Oglethorpe Mayor Gerald Beckum, elected in 1983 has announced his decision to seek the U.S. Senate seat that is being vacated by U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. He sees himself as a conservative Democrat who can bring “common sense” to government. Beckum, 68, said he realizes that it will be a tough fight because of the money usually spent on these type of campaigns and because it is difficult to get elected in Georgia if you live south of Atlanta. People from South Georgia are entitled to representation, and he believes it is important to make the effort to show that it is possible to run and be elected without megabucks.
“Someone familiar with this kind of race told me, ‘If you don’t have a million dollars of your own money or backers with millions of dollars, you might as well forget it’. I don’t have either, and this will be a real ‘grass roots’movement. I plan to visit every city and county in Georgia during this campaign,” he said. Saxby Chambliss from the Moultrie area “probably could have been reelected, but it is harder and harder for someone south of Macon to get elected. There is such a preponderance of population in the 10 counties around Atlanta and Fulton County that we find it impossible for someone south of Macon to be elected statewide, Beckum said.
People in this country are frustrated, he said. And he lists the frustrations. “One of the greatest frustrations at the moment is the inability of our government to function. We have too many politicians –Democrat and Republican – trying to make themselves look good and make the other side look bad, to care about what’s good for the country.
“A second frustration is that due to the inability to govern, most people feel that their tax dollars are wasted. They are living from paycheck to paycheck, if they have a job, while our government officials act like school children on the playground instead of responsible adults.
“A third area of frustration in the country is that for the last 12 years we have been a nation building and democratizing the world all the while we have wasted young lives, maimed many more, and failed to take proper care of the very young people who put their lives on the line for the United States. While we were doing all of that, we have let the infrastructure of this country start to crumble and deteriorate and have wasted billions of dollars, if not trillions of dollars, on countries who hate our guts. This policy makes no sense and we need to take a fresh look at our foreign policy.
“Health care is another issue of extreme frustration for most of us. No matter what side of the current debate you are on, we can all agree that we cannot continue down the path we have been on for the past 10 to 20 years. There is no doubt that our health care will soon be unaffordable for all of us. Premiums continue to climb at 20 percent or more rates, the deductibles higher and higher, the benefits get lower and lower. We are all beginning to wonder if we should drop our insurance and take our chances. I fully believe if the insurance of Congress, the president and government hierarchy were suspended and we insisted that they must come up with a plan for us as well as for them, it would surprise us how quickly they might act.”
Other issues that should be resolved are real tax reform, immigration, abortion, defense spending, the economy and schools and education are on his list. Beckum has been mayor of Oglethorpe, a small town of 1,274 population, and he says that position “has been an honor and a privilege.” “Some days I was in Atlanta with the governor and legislators and back home the next day in the trenches and ditches
with my workers.
I think being mayor of a small town may be the toughest and most rewarding job on earth. One of the most important lessons I have learned has been that most politicians spend way too much time talking and not enough time listening to the needs of people,” he said. He was always a full time mayor and a full time business man. He describes himself as “a conservative Democrat with a heart for the needs of people. I grew up with Herman Talmadge, Richard Russell, Sam Nunn and Richard Ray, among others as my role models. Of the governors that I have known, I think that I am closer to Governor George Busbee’s definition of himself: ‘I am a work horse, not a show horse.’ I have worked closely with Jim Marshall, Larry Walker, and George Hooks during the last 32 years and consider them role models as well as friends.”
He spent 42 years as a small businessman in agribusiness. “I have been in the nursery business, the irrigation business, and lawn maintenance business. I have farmed pecans and timber. I know what it is like to make payroll week after week, to handle finance and personnel problems, but mostly I know how to work with people,” he said. Beckum worked in the Macon County High School System for six years, teaching math, science and coaching football, basketball and baseball at the high school.
He completed high school at Louisville Academy, a public school, in Louisville, Georgia. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in science education from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro in 1962 and took advanced courses at Auburn University and Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. A family man, he was married to his wife, Linda, for 44 years. She died of cancer in early 2012. The Beckums have two daughters.
So far the democratic field includes Michelle Nunn, Todd Robinson, Branko Radulovacki and Steen Miles
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