With his campaign for reelection over, Dawsonville Mayor Mike Eason is looking toward the future. Over the next four years, the city of Dawsonville will see some shifts and changes. So what are Eason’s goals for navigating those waters?
“For the short term, I want to make sure we’ve got a good handle on what we’ve got underway now and make sure our timeline moving forward is something we can let people know about,” said Eason.
Current priorities include major construction projects like Main Street Park, the Farmers’ Market and amphitheater.
“You want the city to be something the citizens can use,” said Eason. “Right now, with the amphitheater going in, the park there, the farmers’ market, we’re starting to have some things to keep people there.”
But Eason is worried that unless these new attractions are supported by an increase in restaurants and shops, “somebody’s going to come up and spend time driving in for a show at the amphitheater, and then it will be over.”
Eason hopes that more mom-and-pop restaurants and stores will open downtown to give citizens and visitors more reasons to stay in town. He sees the city as being more small-business friendly than the 400 corridor.
Another current objective that Eason hopes to continue in his next term is the overhaul of several of the ordinances that might have been outdated or written for a vision of Dawsonville that was a little less diverse. A perfect example of this, according to Eason, is the guidelines for incorporating streets into the city.
“Pretty much, they have to have curbs and gutters and sidewalks. Well that’s fine at Crown Pointe, but if you’ve got 100 acres over on the west side of the county that’s in the city, and you want to build an equestrian subdivision with 5-acre lots, well we got to make you have sidewalks and curbs and gutters, and you don’t need that,” explained Eason. “That’s just one of many examples of things that we were looking at.”
Ultimately, Eason wants to make sure that people are coming to Dawsonville.
“I think what we all want is for it to be a destination city for something other than the Racing Hall of Fame. We got to keep bringing it up, making it better. So looking at that, I think we want to make a conference center in the back of it (the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame),” Eason said. “We’re looking at the cost estimates so we can submit a grant proposal.”
It would be one of the only spaces available for large gatherings in the area.
“I think that’s not just important to the city, it’s important to the county,” the mayor said.
In the long term, Mayor Eason is looking to update how the city runs and how the city moves.
“In the council-manager form of government, it’s hard for the council members to provide oversight, because they’re all doing something of their own — they’re working, they’re doing their own thing — so I think we’re going to change things. We’re not going to a strong-mayor system. I don’t want that. Nobody wants that. So I think what we’ve got to do is make sure everybody’s more engaged with what’s happening. That’s really important to me.”
Eason went into a little more detail about the sorts of changes he is considering in the government.
“One of the things I want to do is — I’ve been around a lot of city government in my time where the council is more active in the operation of the city,” said Eason. “We can assign each council member to be responsible for a particular part of our city.”
“That doesn’t mean I want them to supervise each department,” Eason added. “I want to engage them and bring them more into what’s going on in our city.”
Transportation and infrastructure is also a key part of Eason’s vision for the city’s future.
“Right now, I think the biggest issue facing the city is the traffic,” said Eason. “Citizens don’t like it. Businesses don’t like it either.”
This means that Eason will be working with the Department of Transportation to add new options for getting around the city.
“We’ve already got the engineers to put the streets in off of Academy Ave,” Eason said. “That will take those properties that are on the far side of Academy from Hwy. 53 and make all those lots something that somebody will invest in, with streets and parking. Then we can do what they’ve done in a lot of South Georgia towns where the right-of-way comes right up to the front of the buildings — use the back of the buildings as the main entrance, because you’ve got a street and parking back there.”
This project, as well as updating several key intersections into traffic circles, goes onto the list of transportation-related projects the current administration has been working on — projects like the Perimeter Road bypass and acquiring Elliott Field to be a public airport.
“DOT is supposed to give us a date (on when the bypass can be completed),” Eason said. “Now we can’t tell them where to put it, but we need to know when, because we have to make some decisions — how do we get more business into the downtown.”
Eason also wants to “keep working on the airport and try to get that where it’s more controlled.”
Both of those projects have come with their fair share of opposition and controversy. But Eason remains resolute that they are for the betterment of the community.
“I just have an agenda to do the right thing, and that’s all I want to do is just do what’s right for the city. And it’s not going to make everybody happy all the time. But if we do what’s in the best interest of our community, that’s what’s important,” said Eason.
Ultimately, Eason is determined to keep working to make the city the best place it can be, for all of its citizens.
“It’s not about who voted for me, it’s about who I represent. I represent every one of those (2,466 registered voters in the City of Dawsonville), and even those who aren’t registered. That’s what I want to do is serve everybody.”