The two new faces on the Dawsonville City Council may differ in age, ideas and background, but they share a common goal for their hometown.
James Grogan and Calvin Byrd want to keep Dawsonville growing without losing its small-town charm.
Grogan, 67, and Byrd, 25, will take part in their first meeting Jan. 4.
Both talked last week about why they ran for office and what plans they have for their four-year terms.
Grogan, a deacon at First Baptist Church, said becoming a councilman was a chance “to be a voice for the people, because it’s not about me, it’s about them. I represent the people.”
A Dawsonville native, Grogan moved to Memphis, Tenn., for a while, but returned three years ago to get back to his roots.
He said travels have given him a keen eye for government leadership.
“We lived in a small town outside of Memphis, and we saw rapid growth out there after we moved,” Grogan said. “I now know what happens to communities when they get out of hand.
“We’ve not let that happen here in Dawsonville, but we have to keep our eyes open.”
Byrd, a Dawsonville native, agreed.
“We need to keep the downtown historic district and city alive,” he said. “If you’re not growing or trying to promote business in these little towns, they tend to shrivel up and die out.”
Byrd, who is the president of KARE for Kids and a member of Bethel United Methodist Church, said he is “a little nervous, but pretty excited” about his first council meeting. The decision to become a councilman came “after a lot of prayer.”
“It felt like right now was the time to step in,” he said. “When I graduated high school, I thought I might be interested in doing something like this. Some of my teachers said I was a good speaker, and I knew a good deal about politics, but I really got interested in politics when I became involved with some of the local organizations.”
Byrd is a member of the Jaycees and the Optimist Club and sits on the board for Family Connection and the chamber of commerce.
Grogan is a former member of the Lions Club and the Exchange Club.
In many ways, Grogan said, being an ambassador for Dawsonville means keeping the city as it is.
“People move here because of what Dawsonville is,” he said. “I don’t want to lose that, and yet I want to see us grow.”
Grogan takes pride in his hometown.
“Everybody says, ‘Come to where we live. It’s God’s country.’ Well, this is God’s country,” he said. “They’ve never been to North Georgia and Dawsonville.”
Some of Grogan’s plans for the city include a better understanding of its boundaries.
“I’m a little confused at times about that, and I would like to see that tied down so that we don’t hop, skip and jump and have people that are right in the city, yet they’re not in the city,” he said.
Zoning matters are also important for Grogan.
“I want to be sure that our zoning issues are such that we keep industry in an industrial area and not within a residential area,” he said.
Byrd said he’s happy with the council’s direction over the past several years, and he hopes to help continue that tradition.
He’s often asked where he’ll be in 10 years.
“Since I’m so young, a lot of people ask me that,” Byrd said. “After the first two years, I’ll re-evaluate how I liked it and see if I’m interested in climbing the ladder, or if I’d just like to stay around Dawsonville. It’s one step at a time.”
Byrd added that city council “felt like the best position to start and get my feet wet.”
“Four years from now, I may not be interested in doing it, but from the little experience I’ve gotten, I may see myself staying in politics,” he said. “We’ll have to see.”
Regardless of what he ends up doing, he said Dawsonville is home.
“There’s really no better place to be,” Byrd said. “I always tell everybody, ‘You’re right in the middle. You’re less than 30 minutes from the mountains, you’re less than an hour away from the big city of Atlanta. It’s the perfect place to live.’”
Grogan won’t argue with that.
“I look out my window in the kitchen and I can see the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Grogan said. “I just don’t know of a better place to be. I really don’t.”