No matter who wins, it will be historic.
Though the “old city,” pre-consolidation Augusta elected a black county commissioner, Ed McIntyre, mayor in 1981, and former Augusta-Richmond County Commissioner Willie Mays served as interim mayor for six months after the resignation of former Mayor Bob Young, the 18-year-old consolidated government has never had an elected black mayor.
It will in January, though, as the five candidates who made good on campaign announcements and filed qualifying paperwork are black.
Among those on the May 20 ballot are state Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, a south Augusta pastor and businessman who has served eight years in the state Legislature; Commissioner Alvin Mason, a retired Army sergeant serving his second term on the commission; and Charles
Cummings, a retired restaurateur.
Mason, a Michigan native, said he had not given the color factor “a thought,” preferring only to be “an effective mayor,” while Davis pointed to McIntyre and said the election would garner “a lot of interest.”
Cummings felt the color shift will be “interesting,” but “my concern about people goes across color lines,” he said.
Other local leaders spoke more openly about the change.
“I don’t think it’s significant or important what the race is of the next mayor,” said Commissioner Donnie Smith, a lieutenant with the Georgia State Patrol and one of four white members of the 10-member commission. Five others are black; one is Asian-American.
“It may make some of the divisiveness that is constantly talked about go away,” Smith said.
For mayoral candidate Helen Blocker-Adams, it wasn’t about race.
“I am excited about being the first female mayor of Augusta-Richmond County, period,” the small business owner said.
Though women now make up two-thirds of registered voters, Augusta has never had a female mayor, before or after consolidation.
“After eight years in office, the whole complexion and the personality of Augusta will be completely different,” Blocker-Adams said.
The other woman in the race, T.W. Josey High School language arts teacher Lori Myles, said she will “champion all races” as mayor.
With three women also seeking two Augusta Commission seats May 20, the gender of city government could shift as well. Only one woman, Mary Davis, currently serves on the commission.