Aitken preaches renewal

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For most political candidates, a 19-year-old prison sentence would be something to avoid talking about, perhaps something to conceal or deny.

Candidate Matt Aitken, who started ministry work after serving time in prison, talks with resident Willie Lovett while campaigning. Mr. Aitken said he believes District 1 residents are ready to look past race and want to see Augusta move forward.  John Curry/Staff
John Curry/Staff
Candidate Matt Aitken, who started ministry work after serving time in prison, talks with resident Willie Lovett while campaigning. Mr. Aitken said he believes District 1 residents are ready to look past race and want to see Augusta move forward.

For Augusta Commission District 1 candidate Matt Aitken, it's part of his campaign literature.

"I know what it means to rebuild a broken life time and time again," he writes in his profile.

"Thirty-eight years ago I chose a path of drugs and drug dealing to which I finally received a prison sentence.

"However, God used this experience of being isolated in jail to see that I needed something/someone to help turn my life around. This is when I surrendered my life to Christ."

His conversion began a new life that led to a career at Olin Corp., a wife and daughter, an eldership at First Presbyterian Church and now a shot at public office.

It also led him into ministry work that he hopes will make a difference Nov. 3. Winning the seat would be an unprecedented feat. District 1 is 65 percent black and has not had a white representative since city-county consolidation in 1996.

Along with historic neighborhoods, the downtown business district and industrial areas, District 1 includes 30901, one of the highest inmate-producing ZIP codes in the state.

Incarceration affects a lot of families, Mr. Aitken said, and he's counting on his personal history, his prison ministry, his inner- city outreach work with Agape Ministries and his work for the Martin Luther King Observance Committee to give him credibility.

"Life experience," he said. "It's made me to be the man I am today, a person who cares about our city."

He said he believes the district is ready to move past race, and his election would be a big step toward bridging the divide.

His campaign slogan, "Grow Augusta," describes his vision of attracting investors and jobs to the city center, the riverfront and the canal.

"People want to see the city move forward, black and white business owners," Mr. Aitken said.

Assuming Joe Bowles retains the District 3 seat, Mr. Aitken's election would tip the commission's racial balance to 6-4.

Asked how he would vote on the trade, exhibit and event center -- which has had the board in a deadlock along racial lines since early May -- Mr. Aitken had no definite answer.

At first, he said, he would have voted for City Administrator Fred Russell's funding plan. Given the points brought up since then by black commissioners, he has doubts now. He said he would have to study the issue more.

"I think our current commissioners will work those details out before I get into office," Mr. Aitken said.

If he does win, he'll have a short walk to work. He and his family live on Telfair Street, across the street from the Municipal Building, in a 139-year-old house he spent 14 months renovating. That's the same amount of time he spent imprisoned on cocaine and methamphetamine charges in another lifetime.

"I believe prayer changes things," Mr. Aitken said. "I believe someone prayed for me when I was out there messing up, and I believe it was my mother.

"And as a Christian, I have faith in great things for Augusta."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

MATT AITKEN

AGE: 51

FAMILY: Wife, Melissa; daughter Cecilia, 3

EDUCATION: Diploma from Academy of Richmond County, class of 1978

CAREER: Compressor building operator for Olin Corp.; director of the Matt Aitken Prison Ministry; former truck driver for Superior Carriers

LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE: Board member, Coalition of Prison Evangelists; past president and former board member, Martin Luther King Observance Committee; elder, First Presbyterian Church; board member, Medical College of Georgia Human Assurance Committee; former associate director of Agape Ministries

CAMPAIGN PLATFORM: Growing Augusta; economic development; implementing sections of the 2009 master plan; creating an environment that invites private investors

Comments (15) Add comment
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bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 10/04/09 - 05:28 am
0
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OMG!!...another one! The

OMG!!...another one! The pickin's are soooo slim!!

stovall st
0
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stovall st 10/04/09 - 05:54 am
0
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One thing about him, He's a

One thing about him, He's a jack of all trades.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 10/04/09 - 10:20 am
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His platform is very vague

