Two Dawsonville City Council seats are up for election this fall, with early voting beginning in just a few short weeks. As the election draws closer, it’s important to get to know the candidates you’re voting for to fill the council Post 2 and Post 4 seats. DCN sat down with all four candidates to ask them a couple questions about themselves and their goals if they should be elected.
Will Illg (incumbent)
Illg is 35 years old and is conservative in his political affiliation. He holds an associates degree from Gainesville State College and a Bachelors of Arts from Brenau University, and he currently works full-time as an investment advisor and also as an associate pastor with Echo Ministries.
He moved to Dawsonville in 2017, moved out of the city in 2019 and moved back in 2020. He is involved in many groups and organizations in the community, including taking his son to football games, attending First Baptist Church of Dawsonville, serving on the Dawsonville DDA, and accomplishing a lot of volunteer and service work in different local ministries.
He has served on the city council since May 2021, when he was appointed by fellow council members to fill the seat vacated by Steve Tolson. He is running for Post 2 City Council seat against Mike Sosebee.
Q: Why are you running for city council?
A: “I wasn’t sure if I was going to cause it’s a lot more time than what people see, but I really enjoy getting the public’s opinions on things. I think most people in a position like this want to try and shy away from getting public input, but I’m really big on wanting to know what the public thinks because I don’t ever wanna be put in a position where I’m voting in a contrary way than what the public wants. I love getting to be a voice for people, to be able to listen to what people want, and then I try to make it happen and see what I can do to help.”
Q: How does your line of work, political background and life experiences translate to you being a strong candidate for this seat?
A: “I think there’s a difference between a politician and a servant, and although we hold a ‘political’ office I try not to be a politician or to vote the way I want instead of the way the people want. So I think having that background in ministry, I have to put people first; and it’s the same way in city council that you have to put people first. So I think in my background I always try and look to where can I be a bridge, so if one person is over there and the other person is over here how can I bridge the gap to help them come to a compromise. So if that’s for the city and a citizen or if that’s for a developer and a group of citizens, I want to bridge the gap between where people are and where someone else is.”
Q: What is your definition of leadership and what are some examples of leadership positions you have held?
A: “I started studying leadership probably in 2005 and really became a student of leadership in 2008. Leadership is a lot of different things. I think the basic definition of leaders is leaders take people where they have never gone before. Leadership is vision casting and leadership is collaboration.
You know you’re a good leader whenever you see that you’ve multiplied other leaders — it’s one thing to lead a group of people, it’s another thing to be such a good leader that you’ve developed other leaders that are all leading their own organizations or ministries or businesses, whatever it may be.
I think you constantly have to study leadership and constantly be a student of it. I’m a faith-based guy so I look at everything through the lens of my faith, so I think the best leader of course is Jesus. He led by what’s called servant leadership, which is saying ‘I have been called to lead you, but the way that I lead is through serving you’.
I’ve been in leadership I would say probably since I graduated high school. I’m in leadership with my ministry, I’m in leadership with my company, I’ve been in leadership in college, and I’ve just always kind of been asked to be in leadership.”
Q: What are some of the biggest continuations or changes you plan on bringing to the city?
A: “If I get elected and continue to serve, what I’ll do is continue to get the people’s input. Even if that means we have to listen to some unpleasant phone calls or get some unpleasant emails, it is what it is — that’s the name of the job. So at the end of the day I’m going to continue reaching out to people, posting to the Dawsonville and Dawson County Facebook groups, sharing news information and information from the county.”
Q: What about Dawsonville makes you want to be a part of its government?
A: “One thing is the growth of Dawsonville — we’ve gained a thousand people since 2010, so being able to help shape growth is intriguing to me. You cannot stop growth; a community that isn’t growing is dying. So you have to allow growth to happen, but our job isn’t to eliminate it or stop it, it’s to be intentional about it, shape it responsibly and make sure that infrastructure is in place first so that our quality of life here in Dawsonville still matters."
Q: What are the top three issues you believe Dawsonville is currently facing and what are your plans to address each?
A: “Growth is one, and that goes back to shaping it responsibly. The second issue is our downtown area — that’s a big problem we have is that our downtown area nobody wants to come to. So how do you fix that? You gotta make downtown more attractive, and the way that you do that is by working with local business owners, with property owners and using DDA marketing to tell people about what’s happening down here.
And I think the third problem kind of goes along with that one; it’s that our streets here, 53 and Highway 9, that both go through downtown, are both owned by the Georgia Department of Transportation so we have no rights and we can’t do anything on them. Because those roads aren’t ours, we can’t get the trucks out of downtown, and without the trucks out of downtown, nobody wants to walk through downtown because it’s unsafe. It’s hard because that takes a high level of collaboration with GDOT and with the city, but it’s just meetings, meetings, meetings and cooperation together.”
Q: What is the importance of supporting local small businesses in Dawsonville and do you have any plans to help further this initiative?
A: “I really would like to see some kind of ‘an evening in Dawsonville’ package, like what if there was some sort of package where you go to eat at the Pool Room, you go visit the museum and then you go drive a go-kart at AMP so it’s a whole little package where for this amount of money you’re getting a whole evening in Dawsonville and we sell those packages as a way to bring people in to get the flavor of what we have to offer. You gotta collaborate with the business owners.”
Q: In what direction would you like to see Dawsonville head as a tourist attraction during your term?
A: “I would love for us to put our resources where our words are and spend the money that needs to be spent in order to attract people to downtown. What I would love to see is the financial income that we generate within our city to get bigger. Typically in most counties, the city is the economic engine for the county, but ours is totally flipped. We need to catch up.
So we need to create experiences for people. Not only our local residents, but pulling in people from Cumming or Dahlonega or Gainesville or other places that say ‘hey, I wanna go spend a night in downtown Dawsonville’.”
Q: How much time are you willing or able to commit to being a council member?
A: “From being on city council, a lot of it is emails which you can answer at any time. I’m lucky enough that I don’t have a 9 to 5 job; my schedule is flexible, so when there’s a meeting then I just readjust my schedule around that meeting. So whatever we need to do we do; however we need to make it happen we make it happen.
I think there’s a mindset that if you have someone who’s retired they’re obviously able to spend more time on the work than someone who’s not; but also I think that there are other challenges that people who are retired have to overcome where I have advantages, such as connections because I’m constantly working so I’m meeting more people a day.”
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the seat?
A: “I don’t wanna ever be in a position that I’m gonna talk negatively about someone else. I think that we all have strengths that we bring to the table and I think that you need the right puzzle piece in the puzzle to make it a complete picture, and I think that for a time like this I’m the right puzzle piece. That might not be the case four years from now or 24 years from now, but I think that for this time that we’re in right now I’m the right puzzle piece.”