Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Mayor plans more economic development, Hilton demolition and reflects on election, pool season

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller addresses public concerns each month so send questions for Ask Mayor Miller to [email protected] 

Mayor Lester Miller responded to a number of issues during this month’s taping of Ask Mayor Miller except the county’s internet and online service interruptions that began May 11 with a suspected computer breach.

Disruptions linger nearly three weeks later, but before taping began at 13WMAZ-TV, Miller said he was not going to talk about the ongoing investigation.

Within days of a suspected breach, the county advised the public that IT took the network offline at first suspicion, but few details were released about what actually has happened and the extent of a possible cyber attack. 

In answering questions from the public and local journalists, Miller said he was surprised by the lack of turnout for the May 21 election, especially with multiple candidates in the Bibb County sheriff’s race. Overall, he saw the results as a public endorsement of the work of his administration. (0:17 seconds into video)

“If you look at the races that are in runoffs, those are races that had open seats. If you look at the races that were won by large victories, all across the mayor and county commission races, I think it shows that people are satisfied with the current incumbents and the job that we’re doing now,” Miller said. 

He endorses Melvin Flowers over Stanley Stewart in County Commission District 3, but has not chosen a candidate in District 8 in the runoff with Donice Bryant and Kim Jenkins. (3:25)

“Certainly, we’re going to work with anybody who wins the race,” he said. 

His home is in Georgia House District 145, where Bibb School Board member Juawn Jackson and political newcomer and former teacher Tangie Herring are in a runoff. 

Miller hinted he was leaning toward endorsing Herring, but was still mulling his decision and that the school system’s budget would be a factor. 

“I’m not happy about a potential increase in the millage rate and that’s going to play a part in my decision. And the fact that we’ve got a $9 million deficit there is certainly going to play a part in what I decide to do,” he said. 

Before the election, Miller endorsed Marshall Talley over incumbent Desmond Brown in Macon Water Authority District 2. Talley requested a recount, but the Board of Elections determined late Friday that the race was not eligible under current state statutes as the margin of victory was more than a half-percent.  (2:45) 

“I still believe Marshall is the best candidate there. And I don’t think we’ve seen the last of some criminal issues from Mr. Brown. So, we’ll see what happens and perhaps there’ll be another special election soon,” he said. 

Brown was the target of an internal MWA investigation into allegations he abused his position on the authority for personal gain, and inappropriately billed the utility for work done by his Blue Armour disaster mitigation company. 

In a civil matter, Brown also was jailed in 2022 for failing to provide court-ordered financial records after a judge ruled he must return a former client’s $40,000 investment plus 25% interest added each year since 2011. He filed for bankruptcy shortly after getting out of jail, which suspended the proceedings.  

The mayor also deflected blame from the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections for sole responsibility for ballot mishaps and district confusion. (4:46)

Miller said the Supreme Court of Georgia’s decision forcing redistricting so close to the election was a major factor.

“I think it was a very minimal amount of folks that were involved in that, even though every vote counts. But I think we can’t put that all on the local board of elections even though we all share responsibility. And I think that the last minute decision to change those maps in the state level in that case that went on from the suit that was filed probably created a little bit more havoc than we normally have,” he said. 

Second term ‘growing pains’

In his second term, (1:13), Miller warned of “growing pains” as he anticipates increased economic development across the county including progress on the estimated $400 million East Bank development near the Ocmulgee National Monument and Macon Coliseum. (22:19)

He plans a major overhaul of roads after an updated study of conditions across the county. (13:45)

The promise of 600 high-paying jobs with the First Quality $418 million plant expansion will be another boost. (6:35)

“It’s my understanding that the average salary would be $74,000 a year. That’s a good livable wage for a lot of folks and we’re going to hire the people, so we’re also going to pick up people not just in Macon-Bibb County but all across middle Georgia and it’s going to step up the game for everyone. So, I’m glad about that. I think it’s going to create a lot of opportunities for our citizens to get good jobs, but also to build some more houses here,” he said. 

Those First Quality positions should be available starting next year, Miller said. 

The mayor also said downtown residential loft development is on track behind City Hall and down a block on Plum Street to coincide with the Neel Lofts under construction already. (17:56)

Crews are dismantling the old Macon Hilton hotel and removing bathtubs and other salvageable items to prepare the high-rise building for an eventual demolition. (19:09 and 20:43)

The county purchased the blighted hotel intending to tear it down to make way for future development. Miller has said he would welcome a movie production team to use the demolition for a film, and there are a couple of options. The county is removing and salvaging anything of value to try to resell, keep it out of a landfill and save tipping fees. 

“They’re going to save as much as we can but also going to make it less expensive to tear down a building of that size. And, we’ve got some great opportunities over there. I can’t wait to see what happens in that area, as well as the river over there in the very near future,” he said. 

Miller expects the building to come down within the year. 

“If we could have that down to start 2025 with a bang, that would be great,” he said. (21:23)

Now that school is out, most county pools are ready but lifeguard staffing is a national challenge, he said. 

“People just don’t want to be lifeguards. They don’t want to work all those hours in the sun and we’re trying to grow our own but it’s a process,” Miller said. 

Bloomfield Recreation Center’s pool was vandalized a third time, so it is not yet known whether that facility will be available this summer. 

“People just don’t respect our properties and our neighborhoods, and we do our part to make sure they’re functional every year, but we can’t control what bad actors do,” he said. 

Send questions for the next Ask Mayor Miller to [email protected]

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.

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