“When I would drive down my roads, I thought to myself that if I don’t work to fix my roads, no one is going to,” Coffman said. “It’s really up to me to fix things.”
Repairing the city’s roads is a major platform from which Coffman is running for the Ward 4 city council seat, but it’s not the only area he sees in need of fixing. In fact, Coffman might consider himself a handyman for several issues in the city that he sees as broken and in need of repair. From the roads and infrastructure, to the city’s reputation in the business community and its relationship with the school district, Coffman has a long list of areas in town he considers damaged, but he is also quick to follow that list of problems with his own set of ideas for how to bring solutions.
Coffman, like most Piedmont residents, sees a great need to repair the city’s streets and he believes the best place to start is by creating a prioritized plan to determine which roads require the most urgent repair. Of course, funding is an issue, which is one reason the current city manager has proposed the idea of a $4.5 million bond. Coffman is open to the idea of a bond, but he also wants to see the city do a better job of partnering with the county to get some of its border roads and major routes repaired and replaced.
“Communities can enter into interlocal agreements with the county,” Coffman said. “Many of our major traveled roads are county border roads and I think there is an opportunity to work together to see some work get done. We already should have reached out to the county on this.”Will
Coffman also doesn’t want to see the city use long-term funding sources to perform quick repair jobs that will only last a few years. However, even if a bond were approved by voters and the city partnered with the county, it would still require the city to find additional funding and revenue sources, which is why Coffman said he is so troubled by the Williams Foods grocery store controversy.
“Funding has to come from somewhere and that’s where this Williams Foods thing is so troubling,” Coffman said. “It really troubled me when the city said it wanted (Jeff) Williams to file a lawsuit against the city. It really gave (Piedmont) a black eye and the city’s reputation in the business community is another thing that needs to be repaired.”
Coffman is in favor of approving the Williams Foods incentive deal and, if elected to the council in April, he plans to cast a favorable vote for the incentive deal. However, the other Ward 4 candidate, current councilman Hoss Cooley, voted against the latest incentive proposal and said his vote was made in an effort to protect the city.
“I am in favor of the original (proposal) with Williams for $1.9 million paid out through 2-cents sales tax,” Cooley said. “But I’m not in favor of paying interest, which is what Williams wants.”
Cooley admits the controversy with Williams Foods hasn’t been a positive image for the city, but the councilman said he tries to explain to businesses that might be considering a move to Piedmont that the problems have all been with Williams, not the city.
“Williams knew going in that he didn’t have the required votes to sell the bonds that he was after,” Cooley said. “All I do when I talk to other businesses is explain that to them. (Williams) took a big gamble.”
Beyond explaining his opinion on the issue with business leaders, Cooley said he is supportive of the Chamber of Commerce and believes Piedmont can and will attract new business.
Cooley may disagree with Coffman on the reputation Piedmont has in the business community, but he is in agreement that roads are a major issue and believes steps have been taken over the past year that will help Piedmont move forward, including a new city manager and engineer. Cooley, who voted to fire former city manager Clark Williams, said Jim Crosby has been a good find for the city and believes he has the expertise to help Piedmont grow. Cooley is also in support of the idea that a bond of some kind will be needed to fix the city’s roads.
“The only way this town is ever going to get all of our roads repaired is we are going to have to pass a small bond issue,” Cooley said. “Within this year, without a doubt, (a bond vote) will happen.”
Other issues important to Cooley include improving the city’s relationship with the school district, helping local youth sports clubs, such as soccer, finding space to construct new fields and facilities, and updating the city’s tornado and emergency sirens, which Cooley said fall short of being able to effectively send out a warning to the entire town. Cooley also points to his previous work on helping complete a deal with the school district to construct a new sewer line and helping find qualified leaders for key positions at city hall.
Both candidates point to their professional experience when campaigning for votes. Coffman, who moved to Piedmont in 2001, is a quality management systems program manager with the Federal Aviation Administration. Coffman said his job has prepared him to solve problems, perform research and lead people together in an effort to achieve a common goal. Coffman has a passion for planning and that is one reason he began attending city meetings a few years ago.
“I do a lot of project work so it’s fun to see how people planned,” Coffman said. “Back then there were differences on the council…but they still got things done. Over the years it seems like things are getting worse and we need someone who can help bring the council together.”
Cooley, who moved to Piedmont in 1979, is a former Marine and currently owns a construction business.
“I’m well qualified for (the council),” Cooley said. “I have had 36 years of operating my own business and it’s been a successful business.”
Cooley is proud of his record on the council and believes his term has been a successful one, although he admits it has been a challenging year. Cooley was successful in his legal challenge of a recall election set against him last year and he continues to fight the city for a reimbursement of his $9,000 in legal fees. Given the political turmoil of the past year, it would be easy to not seek reelection, and, in fact, that was the advice given to him by his family.
“My family really did not want me to run again because it’s been tough on my family,” said Cooley. “I just feel like there are things that are not completed yet that I wanted to get done before I walked away.”
On April 3, Ward 4 voters will decide if Cooley should get a chance to complete the work that is yet to be done, or if a newcomer should get a shot.