MACON, Ga. — Leading up to the August 11 runoff, 13WMAZ is hearing from each of the Macon-Bibb mayoral candidates on the top issues in the county.
Back in February, we drove the 13WMAZ Listening Lab to nine different areas around the county, and you told us what matters most from your elected leaders.
Now, we are taking those topics to Lester Miller and Cliffard Whitby, and we will be sharing several stories over the next few weeks.
The third topic of discussion is how the candidates would handle the COVID-19 pandemic as mayor.
Both Lester Miller and Cliffard Whitby say Macon-Bibb County's government, like many others, was caught unprepared for the pandemic.
Miller says he'll do just what he did as a board of education member.
He says he proposed to push back the school's start date to after Labor Day. He also says he'll prioritize the health of the people over what the state and federal government say.
"I don't take our children, our staff's life for granted at all. I treat them like I would treat my family and my kids at my house, and that's to provide safety, so I'm going to err on the side of caution. You can say what you want to. We're going to make sure the businesses are taken care of by administration," said Miller.
Whitby says he'll have teams embedded with the CDC and national leadership.
"I would have a team embedded to understand how we can protect our communities and give them the information that they need," said Whitby.
Whitby highlighted the lack of information about the virus, saying the public should know how many cases are being reported in every hospital.
"I will leave no stone unturned. To get all the information at my disposal, in the hands of the community as quick as possible, with as much accuracy that we can possibly bring to," said Whitby.
Both candidates say they would favor a Bibb County mask mandate.
"I view my job as doing what I felt was right to protect the people that elected me in the office. Yes," said Whitby.
"If the data suggests that we all need to wear masks, we all need to wear masks. If it's going to stop the problem we have, or slow it down or save lives, and it requires me to do an executive order to say we're going to wear masks, that's what I'm gonna do," said Miller.
Miller says the problem will be enforcement.
"We don't have the officers that, you know, combat crime here in Macon-Bibb County. We're certainly not gonna be writing tickets walking down the road, but we hope that people will take that as we care about you. We care about the safety. Let's all do this together, and maybe that person will be an outcast if they don't have it on," said Miller.
Our full 17-minute interview with both candidates on how they'd handle the pandemic is below: