Foley residents may be used to Frances Holk-Jones’ face on billboards and advertisements around town, but they may be seeing more of her if she’s elected to a seat on the Foley City Council in August.
Holk-Jones, a well-known insurance business owner in south Baldwin County, has announced she will challenge incumbent Rick Blackwell for the District 4 seat. The daughter of former mayor Arthur Holk and granddaughter of former mayor George Holk, Holk-Jones said she would use her position a councilor to attract “good, clean industry” with high-paying jobs to the city.
“Foley is like the ‘hub’ of the entire county,” Holk-Jones said. “What happens in Foley effects everyone.”
According to Holk-Jones, Foley has done well attracting retail stores, but often those jobs are not permanent, high-paying careers except for management positions.
“We can recruit industries to town that will provide people with permanent, high-paying jobs that allow them to have a career they can be proud of,” Holk-Jones said. “I want our young people to want to stay here because they know they can have a career here, not because they feel stuck.”
Citing the career and technical program at Foley High School as an example, Holk-Jones said she wants to help Foley become a place where young people can feel comfortable starting a business.
“I want our kids to have big dreams and be entrepreneurs, and I want them to be confident that Foley is vibrant enough to support their vision,” Holk-Jones said. “We want them to know their future can be here.”
One key to attracting businesses to the city will be the revitalization of downtown, which she said has struggled to find its identity. Holk-Jones said as a councilperson, she will work with existing downtown merchants to bring in new businesses to make Foley’s downtown more vibrant.
“I’ve always heard that a downtown area, regardless of whether it is Foley or Chicago, is the heartbeat of the city,” Holk-Jones said. “The way a city takes care of its downtown reflects the way it cares for itself.”
A longtime business owner, Holk-Jones said her knowledge of the intricacies of how to run a business will help her in municipal government, where small details are important.
“As a 30-year entrepreneur, I know the buck stops here,” Holk-Jones said. “Owning a business gives you a deep knowledge of the small details that make everything work. I believe paying attention to those details will also help me in city government.”
Blackwell is seeking his third term in office after first being elected to the City Council in 2008. Blackwell said he was born in the old doctor’s office above Wright’s Drugs in downtown Foley, which is now home to the Holmes Medical Museum.
“I’m a full-time City Council member,” said Blackwell, who retired from Goodrich Aerospace in 2006. “I’m on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I’m retired, so I don’t have any other jobs keeping me from my work for the city.”
Blackwell said he has enjoyed being part of Foley’s sports tourism developments, as well as growth in the retail market and recreation expansions citywide. Blackwell cited the Foley Sports Tourism Complex, currently in development north of Baldwin County 20 between Juniper Street and the Foley Beach Express, with 16 multi-use fields for soccer, lacrosse, football and other outdoor field sporting events. The $16 million outdoor sports complex is expected to open this month. It’s part of a $27 million events center slated to open next year.
He also said the Raymond C. Christensen Memorial 5-Plex baseball and softball park, a skate park, dog park and the development of a pedestrian bridge over Alabama Highway 59 as examples of projects he has played a role in developing.
“I’ve been heavily involved in all the development around town and I want to be there to see it all through to fruition,” Blackwell said. “It is going to be a big thing for Foley and for all of Baldwin County. We are going to put Foley on the map for sports tourism.”
Blackwell was president of the South Baldwin Dixie Youth Girls Softball league for four years and spent eight years in the same position with the South Baldwin Dixie Youth Baseball. He was also a member of the committee that formed the Foley Soccer League.
He said he would like to expand housing options for people drawn to the city to work in sports tourism and other industry, and to expand and improve amenities at South Baldwin Regional Medical Center.
“We have been moving forward since I’ve been here,” Blackwell said. “I want to make sure we continue to move in the right direction.”
Foley Mayor John Koniar has also filed paperwork to seek a third term in office. Koniar has served since 2006. He was mayor pro-tem between 1996 and 2006 and served on the City Council between 1980 and 2006.