Prater, Waller on Mayoral Ballot Tuesday

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

Two mayoral candidates, Jeff Prater and Michael Waller, will appear on the election ballot on Tuesday, February 9, and although the two have differing amounts of experience in city government, they both have the same goal: community service and community involvement.

Incumbent Jeff Prater said that his first run for City Council was inspired by the desire to serve after retiring from the Volunteer Fire Department after 27 years.

“Working with the fire department was a thrill,” Prater said. “But it also gave me a passion for service, and compassion for my fellow community members. I still wanted to serve in some way.”

That led to Prater’s six years on the City Council and Municipal Authority Board of Trustees, ultimately putting him in the Mayor seat in 2020 after Brian Davis stepped down from the position.

“Those six years have been eye-opening. I’ve learned so much about how a city is run,” Prater said. “You don’t just have a blank checkbook, it’s a big system of responsibility. You can’t always please everyone so you make the best decision for all.”

Asked about what he thought was the biggest issue facing Marlow today, Prater said that most residents would bring up road conditions.

“We have a strategic plan that gives us a resurfacing project every two years, but I know when it’s not happening on your street it feels like forever before yours comes up,” Prater said.

He also emphasized the importance of fiscal planning and responsibility, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Marlow is lucky, because our forefathers set us up for our own income through utilities rather than just relying on our tax base,” Prather said. “With COVID, we’ve had to change our ten-year plan in some directions just to make sure we were reacting to changes in revenue. We always have to be fiscally responsible so that we can keep the City going, keep City people employed.”

Prater also said that serving on the planning committee for the renewal of the $.01 sales tax showed him that there are opportunities to improve the area, such as a sidewalk project or another splash pad, but there also needs to be a plan to maintain the “shining jewels” that Marlow already has, like The Hideout playground in Red Bud Park.

“The Hideout, it’s getting older. It’s going to need repairs regularly, and it may need to be replaced soon,” Prater said. “We have to look at who’s going to plan that, where the money comes from, who’s going to do the work? It’s going to take community involvement to make that happen.”

Waller feels the same way about parks and community input, and that’s part of what inspired him to throw his hat in the ring for the Mayor position.

“A while back, I went to a City Council meeting because I didn’t want an area across the street from my house to be rezoned,” Waller said. “I realized that getting involved is something that I wanted to do.”

A lifelong resident of Stephens County, Waller said that his priority if elected would be to rally the community to maintain parks and public spaces that he feels are beginning to “slip.”

“Marlow’s a nice town, and we need to keep it that way,” Waller said. “The role of Mayor is to be a cheerleader for Marlow, inspire people to community activism.”

Waller used the example of volunteers helping to maintain Eddie Palmer Park so that youth baseball could continue, including grooming the six baseball fields.

“That’s volunteers and parents working with city employees to keep something nice and make it better,” Waller said.

“As a community, we need to look around, get a volunteer effort going. We need to put some sweat equity into maintaining what we’ve got.”

Waller also said that he hopes voter turnout momentum seen in recent elections will continue for this one, and that voters will continue to be involved in the process.

“People are active and engaged,” Waller said. “Voting at the local level is the easiest and most effective way to be involved in local government.”

Prater agreed. “Get out and vote,” he said. “Show your interest in city government, be active in your city.”

Polls are open on Tuesday, February 9 from 7am – 7pm.