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Houston County Leaders Reflect on Year Since Donald Walker's Death | News

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Houston County Leaders Reflect on Year Since Donald Walker's Death
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Warner Robins longest-serving mayor, Donald Walker, died a year ago this week.

His death, ruled a suicide, came in the midst of another campaign for re-election.

Several long-time community leaders with the city, county and state talked about their perspective on the direction of Warner Robins in the post-Walker era.

A city council member for 19 years and the current chairman of the Warner Robins Building Authority, Bill Douglas expected turbulence with a change in leadership after Donald Walker's death, but not this much.

Douglas said, "In my years of service, I've never seen it to the extent that it is."

He's not saying there were not problems before, and he's not pointing fingers now. But, Douglas says he can't ignore the political bickering and investigations at City Hall in the past year.

When Walker died, council member John Havrilla stepped up as mayor. Then, voters elected a new council and Chuck Shaheen to be mayor.

Douglas said, "Mayor Shaheen really hasn't had time to make his mark on the community. Time will tell."

That's the perspective of veteran Houston politician, Larry Walker. He is not related to Donald Walker, but was a longtime friend of the family.

The former state representative from Perry relates the situation to University of Georgia football. Walker said, "I think that what's happened in Warner Robins frankly, is they've gone from a Matthew Stafford, seasoned quarterback to an Aaron Murray. It's going to take Chuck Shaheen time to figure that out."

Former Houston commissioner Larry Snellgrove says Shaheen and the new council stepped in under the most difficult of circumstances.

Snellgrove said, "A lot of things that were said and done were out of, we were grasping. We were trying to hold on and make sure things continued to move forward. Sometimes when you do that, little things become big things."

Lifelong Warner Robins resident and founding member of the Houston NAACP, Ada Lee, calls the problems at City Hall "concerning", but believes the leaders can overcome inexperience with compromise.

Lee said, "I would like to see a better Warner Robins, a better International City. It's going to take everybody working together."

All agree it takes time to adjust, with new leaders and management styles.

Snellgrove said, "I think whoever would've been elected, we would've had issues challenges."

Lee said, "I would like for the mayor to listen to what somebody has to say. Nobody knows it all."

Larry Walker said, "It's a learning curve. Not only being a mayor, but being on council."

The long-time leaders said they hope for one thing, summed up by Douglas. He said he wants "peace and harmony" at City Hall -- or as close to it as they can get in politics.

Projects started under the Walker administration, including the law enforcement center and the sports complex, stalled in the past year.

Mayor Shaheen and council said they reached an agreement on the police center a few weeks ago, but have not taken a final vote yet.

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