Voted “most dependable” in his class at nearby Hephzibah High School, mayor-elect Hardie Davis on Tuesday gave south Augusta residents a taste of his mayoral term that begins in January.
During a forum Tuesday evening, Davis, who completes a Senate term this year, said that in August he’ll launch a transition team that will “engage all of our citizens,” not just a few, in identifying the community’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, all centered around the theme of “One Augusta.”
Davis said he’ll reveal other key points in August, among them, “from a deficit standpoint, we have to look at operations and efficiency” in city government.
South Augusta businessman Darren Smith was quick to quiz Davis about plans for Regency Mall, the massive abandoned retail space that greets all who pass in or out of south Augusta.
Davis said he already has a group “working on that,” which he has called “Resurrect Regency,” in a plan that will require both private developers and government intervention – including the power of the Legislature.
Asked by Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson how he’ll engage the public, Davis said he’ll hold mayor’s office hours with each of the city’s 10 commissioners in each commission district.
Realtor Rachel Whitaker said her struggle in selling houses is the reputation of Richmond County schools and asked Davis how he could help.
Davis said he’ll be “using the (mayor’s) office to talk about what’s good about our schools,” and strengthen the “three-legged stool” that is the mayor, commission and board of education, but the business community also must come to the table.
When new industry brings prospective homeowners to Augusta, “Don’t take them to Columbia County as your first step,” Davis said.
Former Commission member Jimmy Smith said the area also needed help putting to use land around Fort Gordon’s Gate 5, which closes at 10 p.m.
Davis responded that some 97,000 residents live on the Richmond County side of Fort Gordon south of Gordon Highway and that he’d help to improve access.
Bob Garrett, who now organizes the community prayer breakfasts that replaced the mayor’s prayer breakfasts, asked Davis, who is also the pastor of Abundant Life Worship Center, about the “spiritual climate” as he takes office.
“You don’t get elected to check your faith at the door,” Davis said.