By: Liz Bailey
The City of Buford is proud of its small town environment and image. The City Commission is charged with keeping this big small town as safe, as efficient and as financially sound as possible. The current Commission government, using stable and responsible city stewardship, has steered Buford through a turbulent and challenging 25 years. However, in this upcoming election, the citizens of Buford may have cause for concern.
Any qualifying citizen of Buford has the right to run for a public office in Buford. This is a tried and true foundation of the American election process. There are certain qualifiers and having met those, no one may be hindered in placing himself/herself on the ballot. In fact, a potential candidate should be genuinely welcomed to have their try at public office regardless of ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, physical disability, income level, education level and more. The qualifiers mainly consist of a candidate’s place of residence within the city, his/her status of debts to any government entity and his/her history of felony crimes.
New and inexperienced candidate, Gary Ingram may have a track record that is not appropriate for an elected office that serves the people’s interests. Mr. Ingram has a background of both criminal and civil charges and convictions. Both physical violence and integrity problems are present on thorough, reliably sourced, publicly available records.
Mr. Ingram has serious offences and failures in his personal conduct and trustworthiness. Ranging from the 1990’s until present, the list of the consequences of poor decision-making is wide and habitual. Summarizing the misdemeanor and felonious criminal history and problems; Simple Battery, Theft By Taking, Disorderly Conduct, Misrepresentation of Vehicle ID, Reckless Conduct, Driving Under the Influence-Child Endangerment, Theft by Receiving Stolen Property, Battery-Family Violence and Violation of Probation. Mr. Ingram has spent time in prison for one or more of these charges and/or crimes. The offences have occurred in four different states.
The Civil Court woes of Mr. Ingram also are causes for evaluation of his record of reliability and ability to manage. Please see the list of Civil matters in Mr. Ingram’s history since 1998 to the present; Default of Accounts, Garnishment, Family Violence (4 times), Bankruptcy-Chapter 13 (5 times), Bankruptcy-Chapter 7 Liquidation and Home Eviction.
Chris Burge, Incumbent and City Commissioner of 25 years, has said in relation to the requirements of the Commissioner position, “The City Commissioner is a serious role and responsibility. Our duties are wide and varied. We need to take care of citizen’s complaints and requests in an appropriate, reliable manner”, Mr. Burge also said, “Through all the hard times in both my own business and on the Commission, I’ve worked hard to keep our house strongly and successfully in order. In all matters of life, you’ve got to be responsible and I feel people respect what we do.”
Unfortunately, Gary Ingram’s issues do not stop at the legal infractions listed. In a recent incident, Mr. Ingram stated that approximately $7200 was missing from his campaign fund. Campaign funds are strictly regulated and must be accounted for in detail. A look at his application to run for public office in Buford, at this time, reveals that no funds have been disclosed. Whether a mistake from inexperience or something else, is not yet known. Mr. Ingram has no public service experience and has no record of attendance at a City meeting since declaring his candidacy for City Commissioner.
Buford is not an average small city. It is unique as an “island” (nod to Lake Lanier) among millions of surrounding people. First, it has an annual city budget of $114 million. This is larger than many counties and most cities in Georgia. It has provided its citizens the most low cost, economical set of home utility services that are the envy of many. Buford has its own large, renowned school system that excels in far more than its famed athletic teams. The scholastic performance and learning environment provided by the City of Buford, will again win them the honor of the Number One School District in the State of Georgia. With a bright future ahead of it, Buford will need leaders that have a broad knowledge base, sharply honed business management skills and experience. In order for Buford to keep climbing higher for its people, it will also rely on a fiscally conservative approach to the budget and a microscopic eye for the people’s tax dollars. From the Chairman’s office down, Buford is committed to manage its growth for everyone’s benefit. They want to keep the utility systems and schools shielded from any undue economic or growth strains. That is a tall order. City of Buford needs leaders that can handle it all and then stretch further.
In the end, Buford’s voters can and will decide which candidate is most knowledgeable, dedicated and committed to stewarding the citizen’s money for the City of Buford and its entire population. Who will take Buford further, set a solid standard for conduct and earn its citizen’s pride? The polls will tell. Vote and make sure you have your say.