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Three run for District B in LaFayette

On Aug. 25, the city of LaFayette will have three of its five city council seats up for election. The most contested council race is District B, which is currently held by Charlotte Blasingame. She will face Andrew Vines and Shannon Hunter during the election.

Blasingame has been on the council for a little more than a year, as she took over District B in April of 2019 after Matthew Hurst took a job out of town and resigned his position. She defeated David Ennis in a run-off election.

“Some of the biggest lessons is patience to get things done in the town,” Blasingame said. “You can’t just snap your fingers and get them done.”

One of Blasingame’s biggest focuses is the beautification of the city.

In her time on the council, Blasingame has worked with Chris Busby, director of commercial and community development at the Chambers County Development Authority, and Main Street Alabama, which is a nonprofit organization that works to develop and preserve the downtown section of cities. With all three working together, they formed the Main Street Alabama LaFayette Division, which was going to start in 2020 but was moved back to 2021 because of COVID-19.

“I’m very excited about that, and if I were reelected I could continue to bring that to LaFayette with a committee that has now been formed,” Blasingame said.

Along with the Main Street Alabama project, Blasingame has worked to beautify the city, especially around the holidays. According to Blasingame, for many years, LaFayette did not have lights for the holidays. In her year on the council, she was able to get the city to place lighted garland on the handrails in downtown.

“Adding the garland and the lights at Christmas was just a highlight,” Blasingame said. “The business people in this town so graciously donated to make that possible.”

She hopes that they will be able to put up those decorations and more in this upcoming December.

Blasingame is also excited about the developments that will soon be coming to the new 52-acre city park.

“In the near future, you will be able to see some [development]. We have picnic tables, rock climbing and several other things,” Blasingame said. 

Blasingame would like to see LED lights on top of the buildings in downtown LaFayette. She said she has talked to the departments that would be involved in this project and contacts from the city of Gadsden, who has recently done the light project that Blasingame envisions, and the cost would be relatively small.

“If we had it light up on top of our beautiful buildings at night that would be an added attraction [for tourists],” Blasingame said. “It would not be a very expensive project because of the LED lights. They are able to pay the electricity through the city because the LED is so economical financially.”

Vines believes that the city of LaFayette needs change.

“I feel like there is a need for change in the entire city and that includes District B, and I feel like I’m the person for that job,” Vines said.

Except for a few years of his life, Vines has lived in LaFayette his entire life.

“Everyone in LaFayette knows me and knows that I would do a good job for each citizen in LaFayette,” Vines said.

He has worked in construction for the last 25 years and believes that experience will help bring in new jobs to the city’s industrial park.

“I have hands-on knowledge of the city’s infrastructure work,” Vines said.

He also would like to see more recreation for the children of LaFayette. He would like the current park to be revitalized so the children have somewhere to play at while the new park is being constructed.

In order to help the city’s infrastructure, Vines would start with the city’s budget and then work and pursue grants that would help fix problems in the city.

“LaFayette as a whole, we have some work that needs to be done. It needed to be done 10 to 20 years ago,” Vines said.

Vines’ slogan is “We are taking one step together, we aren’t taking one step back.”

Hunter has two big parts of his platform: he wants a long-term plan for the city, and he wants to inform citizens on what is going on in the city.

“The main thing we lack is a long-term plan. We keep doing short-term fixes,” Hunter said. “We depend on grants to get our services fixed in the poorer areas, but we don’t have a plan to pay for what to do in the other areas. The net result is that we patch a lot of pipes, and by digging them, we make holes in the streets, which we patch. All of that costs money, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Hunter said the old pipes were one example of the city’s infrastructure problems that need to be fixed.

“Our city auditor said that our city infrastructure has depreciated to nothing, so it has no value,” Hunter said. “We need to put some value back into it, especially if we want to attract new businesses and residents.”

Hunter would bring around change by giving more information to the residents of LaFayette. For the last several years, Hunter has been attending and recording the city council meetings. He puts the videos, along with the minutes and agenda on his website https://www.lafayetteforcitizens.org/. It also has information on different happenings in LaFayette.

“It’s very hard to come by information,” Hunter said. “It’s a long train of events to get the information, versus a council member, where I could make it more public more easily. That way I can get it to the people more easily, so they can form their own opinions to where we should go for the future.”

Hunter feels that he is qualified to be on the council because he was the chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission in Azle, Texas for two years, which has a population of roughly 10,000 people. When he was chairman, Hunter introduced a new zoning ordinance, which he feels will help him as a council member.

“That was a very interesting and useful experience,” Hunter said.

If elected, Hunter plans to work on and change the city’s zoning ordinance.

He has also served as the President of Homeowners’ Association in Chapala, Mexico and served on the city’s liquor license board.

“I’m also an engineer, so I’m used to looking at problems, coming up with solutions and developing a plan to solve problems,” Hunter said.

Hunter has lived in LaFayette the last eight years.

“I just urge people to get out and vote,” Hunter said. “If they think that I’m the best candidate, then vote for me. If they think someone else would do a better job, they should vote for the better candidate.”