Republican Macon mayoral candidate David Cousino speaks about his vision for the city during an interview Thursday at his office. Cousino, a candidate whom even many in his own party know little about, caught many by surprise when he defeated Arlan Gibson in last week's primary.
Republican Macon mayoral candidate David Cousino
speaks about his
vision for the city during an interview Thursday at his
, a candidate whom even many in his
own party know little about, caught many by surprise when he
defeated Arlan Gibson in last week's primary.
Most Macon mayoral candidates who earn just 318 votes might want to give up on their hopes for political greatness.David Cousino
, however, believes his
low-vote Republican primary win is just the beginning of his
journey to City Hall.
Even at first glance, Cousino
breaks the mold of convention.The 46-year-old home security system installer is just as likely to show up at a public event wearing a T-shirt with "Cousino For Mayor" written in marker - as he
did at a recent Macon Music baseball game - as he
would a suit and tie.Cousino
doesn't have a Web site.He
gives out his
personal cell phone number to any voter who wants it.He
doesn't put ads on billboards, in the newspaper or on TV.And he
most definitely doesn't place campaign signs in the rights-of-way, often chastising politicians who do.
Since announcing his
bid for mayor this spring, he
has raised almost no money for his
, ever the optimist, said he
isn't worried about the vote disparity.
"There was a lot of crossover," he
said."Look at the total number of voters in Macon.A lot of people don't show up to vote in the primaries."
Considering the large crossover and 30,000 people who didn't vote, Cousino
has a shot.
"But we are not going to run against Mr. Cousino
.Instead, we are running for mayor.We are going to re-emphasize our programs, our credentials, our message and hope we enjoy the same kind of victory in November that we had in July."
faces the monumental challenge of trying to convince voters to listen to his unique viewpoints in the wake of the overwhelming support for Reichert.
is the first to admit his
outlook flies in the face of convention.
"Remember, I think out of the box, not in the box," he
said with a chuckle.
Like most of the seven mayoral candidates in the two primaries, Cousino wants to see Macon improve as a city by infusing it with people, business and tourism.
It's how he
plans to achieve those goals that separates him from nearly any candidate who has ever run for this city's top elected job.
Cousino's grand plan for Macon involves working with the Muscogee Creek Nation
to return land in the city and Bibb County that previously belonged to the tribe when white settlers moved here nearly 200 years ago.
"Everything that was traditionally their property - they want what's rightfully theirs," said Cousino
, who said he
has no Creek ancestry in his
"I'm not giving away land," Cousino
said the land reverting to Creek territory wouldn't affect Macon residents' homes and businesses because the Creek Nation needs those people to make up the tax base.
"They would incorporate us into their own system," Cousino
said."They would have to incorporate us.The city would grow overnight."He
said becoming part of the Creek territory also would help ensure residents' safety, because Cousino
believes that terrorists wouldn't view the city as a target if it wasn't part of the traditional United States.
"Whatever the best interests of the citizens, I'm here to protect our city," Cousino
isn't saying how he
came up with this plan or with whom in the Creek Nation he
has dealt with.Part of the reason for his
said, is that announcing details too early would allow those opposed to his
plans to derail them.
Several officials within the Creek national government said they haven't heard of Cousino
, nor did they know anything of any plans to try to reclaim ancestral territory in Georgia.
"Not that I know of - no one in the administration," said one Creek official who wanted her
name withheld from this story."In the past, we've had real good support with Mayor (Jack) Ellis.We've discussed a lot of things with him, such as the Ocmulgee (National) Monument, and we've done work about culture and tourism."
Without revealing specific details of his
said hoping voters understand his
ideas is a gamble.
"I'm walking on faith, whatever I do," he
campaign strategy has been to meet people face to face, knocking on doors and pounding the pavement.He
doesn't talk or dress like a politician.He
doesn't wear a suit often, and when he
often makes mistakes with words.For example, he
refers to an impossible situation as a "Catch 20" and referred to a lack of government control as "anarchasy."
"It's hard for me," he
said."There's so much going on in my head that it's hard to bring it down into the common language."
No matter whether a voter agrees with Cousino's positions, there's little doubt he
is sincere in his
considers himself as a completely ordinary guy, and it's his
everyman, nonpolitical quality that he
believes will ring true with Macon voters.
"I'm a people person," he
said."I cross racial barriers, I cross cultural barriers."
Originally from Michigan, Cousino
moved to Macon 20 years ago, although he
has spent a great deal of the past two decades doing missionary work in Africa and Asia.It's that spirit that helped lead him to seek public office, he
"I'm a missionary.I want to take care of this place," he
said."This place can be a resort, take care of the needs of the people."Cousino
has often said he
jumped in the mayor's race because friends and acquaintances told him he
"I know what kind of person he is," said Phyllis Pope, a friend and supporter of Cousino's
...Cousino said his life experiences will help him if he becomes mayor, even if those experiences are negative.
For example, Cousino
declared bankruptcy three years ago and said he
won't have his
debts completely paid off until October.The bankruptcy, he
said, stemmed from a business deal made as part of his
home security systems career.
"That's how I know to sign contracts," he
said."Now I'm very careful.It opened up my eyes.I was lured into something and didn't realize it."
Macon has had its share of financial problems, and Cousino
"I've been there," he
said."I know what to look for now."
POLITICS AS USUAL - OR NOT
Even beyond his
Creek Nation idea, Cousino
has other plans for the city.
One of his
goals is to establish high-speed rail service between Macon and Savannah and get federal money to pay for it.Bringing goods from Savannah's ports into a free-trade zone established in Macon would be a way to generate money for the city, he
In addition, he
wants to both privatize and expand Middle Georgia Regional Airport.Cousino
said problems at Macon's main airport stem from its small size.
"If we had more airlines, if we expanded Cochran Field another 300 feet, we could get federal grants," he
would completely overhaul the slate of higher-paid city employees.
"Get rid of the fat," he
would scrutinize payroll lists, and anyone making more than $30,000 a year would be judged on necessity and productivity.
For example, he
would reduce the number of city attorneys, including assistant attorneys, from three to one.
"You have one job being put out (in) three pieces," he
said."We have three different city attorneys.You should have one.If we need more, then we will hire another one."
But police and fire employees might see big raises if he
becomes mayor, he
wants to increase their pay to the $50,000-$60,000 range to make their salaries comparable to other cities.Cousino
also wants to distance the city from taking part in business enterprises such as the convention hotel project.
"I want to get the city out of it," Cousino
said."If you have two companies that want to build hotels across the street from each other, let them build two hotels."Cousino