THOMASVILLE — Just two short years after Councilman Hunter Thrift was elected as the youngest member of Thomasville City Council, he is now preparing to be one of the senior members of council.
Thrift told the TIMES last week that he will seek to retain his seat on council, even as more than half of the local government plans to move on. According to Thrift, incumbents Wendy Sellars, Ron Bratton and himself are the only members of council who are planning to file for reelection.
In that scenario, Scott Styers, Neal Grimes and Jane Murphy would vacate their seats, as would Joe Leonard, who announced his candidacy for mayor earlier this year. At just 24 years of age, Thrift hopes to once again earn the confidence of the city’s voters to carry on with some of the projects the current council has worked to develop.
“We’re losing a majority,” Thrift said. “There is a part of it that can make you a little uneasy with that big of a change, but I trust that our citizens will make the best choice. I can work with almost anybody, as long as they’re willing to work with me and everybody has Thomasville and our citizens [as priorities].”
In 2019, the Ledford High School graduate claimed one of Thomasville’s seven at-large seats in a race that featured 11 candidates. After being sworn in November 2019, Thrift was in the infancy stages of his first term on council when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted operations in the city.
“I had about six months or less of everything being ‘normal,’ ” Thrift said. “We all had to work together, we all had to learn together. … Really, it took each one of us just to be committed to get us through this. We couldn’t have done it without all the department heads that keep everything afloat.”
One city project that continues to move toward its conclusion is the new aquatic center which is now down to the final stages of design, Thrift said, as the city is currently selecting paint colors for the facility. The new aquatic center and pool will sit roughly where the current pool house and pool are undergoing demolition. Included in the conceptual designs is the addition of 1,170 square feet for council chambers.
Estimated at $6.3 million for construction of the aquatic center, the sticker price for the project required additional funds due to general cost increases in the industry. City council directed staff to include half of the funding from a 2-cent property tax originally to fund a special reserve for city road maintenance projects.
“We did a lot, but it wasn’t the stuff I wanted to do because COVID hit,” Thrift said. “We had to dedicate so much time to that and making sure that our employees were taken care of, making sure the city was taken care of, trying to help everybody up a little bit. That kind of shifted us from any thought of anything other than surviving.”
Hoping to receive a chance at a second term, Thrift said he is eager to get to work on making progress with existing road paving, recreation, downtown and projects in other corridors in the city. In putting a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic in the rear-view mirror, he believes the opportunity remains for Thomasville to achieve much of what it hoped to before COVID-19 derailed preparations.
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at email@example.com.