COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — We are about six months from the 2022 city elections. And the first challenger to Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson has stepped forward.

Businessman John Anker – a political newcomer — tells News 3 this is not something he did lightly. He’s been thinking about it – and praying about it – for more than six months.

Anker owns and operates Ankerpac, a Columbus packaging, and manufacturing company. Ankerpac employs about 60 people and has three local plants, one in Midtown and two in South Columbus.

Anker, 51, filed his Declaration of Intention with the Muscogee County Elections Office last week.

Anker is planning to make a formal announcement in the coming weeks. He says his campaign will be about changing the culture of city employees – and citizens.

“I did start about six months ago asking myself the question: ‘Where are we going? What’s our plan? What’s our strategy as a community?'” Anker told News 3. “And I have thought about different things — city council. I like leading where I am in the business world. I like lifting people up.”

He said he talked to a number of friends and his wife, Beverly. When she signed off, he was all-in.

“And the way I know to do things is to contemplate, pray and talk,” Anker said. “But ultimately, I am not going to take everybody’s opinion on what I should do. I am going to jump in, and I am going to start swimming.”

He said he wants to help small businesses grow Columbus.

“I feel like Columbus needs more fertile ground for small businesses to grow deeper roots,” he said. “Ankerpac has been one of those businesses. And it was something I needed to do to step forward, come up with a plan and articulate a plan that the city wants and believes in that can be heard.”

He says that plan includes a culture change in the community.

“We have to change the culture,” Anker said. “Change the culture within, from the bottom to the wide to the top. And it’s got to positively lift up our whole community.”

News 3 reached out to Henderson. He has indicated he will seek a second term. And tells News 3 a formal announcement will be coming soon.

As the calendar changes to 2022, election season will be upon us quickly.

Qualifying for the non-partisan city and Muscogee County School Board elections will be held March 7-11. Once candidates qualify, it will be a 10-week sprint to Election Day, May 24. Early voting, barring any change by the General Assembly, will start on May 2.