OPELIKA, Ala.- Next Tuesday, voters will go to the polls for the Opelika elections. One of the races on the ballot is the race for the Ward 2 City Council seat. There are four people vying for the seat: the incumbent, Larry Gray; Nelson Marsh, Oscar Penn and Tiffany Gibson-Pitts.
Gray is seeking his third term as city councilor for the ward. Gray hopes voters will see the progress the city and the ward have made during his eight years on council when they make their selection. Gray told News Three there is a buzz in the south side of town about the Carver-Jeter plan, and that fighting crime is a team effort between the community and police. Gray says using the tools in place would help make crime feel uncomfortable and get it out of the area. Gray added that Ward 2 is a part of his heritage.
“I want to be a person that works for all because we are such a diverse community economically, racially,” Gray said. “We are really diverse. I want to work for everybody and give everybody a fair shot.”
Nelson Marsh is one of the ones challenging Gray for his seat. Marsh grew up in the ward, and when he returned home from college, he said he was heartbroken by how unequal the ward was. Marsh said it is “it is easy to look over the genuine human suffering of a town when it is prosperous.” Marsh is running on a platform to bring equal city services to all, sidewalk maintenance, making sure the city faithfully knows what is going on in all the neighborhoods and making sure the city helps police solve crime in the city. Marsh says he is not running to gain the title of city councilor. He is running because he loves the community.
“When I say that I care about Ward 2, and its my entire life, that’s because it really is,” Marsh said. “Everything we do happens in these 10 blocks. I know it intimately; every road, every crack, every bad sidewalk, every interesting person.”
For Oscar Penn, this is his third time running for city council. He says four years ago, he nearly won the seat but lost by 21 votes. He said he did not get upset about it, but instead went to working for the community. Penn says in his time, he has helped with campaigns of those running for elections, but they were not keeping their words of what they would do for the community. Penn says he is running to keep his own word. Penn has lived in Opelika all of his life and knows many individuals in the community. Penn wants to invest in the youth by enforcing positive reinforcement at an early age. He wants to bring the wholesome family atmosphere back in parks and recreation, as well as building the community to police relationship and build a strong Christian foundation in the community.
“If there was an old lady who had just paid to get her grass cut, and there was one blade of grass sticking up in her yard, and it worried her, I walk with a cane, and I would leave here right now, go over to her house, point out that blade of grass to me and pluck it just to make her happy,” Penn said.
Tiffany Gibson-Pitts is also running in the race. Gibson-Pitts has lived in Opelika her whole life. She wants to be the voice for the voiceless. For Gibson-Pitts, she wants to invest in the youth in the area. She told News Three there are no activities for the city’s youth to take part in and instead they turn to crime. She wants to address the maintenance and care of right aways, eliminating abandoned houses. In addition, she wants to establish mentoring programs between police and the community and taking a proactive approach in the Carver-Jeter Plan by seeking grant money and having residents be more involved in the process.
“Ward 2, primarily the Jeter Avenue area is the most neglected area in the city, and that’s an injustice to all of the people who live in that area,” Gibson-Pitts said. “It’s unfair that they pay the same taxes, but the area that they live in is not kept up as other areas as other areas in Opelika are, and it’s just time for us to shine light on that.”
The race will take place on August 23.