Originally created 07/18/04

Candidates differ on area's progress



Betty Beard and Pam Kitchens might not be career politicians, but that hasn't stopped them from campaigning hard for the Augusta Commission's District 1 seat.

The two are competing in Tuesday's primary for the commission seat that was left vacant nearly seven months ago with the death of Mrs. Beard's husband, Lee.

Since then, Mrs. Beard has filled in on the commission in a special term, joining Barbara Sims, who filled the seat vacated by city attorney Steve Shepard, as the commission's first female members.

"When my husband ran, I told the city, his constituents, that they didn't have to worry, he would be there for them and that he would not change," said Mrs. Beard, a retired teacher and school counselor who is in her first race for political office.

"And he didn't. And that's what I'm sure he would want me to carry on, to be there for them, too."

With Mrs. Kitchens running against Mrs. Beard, one thing is certain: The commission will continue to have a woman on board.

But there are differences between the two candidates - mainly that Mrs. Beard is an incumbent and Mrs. Kitchens, an accountant, is calling for a shake-up of the commission.

"This is totally new to me," said Mrs. Kitchens, who is a member of the Olde Town Neighborhood Association. "Just with the problems we had with Olde Town, we weren't getting any help from our commissioners."

Mrs. Kitchens, who has her own business, Kitchens Business Solutions in downtown Augusta, says the biggest problem with Augusta is that commissioners can't cooperate. Mrs. Kitchens says she wants to change that.

She also says she would focus on cleaning up abandoned houses in the city and addressing the city's current financial situation.

Her ideas include collecting on delinquent tax bills and cutting commissioners' pay in half.

"That's a civic duty, not a job," she said of the commission post.

Mrs. Beard, however, says she thinks things in Augusta are better than many perceive, and she wants to continue that progress.

"I think everyone is going to have to stop and say, 'Wait a minute, things are not as bad as we think they are,'" she said. "We have a great community. We need to work together. ... I guess what really keeps me going is my husband. He would want to continue the progress that we have seen in our community."

Mrs. Beard also would like to focus on the city's finances and possibly look at revamping the entire financial structure.

Mrs. Kitchens also has a finance background, with a business degree and accounting major from Augusta State University.

But with all challenges, including being a commissioner, Mrs. Kitchens and Mrs. Beard agree that they're the kind of people who always rise to the occasion.

"Either put up or shut up, as my father would say," Mrs. Kitchens said.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.



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