Up on North Broad, an old strip center has “under contract” across the Hardy Realty for sale sign. Next door, there’s an almost-new Dollar General store, transplanted from a spot a bit closer to Broad Street. Keep an eye on that site as well.
Across the highway and a turn down Watters Street gives way to what once was the Rome-Floyd Recycling Center. Usually bustling with activity, it also was a litter headache as remnants got loose from paper and other heaps of recyclables..
Some communities have seen better days; North Rome is going the other way. It’s on the way back.
And one of the people responsible is Charles Love. He knows a lot about a different type of recycling; for him, it is all about his life, both before and in recent years.
We met Love for a late breakfast on Thursday in at Troy’s barbecue in North Rome, a popular spot for politics and community discussions over eggs or barbecue or a loaded buffet. The reason was to discuss his background which quickly became “currency” this week, political currency. The “whispers” over the past 48 hours have been deafening.
The reason? Love, a candidate for one of three spots representing Ward 1 on the Rome City Commission, made “mistakes” in his years as a lobbyist in Tennessee. Confronted with bribery charges, he confessed to federal authorities and never stood trial.
According to The Chattanoogan, Love was sentenced for being part of the “Tennessee Waltz” sting led by the FBI; Love was described as “the bag man.” He spent eight months of a 366-day sentence in prison; he was released in 2008.
Love wound up in North Rome and began to “give back” as he calls it. He dove into his new neighborhood, Ills and all, and worked with others to champion North Rome. Citizens, churches and city officials all joined in to begin cleaning up crime, blight, litter and other issues.
A onetime school board member in Tennessee, Love’s contributions in Rome earned him an appointment to the Rome Floyd Planning Commission.
And on Aug. 21, 2019, Love took it a step further by qualifying to run for City Commission. He arranged a noon media briefing on the steps of City Hall. Around 50 family and friends gathered under scant shade to hear the skilled orator credit the North Rome community for all the achievements; he asked for their continuing support on the City Commission if elected Nov. 5l.
Love made the announcement, surrounded by two preachers, knowing those who didn’t know about his prison time would likely hear it soon. Again, it is “currency” that is well traded in politics, small town and big city. We’ve already seen the emails and texts and borderline outrage about “how can HE run?”
He’s glad you asked — this one time. He’ll show you letters to state corrections officials seeking to clear him to run for public office. He’ll show you letters on his behalf written by well-respected former public officials in Floyd County as well as the community’s top law enforcer. He’ll talk about the latest miracle where his appeal for the state’s OK to run for city commissioner was granted in weeks, not months as had been predicted.
He’ll share the background report by the state that shows he’s been a model citizen since arriving in North Rome and beginning — if you will — a redemption tour of his adopted hometown.
We asked Love for a statement, for him to offer his words. It follows:
“(Wednesday), I filed as a candidate for the Rome City Commission. At my announcement for office, I had the opportunity to speak with the press. In an effort to be transparent, I revealed an incident in my past that happened over 10 years ago.
“In the state of Tennessee, I worked as a advocate for private industry in state government. During that work, there was a federal sting operation that resulted in my conviction of bribery and conspiracy. Because in the political arena, there are those who chose to attempt to use our past against us as a way to diminish political aspiration. I am not proud to this event, and regret the decision I made to participate in such activities. I took responsibility for my actions, cooperated with the federal government in solving the case, and paid my debt to society.
“As a part of qualifying to run for city commission, I had to petition the state Board of Pardons and Parole, which conducted a thorough investigation, and deemed me worthy to seek public office. Unfortunately, there are those who do not believe in redemption or forgiveness. Since I have been in the city of Rome, Ga., I have pursued a passion to assist those who felt left out, to have a voice and it has proven to be successful.
“I have been active in improving the quality of life for the citizens of North Rome; now I want to use those proven results to improve the quality of life citywide as your city commissioner. In North Rome, we have gotten results and have proven citizen-driven efforts work. The Charles Love that existed 14 years ago is DEAD. When you are in Christ, you are a new creature; behold, old things are passed away, and all things are new.
“Please review my efforts as a citizen of Rome, Ga., and make your decision based on proven results.”
So there. It is “out” and on the record and now officially reported (and also has been in the Rome News-Tribune). So much for the whispers.
Again, Love didn’t have to run. He could have spared himself and his wife the whispers and texts and emails and newspaper reports and web columns and such digging up “mistakes” from 15 years ago. But he wants to do more, even amid the social media murmurs.
We expect five to six people will have qualified by 4:30 this afternoon to run for the three Ward 1 seats on the Nov. 5 ballot. The three candidates — incumbents or challengers — who receive the most votes win.
This time, the community will be the judge, not a federal magistrate or those quick to pass the currency of political gossip and certified “gotchas” out of fear of a different face on the commission.
As Love says, let the voters decide.