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Race for Macon Water Authority chair comes to a boil ahead of primary runoff

Both candidates highlighted their experience on the water authority.

MACON, Ga. — As things heat up ahead of Tuesday's primary runoff election, both candidates for Macon Water Authority chair have a message for voters.

Gary Bechtel and Desmond Brown are competing to replace current chairman Sam Hart, who is retiring. We checked in with both the candidates.

Gary Bechtel is a planning and zoning commissioner, and has served on the Bibb County School Board, Bibb County Commission, and Macon-Bibb Commission, after consolidation. Bechtel also has experience serving on the Macon Water Authority.

"I was a county appointee going from January 2017 through March of 2018," Bechtel said.

Bechtel says the biggest hurdle the water authority faces is stormwater education, and transparency.

"When you have a utility such as stormwater. you need to be transparent as to what you're using the dollars for. I think the authority is working on that," Bechtel explained. "If I'm chairman, we're going to make certain that the money raised from stormwater, as well as for water and sewer, that we're transparent on what we're doing with it."

Bechtel says his years of government experience make him the right candidate for the job. His opponent, Desmond Brown, also has experience on the authority.

Brown's campaign consultant, Danny Glover, says Brown is not taking any interviews right now. Instead, Brown responded to our questions via email.

Brown says as a board member, he could only respond to the agenda before him.

"As chairman I can develop the agenda with firsthand information from the hired professionals to chart the right course," Brown wrote.

He says if elected, he'll 'make the public a part of major decisions and keep up improvements on stormwater in the areas sorely needed.'

Brown resigned from his board seat this spring to run for chair. He resigned as the board investigated him for possible ethics violations, and after four days in jail. He was held in for contempt relating to a 2019 lawsuit.

"Investigations exonerate as well as indicts [sic]. There is no indictment therefore it seems that this investigation was an exoneration," Brown wrote.

When asked about his response to voters who may be concerned about his time in jail, he wrote: "Jail time for payment of debt is as Un-American as the Communist party. A debtors [sic] prison in a civil matter is unheard of in most US courts. Disobeying a judge’s order is subject to individual “mens rea” by a judge, rather than statute, and I’m not privy to the judges [sic] motivations for incarcerating me as a legitimate indigent individual."

Former district attorney David Cooke was in charge of the authority's investigation into Brown. He told 13WMAZ that the investigation ended once Brown left office. If Brown is elected, Cooke says the investigation could resume if the board votes for it.

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