Mayor Bill Ham, who is leaving his post as Auburn's mayor this year after five terms, has endorsed Auburn Ward 2 Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Ron Anders Jr. to be his successor.
During his time as mayor pro tempore, Anders formed a close relationship with Ham.
"I told Ron four years ago I'd like to move in that direction [stepping down from the mayor position] if he was interested," Ham said. "I told him about four months ago, 'Ron I need a commitment from you as to what direction you're going because I feel good about your ability to lead this community.'"
There are no guarantees as to who would win the election, but Ham said he is confident that Anders would be a good fit to lead Auburn.
Anders decided to throw his hat in the ring for the race for mayor of Auburn after serving 6 years as the representative for Ward 2 on the Auburn City Council.
“My love and devotion for my community is substantial, and I believe this is the ultimate venue for me to serve
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Anders was appointed to the Auburn City Council in 2012 when Sheila Eckman left the Ward 2 seat to fill the District 1 seat on the Lee County Commission. He finished out the rest of Eckman’s term and then ran for a full term in the 2014 city elections.
Anders is nearing the end of his first full term as a city councilman and is looking to sit a few seats down on the first and third Tuesday of each month.
“It’s my desire, it’s my heart to bring our community together,” Anders said. “Auburn is never going to be the best it can be if we don’t come together as a community.”
He decided being mayor is the best way for him to continue to further his service in a community that has given him so much.
Anders is a 1986 graduate of Auburn University, former mic man and is well-known for his family business, Anders Bookstore. He said he learned a lot from his time behind the counter.
“You learn to respect the fact that people are shopping with you, and they don’t necessarily have to shop with you,” Anders said. “When they do, you’re grateful for that. [There are] just a lot of great life lessons like that, and many of those years my grandfather was there with me.”
He learned the most from his grandfather, who would take him over to McDonald's to sit down for a hot cup of coffee, he recalled.
While Anders worked in the bookstore of his namesake he also served on the Chamber of Commerce. Anders and his father became the first father-son duo to hold the title of president of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, he said.
He was one of the people who helped create the Auburn 2020 plan and is credited with bringing the 50th Dixie Youth World Series to Auburn.
Anders felt he was destined to serve his community more, and with that sentiment, his appointment in 2012 became his next endeavor.
During his time on the Council, many projects and initiatives have come before him two Tuesday evenings a month. But he is most proud of the Council’s commitment to the “Renew Opelika Road” project.
“We are already seeing the benefits of that effort with the renewed investment on Opelika Road,” Anders said. “We had some buildings that were, frankly, eye sores for our community. [They] do not stand any longer. And that is all because of the power of our economy in this community and because of the investment our city made into Opelika Road.”
The rehabilitation of Opelika Road began at the ends and the intersection of East University Drive and Opelika Road. The city invested in infrastructure and streetscaping, which Anders said have led to greater private investment in the area.
In 2014, Anders was appointed mayor pro tempore. Anders said the position didn’t change how he served the people of Ward 2, but helped him to serve them better.
“During the weeks, it afforded me some great opportunities to meet some people, develop relationships with people and just spend some time with
Public safety and education are most important to Anders. He wants to ensure everyone’s safety while giving the people what they want, Anders said.
“At the end of the day, the goal of the City Council and the mayor is to take the tax dollars that we collect from the citizens and spend them how they want us to spend them in the best manner possible to serve people,” Anders said.
Anders is looking forward to the traffic and school safety studies that are being conducted now. Depending on the results of both studies, the city will decide where to focus attention for the foreseeable future. The studies will determine which projects need to begin immediately and which projects can wait.
Traffic and parking have consistently been two issues that have plagued the City Council throughout Anders' term — and before it — with residents consistently rating those two issues as two of the most important to them on city resident surveys. That concern will no doubt continue after elections in August.
He also wants to create an Auburn 2040 plan, similar to the Auburn 2020 plan. It will be a citizen-led strategic plan for the city for the next 20 years. Anders said the 20-year plans allow community members to invest in the community and create a community they would want to live in 20 years later.
He wants to keep the economy strong by making sure the business climate stays healthy so people want to come to Auburn to do business. Most importantly, Anders wants to be everyone’s mayor, he said. He said he plans to serve everyone, whether they are in Auburn for four years or 40.
“We don’t need any talent or ideas on the sideline because they don’t think they’re important enough or that nobody cares,” Anders said. “All people have value. All ideas are worth listening to. I want to be a mayor to all of our citizens.”
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