County municipalities have contested mayoral races in the upcoming election.

Linda Peebles, an International Paper retiree who’s lived in Lawrence County all her life, learned she will be the next mayor of Courtland when incumbent Mayor Clarence Logston decided he will not run for re-election.

Qualifying for municipal candidates ended at 5 p.m. last Tuesday, and no other contender had announced their intention to run in Courtland before the deadline.

“I feel I’m at a time in my life when I need to get more involved in Courtland and in the community. I love this small historic town and its people,” she said.  

When Peebles steps into the role in November, she said her first goal is to focus on Courtland’s infrastructure by looking into improvements for bridges and roads in the city limits. She said economic development in the city’s historic downtown is also a major goal she hopes to address.

“I have the time and love and dedication for this town and its people. I will work to see it grow,” she said. “My objective is to bring people back to Courtland so they can also enjoy its small-town way of life.”

Without the need for an election—each qualifying candidate is running unopposed—Courtland will also welcome new council members Tim Watts for District 2 and Lee Hitt in District 4.

In neighboring North Courtland, two candidates are vying for the mayor’s position. Incumbent Mayor Riley Evans Sr. is being challenged by former councilman Everette Mayes.

The town’s former fire department is a hot topic for the two contenders. Mayes, who held his position on the North Courtland Council for 20 years from 1996 to 2016, said one of his goals, should he be elected, is to re-establish a volunteer fire department.

“We’ve always had a department in North Courtland until the recent mayor’s administration,” Mayes said. “We had about 12 volunteers under the last administration.”

According to reports from 2018, when the fire department was consolidated with Courtland Volunteer Fire Department, the Lawrence County Fire Fighters Association froze funding to the North Courtland department following numerous bookkeeping discrepancies.

At the time, Steve Coan, who now serves as the association’s president, said problems including a lack of receipts and proper documentation stemmed back about 20 years with the department.

“Past administrations did not do what was asked of them,” Coan told the North Courtland council in August of 2018. “We don’t know where the money went. In some cases, there is no documentation.”

He said North Courtland’s fire department had received about $350,000 over the span of about 20 years and had “very little to show for it.”

“I want the fire station back operational,” said Mayes. “I will talk with the county association to see what steps are needed for us to get it back. The town deserves better than what we have.”

Evans said the decision to consolidate the fire department with Courtland’s department did not happen under his administration, but since the consolidation, he said North Courtland residents have benefited from lower insurance rates.

In May of 2019, following the integration of the two departments, North Courtland’s ISO fire score dropped from a 10 to a five. ISO ratings are used to determine how well fire departments are equipped to fight fires in their communities, and these scores are provided to homeowner insurance companies to calculate insurance rates for the specified area.  

“Courtland Fire Department maintained its ISO grade of five, and North Courtland’s rate dropped to a five after it was rezoned,” Courtland Fire Chief Scott Norwood explained. He said ISO fire scores range from one to 10, with one being the best possible rating.  

Mayes said reforming the police department and appointing a new chief was also a primary concern in his campaign.

Including a shooting reported in North Courtland on Sunday, Mayes said the town has seen six shootings in the last three or four years, something he attributes to a “lack of leadership.”

“We have no leadership from the mayor’s position, and the safety of the citizens is being compromised,” he said.

Mayes said he also wants to focus on lowering residents’ water bills in North Courtland by seeking grants through the town’s provider, West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority, and he would like to see a storm shelter installed within the town limits.

Evans, who said North Courtland has received about $25,000 in community development grants under his administration, said plans for a community shelter are already underway.

“We’re just looking for a spot to put it,” he said Tuesday.

City Clerk LaSonia Fuqua said the $25,000 in grant funds obtained for beautification around the city have been used to demolish condemned or abandoned structures on five properties during Evans’ first term.

“No city funds have been used to handle those properties. We’ve gotten permission from the property owners… we’ve used grant funds as part of beautification for the city,” he said. “As my plan (for a second term), I want to continue doing what I’m doing. We want to continue these beautification projects, continue community events, see our city grow, and keep the citizens happy.”

Mayes said city growth, retail recruitment, and improving quality of life for North Courtland residents were also hot topics he plans to address in his run for mayor.

In the Town Council, former Mayor Ronald Jones qualified to run for the Place 3 seat. Jones was granted a five-day extension last week after City Clerk Fuqua received a notice from the state ethics commission that Jones’ application was “out of compliance.”

Jones, who served as mayor from 2004 to 2016, said he is running for the council because, “it should be about serving the town.”

“You should have the community and its people on your heart when you hold that position,” he said. “It’s about the community, not the title. This is not just a popularity contest.”

Jones will challenge incumbent J.B. Jones for the Place 3 seat. Place 2 Ernestine Martin is also  being challenged by Shirley Mayes and Jeffrey Stewart.

In Moulton, incumbent Mayor Roger Weatherwax is vying for a second term in the race against Dixie Diamond Sports owner Chris Terry.

Terry said part of his plan for Moulton if he is elected includes partnering with neighboring communities to create industrial jobs that will benefit the city as well as the rest of Lawrence County.

“We have the resources here in Moulton that we can build on successfully. We need to be able to take calculated risks and step outside of our comfort zones to grow our great small town,” he said. “My plan as mayor will be to successfully manage growth in the city and allow development of the town on our own terms. I have a plan that can get us there.”

Weatherwax said he hopes to continue the work he began in his first term.

Two council members will also face challengers in the city’s upcoming election.

District 1 Councilwoman Joyce Jeffreys is being challenged by Danny Morris, and District 5 Councilman Brent White will face Pamela K. Moser.

In Town Creek, five of the six municipal positions are up for grabs.

Incumbent Mayor Mike Parker is seeking a fourth term against first-time candidate Lee Bradford, whose father District 4 Councilman Robert Bradford is being challenged by Arnold Ridgeway.

District 1 incumbent Aaron Goode will face Debra Brown, District 2 incumbent Charles Agee will face Dan Green, and District 3 incumbent Doug Russell is challenged by Johnathan Sherrill.

District 5 councilman David Letson will be re-elected with no challengers.

In Hillsboro, incumbent Mayor Charles Owens will face Scottie Bolden.

The last day to register to vote for municipal elections is Monday, Aug. 10. Statewide, most municipal elections will take place on Aug. 25.

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