TIFTON — The race is on for the Tifton City Council seat representing District 4.

Early voting is currently underway, and Election Day is Nov. 5.

Frank Sayles, Jr.

Incumbent Frank Sayles, Jr., who has lived in Tifton for nearly 20 years, runs a marketing business and has a background in journalism.

“I spent more than 30 years in journalism and newspapers,” Sayles said. “I spent about a dozen years as the publisher for The Tifton Gazette.”

He’s also worked in papers in Valdosta and Dalton, South Carolina and West Virginia and feels that his background was a good jumping off point for being an elected official.

“I was a government reporter,” Sayles said. “When I worked for the Charleston newspapers in South Carolina, I was the southeastern government reporter for them before I became an editor. What I did was I covered the general assembly and the governor’s office. I covered Congress and the President of the United States, plus I covered some of the smallest councils you could imagine in towns of about 400 people…I’ve seen government from all levels.”

Sayles, who is completing his first term in office, said that he is proud of what he has been able to accomplish for his constituents.

“What’s happened in the past, and this is not a slam on past councils, but financially they didn’t have the money to do some things,” Sayles said. “A lot of things didn’t get done over the years and we’ve had some problems with some roads and some infrastructure and some water lines and things like that which really needed attention because they hadn’t been touched in a long time.”

Sayles highlighted infrastructure work, such as repaving 16th Street, which he called the worst paved road in Tifton, and repaving and replacing water lines under Chesnutt Avenue.

Sayles said he was also proud of the local partnerships the city has forged, such as the partnership with Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College to manage the Tift Theatre.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done in the city to listen to people,” he said. “We’ve in the past couple of years combined a lot of our services into one building. Before, to get a business license you have to go to three different places in the city to do that. Now we have that all on Ridge Avenue, in one place. So we’re trying to be more business friendly and more consumer friendly.”

Sayles also highlighted his work on the Downtown Development Authority Board, on which he represents the city.

Sayles wants to continue to focus on infrastructure improvements, fostering community partnerships and maintaining the integrity and character of the historic district.

“The historic district is very important,” he said. “It’s really a gem that we have here and we need to keep it, make sure we keep the integrity there.”

Sayles said that he also looks forward to continuing the work the entire council has done in south Tifton.

“That’s been a concern of mine for years and years, even going back to when I was here at the newspaper,” he said. “It was worse 15 years ago than what it is now. It was really sad, there were so many shootings and so much crime out there. It’s decreased. I’m not saying it’s perfect. It’s not. I think the community has kind of ignored it for a long time, the greater community, and let it deteriorate.

“We decided to step up and create the Urban Redevelopment Agency. That’s the first step to really giving a shot in the arm to that community and try to improve it. We’re only as strong as our weakest link. I’ve said that quite a bit. Tifton is strong in other places, but unless we bring the rest of the community up, we’re not as strong totally.”

M. Jay Hall, Jr.

Challenger Milton “M. Jay” Hall, Jr., a local entrepreneur, has lived in Tifton for most of his life, attending Tift County schools and graduating from Tift County High School in 2005. Hall said that he left town to go to college, but always wanted to come back.

“I’m a die-hard Tifton person,” he said. “I was born and raised here and I’ve always had the vision to come back here and make my community better.”

Hall said that, as a Tifton native, he has friends and family in every part of the city.

“I’m also a high-energy performer, visionary thinker and assertive leader in my community,” he said. “I was born and bred to lead and give back to my community.”

Hall said that he has worked for the betterment of the city through volunteering with local non-profits and sitting on the board for various organizations.

“Those are the things that I think have positioned me to be able to step up and run in this race for district 4,” he said.

Developing a sound infrastructure and reestablishing collaborative relationships to ensure continued growth top Hall’s focus list.

He also said that being a good steward of the city’s finances is important to him.

“We’re fortunate in Tifton, in district 4 and in Tifton as a whole, to have well defined residences and public buildings that have been preserved and maintained,” he said. “We want to obviously preserve those and grow.”

He pointed out The Local at the Lankford as the definition of his goal for Tifton.

“They have gone in and preserved that restaurant and that name, but it’s also new and fresh,” he said. “They offer something that we wouldn’t have, that’s unique while preserving that history, like what the Harpers have done with their apartments at Twin Brick Lofts. Those are things that are the gist of my “Preserve and Grow” (campaign slogan), but I know there’s more room for that in this district and in Tifton as a whole.”

If elected, Hall wants to focus on infrastructure, such as better street lighting, road paving and working on fixing issues with dilapidated housing while preserving historic character, working with organizations to see what their needs are in the district and fostering a business-friendly atmosphere and innovative activities to allow continued growth and resident participation in downtown.

“I love Tifton,” he said. “I’m ready to listen, learn and lead. I can’t lead without being able to listen and learn from the actual people. This is why I’m here. I think this is why I’ve been put back in Tifton, to have the opportunity to be able to do that.”

Hall said that, win or lose, he’s going to continue working to keep Tifton moving forward.

EDIT: One sentence in the original story stated that the candidates were running for district 2. The story has been updated to correct the error.

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