His platform is very vague with few specific ideas. He seems like a nice gentleman who has turned his life around, but what we need are some real ideas for improving Augusta. Aitken seems to be running on a biography rather than on specific ideas, and its good ideas we need right now to turn this city around.

concernednative
28
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concernednative 10/04/09 - 12:43 pm
0
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District one has very slim

District one has very slim pickings.

thewiz0oz
9
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thewiz0oz 10/04/09 - 02:30 pm
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Unfortunately, district one

Unfortunately, district one hasn't been well represented in many years -- Betty Beard is a nice lady that has no clue as to economic development and job creation -- and her district includes the downtown business district that contributes significantly in property taxes and job creation -- yet she was the one who never has understood the over $1 million loss every year in the delay of the convention center expansion and the additional $800,000 coming in new taxes the first year the new Hyatt hotel is build --and her abstention in voting has delayed the process -- hopefully Aitken or whoever is elected will vote GREEN, not black or white.

fooman
0
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fooman 10/04/09 - 05:38 pm
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Matt loves this city and has

Matt loves this city and has been committed to improving it for many years. He's a thorough, sensible, intelligent, capable, relational, hard-working man. He is good friends with both black and white people in the community. I've observed his life for the past 10 years, and he is a true leader, and a man of character. More about him here: http://www.MattAitkenforcountycommission.com/

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 10/04/09 - 09:03 pm
0
0
What will happen to Aikens

What will happen to Aikens many ministries if he is elected ? There is not enough time for him to do all of the things that he is into.l.....he has a small child too. Aikens is too involved to be available for the people.

WideOpenSpaces
5
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WideOpenSpaces 10/04/09 - 11:06 pm
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Sounds like the best

Sounds like the best candidate out there for District 1. He seems to be a man of integrity, one who will vote for what is best for the folks he represents rather than play the politics.

peaceoutreach2003
0
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peaceoutreach2003 10/05/09 - 12:04 pm
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I really think that Matt

I really think that Matt Aitken will make a excellent choice for county commission and Matt please know that we are praying for your sucess and that God will continue to bless you with wisdom as you move forward.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 10/05/09 - 04:51 pm
0
0
I see really no specifics

I see really no specifics from his campaign. His connection to the same old power brokers is very troubling to me. We need a commissioner who will represent regular Augustans, not just the power brokers.

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 10/09/09 - 02:45 am
0
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Aiknes connection to Don

Aiknes connection to Don Grantham is a big negitive. Grantham is a crook. He is part of the elite power brokers who have robbed Augusta for the last two decades. Don Grantham, Cliff Channel, and Richard Capps would pull gold out of a dead mans mouth. Special interst in Augusta is not good for Augusta!

dyomite
16
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dyomite 10/10/09 - 11:42 am
0
0
He needs to get all his

He needs to get all his ministries and do something for the District 1 has he no . He can't even say prostitutes he can say drug dealers. How can he fix something if he can't say the word. Gov't grants are one thing but the tax payers have to pay it back some how , some way.
We need family bussiness in the area and we need to have safe and clean neighborhoods .
Put the tee center in the fort discovery building , fix up the hotel on broad and 5th street bridge, fix some of the old homes and make the bed and breakfast. Use what we have and not build any more buildings. VOTE FOR BUTCH

redrum3005
0
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redrum3005 10/11/09 - 10:56 am
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People it is a shame that we

People it is a shame that we as so called Adults are acting like children. Not everyone that receives public assistance is a no good person. Not every women that has a child out of wed lock is a welfare queen. What about the hard working woman or man who gets laid off and public assistance is their only recourse to holding their families together or Secton 8 gives them that leg back up to getting their life back in order. People stop name calling and help find the solutions to the problems. We need safe clean places for our children to go and learn and grow. Where our children are around positive role models and have the love and support of their community and not feel like they are outcast. We as adults need to lead. My hats off to all the candidates for atleast stepping up to the plate for change.

SnowBallCity
2
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SnowBallCity 10/23/09 - 03:44 pm
0
0
There is light, somewhere.

There is light, somewhere.

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