By Tia Lynn Ivey
Change is the message of Kathi Russell’s campaign. Russell, owner of the Madison Tea Room, is on the upcoming Nov. 7 election ballot, running for Madison Mayor against Incumbent Fred Perriman and Candidate Robert Lanier.
According to Russell, it is with much trepidation and preparation that she seeks the office of mayor in Madison.
“Stepping up and running for any political office is not done without great thought and much prayer. When deciding to run for mayor, on the day I filed, I was certain I could do the job. My experience in community leadership and the ability to get things done, in spite of opposition made, have given me the confidence I would need to run, and to win,” explained Russell.
“I have always believed you have to do more than just live in a community. It is our civic responsibility to be engaged and involved. It is work I do with conviction, dedication and pride, in every neighborhood I have ever lived.”
If elected, Russell’s goals for the City of Madison include reducing spending, cutting taxes, instituting term-limits for city boards, rerouting truck traffic out of downtown, increasing Madison’s police as well as increasing officers’ salaries and benefits, installing bright yellow pedestrian cones at main crosswalks throughout the city, and promoting “full transparency and accountability” from city government.
Russell, who spent most of her life in Charleston, VA, assumed she would one day return to “The Holy City” to retire, but a fateful trip through Madison in 2009 changed all of that.
“After seeing this idyllic setting in Madison, of gracious people and grand homes, we knew it was a perfect setting for our background and interest in historic preservation. And we were right!” said Russell.
Since Russell relocated to Madison, she has noticed several pressing issues she believes need attention and new leadership to aptly address.
“The challenge Madison faces is a compilation of issues that have gone unanswered for the past four years,” said Russell. “They must, however, be a part of our vision for a greater Madison.”
According to Russell, she wants to see more affordable housing and senior housing, but within the City of Madison and in Morgan County. Russell, if elected, hopes to expedite the approval process for prospective businesses looking to open shop in Madison.
One of Russell’s key campaign promises is to reduce truck traffic through downtown Madison.
“Heavy truck traffic, other than local delivery, must be addressed or Main Street will eventually look like the New Jersey Turnpike. We are the City, and our job is to protect the citizens and the taxpayers at any cost,” said Russell.
“These 80,000-pound heavy-duty trucks do not belong on our small city streets, with restaurants and shops, attracting pedestrians who are crossing every which way. The trucks are undermining the foundations of our historic homes. Those same historic homes that are the life line that the Cultural Center and the Chamber of Commerce works tirelessly to bring tourists here for their annual Tour of Homes. Every citizen concerned with truck traffic in the historic district, has asked that the suggested speed limit be 25 mph. How hard is that? Monroe and Watkinsville did it successfully, and it’s working. If elected Mayor, we will reduce the speed and slow that truck traffic down.”
Russell is also promising to revitalize The City of Madison’s public meetings and communication strategies with the public. She wants to utilize social media to live stream public meetings into citizens’ homes, and is asking for widespread public input on Madison’s most pressing issues.”
She plans to meet with every city employee and every member on all the city boards to strategize better ways to work on behalf of the citizens of Madison and wants each chair of every city board to report their monthly findings at every regular city council meeting to enhance transparency.
She also plans to call for an outside audit of the City’s finances for the past three years.
“Any unidentifiable red flags, that are not answered satisfactorily will result in the auditing of an additional two years, totaling five years of accounting in the City of Madison, if necessary,” said Russell.
Russell also plans to scrap time-limits for public comment.
“Council meetings will end after every person present has had an opportunity to speak. In the past, it has been difficult for some people to be placed on the agenda in time to speak on a particular subject, and by introducing an “Open to the Public” line item on the Agenda, everyone will be heard, every time,” said Russell.
Russell has also promised to donate her salary if elected to the Madison-Morgan Boys and Girls Club, hoping the extra funds will cover the cost of a new “Saturday Program” for its members.
If elected, Russell vows to change the tone of the City’s leadership overall.
“Please City of Madison, stop saying, “we can’t,” because if I am elected mayor, I will show you how ‘we can, and how we will.’ I will humbly serve the people of Madison, by bringing back the quality of life and the vision for growth that they and their children deserve.”