Mayor in waiting

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, November 13, 2008

Jon Graham has a modest nameplate on the mayor’s office door at Calera City Hall. The mayor-elect’s name is typed on a name tag sticker placed below the brass nameplate of longtime mayor George Roy.

Graham, 38, hasn’t assumed the mayor’s seat due to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department against the city. The lawsuit alleges the city’s new voting districts used in the Aug. 26 general election violate a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Graham and newly elected council members cannot be sworn in until the matter is resolved. However, the lawsuit hasn’t stopped Graham from preparing for the transition and mapping out his administration’s goals.

“I have great anticipation for making Calera a family-oriented community,” said Graham, a husband and father to three sons. “I want to bring about some community spirit and pride.

Graham, a 1988 graduate of Calera High School, has lived in Calera most of his life. He worked for his father at Graham Automotive everyday throughout his teen years. Today, Graham owns the family business as well as J.G. Properties Inc., a company that purchases, develops and leases real estate.

For Graham, revitalizing community spirit requires cleaning up Calera, reducing the number of abandoned structures, restoring downtown and attracting business. The mayor-elect believes the city is working towards those goals, as evidenced by the construction of a new Publix Supermarket in the future Calera Crossings retail center.

Slated to open in March 2010, Publix will anchor the 89,000-square-foot center on Highway 70 at U.S. 31. Graham said Applebee’s and Milo’s Hamburgers are both interested in opening a franchise nearby.

Graham knows retail is vital to community prosperity. He hopes to continue the positive trend set by Publix, and increase the city’s commercial tax base.

In addition, Graham wants to remove commercial traffic from downtown to make the city more appealing to potential developers and residents. He plans to talk with state and federal representatives to seek funding for a bypass.

Graham’s other priorities include more community-wide celebrations and activities similar to the city of Helena’s movie night events.

Though he’s not in a position to implement his ideas just yet, Graham has met with various department heads to familiarize himself with City Hall.

“I need to continue to learn what the day-to-day operations are, and be closely involved” he said.

On Nov. 17, the city is expected to hear from the U.S. Attorney General regarding a decision in the lawsuit. Graham, a self-proclaimed optimist, wants nothing more than a positive outcome.

“I’ll be there ready and waiting when the day comes,” he said.