Oct. 30 – ALBANY – As a political newcomer aged 62, David Sampson sees the move as yet another chapter in his life that involves a major change of direction before he throws his hat in the ring.
Sampson is the Democratic nominee in the Nov. 8 election, facing Republican Tracy Taylor in District 153, the only district wholly within Dougherty County.
After deciding he wanted to be his own boss and work in shoes, Sampson left his position as a clerk at Popeyes Chicken to take a job selling shoes from early morning to 6 p.m. to learn the business , he said .
7 p.m. to 2 p.m. was “my time,” Sampson said, when he would read, study, and write. He studied Medicare and the process of getting accreditation to work with the insurance and literature programs, and he can quote lengthy passages of poetry.
“No TV,” he said of that time.
Although he went through some tough times and was at one point practically broke, he and his wife Sharon now own and operate Shoes And Medical Solutions (SAMPS), an insurance agency and durable medical device company with a primary focus on diabetic footwear and braces.
Sampson works with a mostly older clientele at his shoe store and says he spends long days traveling to Albany neighborhoods and surrounding cities to serve customers.
When the entrepreneur saw the condition of the building he had rented to open the business, he bought the mall on the 1700 block of East Oglethorpe Boulevard and renovated the building through his construction company. His and Sharon’s offices and their employees take up about half of the building, and there is a barber shop and other shops in the complex.
The same energy and adaptability that he brought to this endeavor Sampson sees as his strength in becoming a lawmaker.
“At the end of the day, there’s a steep learning curve from doing what I do in this business world and going to the Capitol and what’s happening there,” he said. “I think in terms of leadership I would have what it takes to go to Atlanta and be in the system of what’s going on. I must study.
“At the end of the day you have to draw on your experience, draw on your learning and show you deserve to be there. This allows you to collaborate with your party and reach the other party across the aisle.”
One of the biggest problems facing the district and region is depopulation. One way to address this is housing, and the District 153 candidate said he has already had discussions with veteran Republican Congressman Gerald Greene, who is seeking re-election in District 154 and has identified housing in Dougherty County as an issue that he would like to tackle.
“I can tell you this, if I go to Atlanta, my job is to represent the people who are sending me, not your so-called platforms,” Sampson said.
Another issue close to his heart is the food insecurity of the region’s elderly population.
“I think one of the things that I think should happen is that we need to provide a means for seniors to have access to better nutrition,” he said. “Our seniors get an average of $16 in food stamps. They’ve worked their whole lives and we give them $16 or $20 and it doesn’t make any sense.”
The candidate said he would also like to promote a local environment where local governments, clergy and the business community come together to help solve problems. Manufacturing is the region’s strength, and Sampson said it should be the first focus to create jobs and economic development to help alleviate high levels of poverty.
“I love being in Albany,” he said. “It’s not just the north side or the south side, it’s about all people being exalted. We don’t want to make people dependent on the system. That’s the problem – too many people are dependent on the system. I think we’ve got what it takes to get people back to work.”
Ultimately, Sampson said he strives to help others and builds on small successes to get the ball rolling. Those little things, like helping a customer get the right shoes at little or no cost, or helping people get a better deal on prescription drugs are a few examples.
“Anyone can make a difference,” he said. “Everyone should try. We believe in Dougherty County. We believe in the process and we believe it can be better. We believe there should be small victories every day.”