COVINGTON — Former Covington city manager Steve Horton will run for mayor of the city he served for more than 35 years.
Horton announced his plans Thursday, noting that he is “no stranger to government operations at the city of Covington.”
Horton is the second candidate to announce plans to run for the mayor’s seat, which is currently held by Ronnie Johnston. James T. (Tim) Walden Sr., senior pastor of Calvary Community Church in Conyers, announced his candidacy in March. Johnston has not announced if he plans to run for re-election. The election is set for Nov. 5.
Horton started his career with the city in the Covington Police Department, where he worked his way up through the ranks over the course of 12 years. In the late 1980s, Horton switched career gears and went to work as a lineman in the city’s electric department. In 1993, he became the city’s safety risk manager. He later served as interim police chief and public works director, and was appointed deputy city manager by former City Manager Frank Turner, who recommended him for the city manager position upon his retirement in 2005. Horton retired as city manager in December 2012.
Horton holds a bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and a master’s degree from Troy State University. He is a lifelong resident of Newton County and a Covington resident of more than 45 years. He and his wife, Mary, have one son and daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.
While serving as city manager, Horton oversaw a number of accomplishments for the city, including four departments becoming nationally accredited agencies, something that only three cities in the nation had achieved at that time. In addition, Covington was designated as a City of Ethics and was named a top 20 finalist in the national All America Cities Award Program. In 2003 the city was named a City of Excellence, and in 2005, the city was awarded a planning grant as part of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Livable Centers Initiative Program.
As city manager, Horton also had direct oversight of the expansion at Covington Municipal Airport, which included land acquisition, extension of the runway and relocation of the terminal building.
In 2012, Horton was named Local Government Administrator of the Year by the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center and one of Newton County’s Shining Lights.
While serving as public works director, Horton worked with city and county personnel to earn the Signature Communities designation for both the city and county.
As police chief, Horton directed the department’s security efforts for the 1996 Olympics and was in charge of providing security for the portion of the Olympic Torch Run and related festival in Covington.
“More than all these things, I am most proud of the relationships that I was able to develop over the years with the citizens, business people and employees here in the city of Covington,” Horton said in a released statement. “Each one of you is more than just another face to me. While serving you, I always did my absolute best to ensure that you were treated compassionately and fairly. If you elect me as your mayor, you can expect the same from me in the future.”
Horton said he also faced challenges while serving as city manager, in particular when navigating the Great Recession. Horton said the city was able to weather the recession and keep utility and tax rates as low as possible.
“Though we did evaluate and hold off on filling some non-critical positions whenever associated employees resigned or retired, we never exposed employees to layoffs or reduced work weeks as did numerous other public and private sector employers during the same time period,” said Horton.
Looking to the future, Horton said tough economic times may again lie ahead for the city. If that is the case, Horton said some difficult decision-making may be required.
“Certainly, and in all cases, government leaders can and should do more to manage and/or scrutinize how we expend government resources,” he said. “‘Buying what you need and needing what you buy’ are good foundations to work from. Additionally, we should do more work on improving how Covington partners with other governments, quasi-governmental entities, and private businesses to maximize taxpayer and/or ratepayer monies and resources. Though a lot has been done, more work can and should be done, along with our community partners, to define and strengthen our local economic development efforts and bring more and better job opportunities to our community.”