Jan. 2—ALBANY — Henry Mathis has been around politics long enough to understand one indisputable truth: Elections are all about timing.
The political landscape from Washington to Atlanta to Albany is littered with the failed campaigns of candidates who jumped into the fray before or after their time was at hand. But candidates who fail to capture the hearts and imaginations of the voting public can find solace in the fact that the campaign trail blows hot and cold with the fickleness of the voting public.
Undeterred by a pair of losses in past mayoral campaigns, Mathis announced before a crowd of well-wishers on New Year's Day that he is again running for the seat held for the past three-plus years by Mayor Bo Dorough.
"Timing is everything in politics," Mathis said before officially announcing his candidacy. "What we see now in our community is leadership without vision. I've looked, with my inner circle, at the years 2020, 2021 and 2022, and those years have been tough on the community. Their spirit is down.
"So we're trying to get out among the community and articulate our plan, a plan of vision where everything we're talking about is attainable."
Apparently anticipating questions about the racial makeup of southwest Georgia's largest city and what that means to the political landscape in the 2020s, Mathis says his administration would be an inclusive one.
"Yes, Albany/Dougherty County has a population that is more than 70% black," he said. "But that doesn't mean that every department head, every important position must be held by someone who is black. We have to be diverse. I have contacts in China, and if a business there expresses interest in coming here, one of the questions they're going to ask is how many of their people are part of our government. Same thing with businesses in India; they're going to want to know if their country is represented.
"We've got to be all-inclusive, to look for competent, qualified individuals at all positions. And we must always strive for diversity."
During a gathering at the Albany-Dougherty Government Center on Monday, Mathis offered a litany of issues that plague the city and told supporters he had a plan to address those ills.
"Today begins a new year, and I intend for it to be the beginning of a new direction in Albany," he said. "That's why I'm officially launching today my campaign to be the next mayor of Albany.
"Our city is plagued with homicides, with shortages on our police and fire departments, with wasteful spending, with 40% poverty, and with a downtown that has been buried for the past 40 years. But Albany can, with the right plan, unequivocally become the Good Life City of our dreams. By working together, we can rehabilitate our city, make it safe, make it a college town like Athens with the University of Georgia, Statesboro with Georgia Southern, Columbus with Columbus State University, Auburn with Auburn University and Albany with Albany State University."
Mathis said he has the background, the know-how and the connections to help bring economic development to Albany.
"We will work with government — on the local, state and federal level — as well as the private sector, to bring development to our community," he said. "We will make the Flint River a recreation and tourism center. We will turn our beloved city back into the economic engine it once was."
The key, Mathis said, to his mayoral platform is approaching the issues that plague the city with a plan that is attainable.
"Take, for example, our crime issues," he said. "We know there is a shortage of public safety personnel, a problem that is common across the country. But eliminating the waste in our budget will allow us to have competitive salaries so that we can recruit and retain the best public safety, public works and personnel in other areas of service.
"We can put together a miltijurisdictional task force that will include our law enforcement personnel as well as the district attorney's office and the GBI. And this group will be very proactive. They'll go to the parents and grandparents of these kids who are on the verge of turning to the streets and tell them they're on our radar. And we'll help these kids if they want to go to work, go to the military or go to school. It's all attainable."
Mathis said his service under four Albany mayors, with community business leaders and with students at Albany State University give him the skills he needs to head the city government and turn around a city that he says has lost hope.
"I've shown during my career that I can work with people on both sides of the aisle, that I can bridge the diversity gap between blacks, whites, Hispanics and all others," he said. "I am the one candidate with the ability to pull this community together."