The Auburn Villager sent out a questionnaire to all of the candidates for City Council running in contested races. The following are the responses (in italics) provided by Ward 5 candidate Sonny Moreman, who is running against Sarah Jane Levine and Leah Billye Welburn V for the seat.
1) Please provide biographical background information to give residents who do not know you a better understanding of who you are.
My hometown is Auburn. We moved here when I was 3, from Opelika, in 1954. We lived in several neighborhoods. First, Ross Street, then on Glenn Avenue when I was 5 (across the street from the Baptist Church), then Armstrong Street (the old Armstrong House), when I was 8. We moved to Denson Drive for my high school years. I now live on Carter Street, and have for the past 33 years.
I am a graduate of Mrs. Meagher’s kindergarten, Auburn High, and Auburn University (BS in Business). I also hold an MBA from the University of Missouri at Columbia, and a Juris Doctorate from Jones School of Law. I spent 28 years in the USAF, retiring as a Lt Col. For the last 20 years, I have been self-employed as a financial advisor.
My mother was self-employed and opened her first beauty shop across the street from the campus in 1957. I knew the whole town through her.
2) What spurred you to run for a seat on the City Council? And why do you think you're the right candidate for the job?
Auburn’s challenge is to manage the growth we are experiencing while maintaining its friendly, small-town character, which makes Auburn such a pleasure to live in. I have lived in Auburn for over 50 years and have witnessed many changes, and have watched how the citizens and city have adapted to those changes. I owned and operated a restaurant in Auburn during my college years, and for the last 20 years I have been self-employed as a financial advisor with offices in Auburn and Montgomery. Additionally, I had a 28-year career in the Air Force to provide me with management and leadership skills needed to help guide Auburn’s path into the future.
3) In general, what do you think the role of holding a position on the City Council entails? How would you approach the job if given the chance?
I would be the voice of Ward 5, the area I call “Old Auburn.” I would be charged with understanding the issues that are important to those citizens, and to Auburn citizens at large. I would become aware of these issues through town hall meetings, e-mail, phone calls, and canvassing the district to view changes first-hand. I would handle those issues through contacts with city personnel if possible, or if needed, by bringing the issues up before the city council.
4) In general, what does public service mean to you? And, more specifically, how have you engaged in the Auburn community to this point?
I have been involved with the community my whole life. I grew up in Auburn (Glenn Ave., Armstrong St., and Denson Dr.) At my church (Lakeview Baptist), I have taught Sunday School for 32 years, and served as president of its Carpenters-for-Christ men’s group. I have been a scout leader and am currently the president of the Farmville Community Club (North Auburn), where we have speakers on local issues that affect Auburn and Lee County. During much of my life, I was a member of the active-duty military service. I have a lifetime of experience in service to my community and my country.
5) What ward-specific issues would you prioritize if you were to win a seat on the City Council and how would you address them?
In “walking the beat” I have learned that the issues of Ward 5 are:
1. Short-term rentals (I am in favor of the current ordinance, of March 2021, as written).
2. A logical and orderly growth plan (It appears that outside money has over-built apartments. These are overwhelmingly student-apartments, which I suspect will soon glut the market).
3. Safety of our citizens (This would include bicycle safety).
4. Traffic flow and control (speed of cars on corridors like Glenn Ave)
5. Happiness and well-being of citizens (enhanced by parks and green space)
6. Evaluating and upgrading infrastructure as needed.
6) What citywide issues do you feel are most pressing and need to be addressed?
Small business is vital to downtown. I would work hard to retain and encourage that. This is part of the “brand” of Auburn, and helps to keep Auburn “unique.” Likewise, we need to maintain our heritage, whenever possible, by preserving some of our historical buildings (like the City did with the Post Office).
7) The fast pace of growth in Auburn and the surrounding area has been the overarching issue in the community for more than a decade, impacting everything from infrastructure, transportation, the school system, the housing market, etc. How do you feel Auburn has dealt with growth and in what areas do you think more attention should be paid? Do you have any suggestions on how to better deal with growth and its impacts?
Auburn has done a good job so far of managing its growth. People flock to Auburn for the schools, the Auburn traditions, and the friendliness. The City schools and the University are first-class and both are sources of community pride. Downtown, the city lighting, beautification efforts of the streets and side walks, and increased parking, have been welcomed additions. I am very concerned about the over-building of student apartments, and I’m not sure how or why we have exceeded the building height requirements. I will be very critical of any efforts to continue those practices.
8) Do you want to share anything else with the community that has not been covered in previous questions/answers?
I am very proud that current residents appreciate Auburn’s older neighborhoods. Ward 5 is full of these great old streets. In some cities, these streets would have become areas of blight, but Auburn’s old neighborhoods are still thriving after all these years. The spirit of Auburn is unequaled. It is alive and well.