The Dawson County Chamber of Commerce hosted three of the four Dawsonville City Council candidates in a one-hour political forum at Dawson County Middle School on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
Chamber of Commerce president Mandy Power hosted Post 2 incumbent William Illg, Post 4 incumbent Mark Wade French and his opponent for the Post 4 seat, Jamie McCracken. Mike Sosebee was not in attendance due to a prior obligation.
Topics discussed at the event were ones such as government consolidation, maintaining Main Street Park, the economic development of the city and improving the infrastructure and traffic.
Illg and McCracken said they would not vote to approve the consolidation of the county and city government, but French said he would wait and hear more details on the process before committing to one side or the other.
“Until you hire an outside, independent party to explain what the benefits are to you, the detriments are to you and you become more familiar with the things we probably never even thought of...depending on a study, if we were able to do one, I may not be in favor of it,” French said. “But until we spend the money, we really don’t know the pros and cons of doing so.”
Something Illg said he prided himself on during his time with the city council was the hiring of two additional police officers and the installation of security cameras at Main Street Park. French was also on the council during those two votes, and said he knew the city would need to “be creative” in figuring out how to continue the safety and cleanliness of the park.
McCracken said his family and he had traveled to other cities to go to areas such as Main Street Park before it’s conception and saw great value in having an area such as for the community.
“One of the interesting things about the park is that it was part of the last master plan,” McCracken said. “Along with the farmer’s market, those are the crowning jewels of the city. Three things are needed for the park: it needs to be safe, it needs to be clean and it needs to be relevant. Keeping it relevant is just going to have to be a focus of the city. The money has to be allocated yearly to maintain it constantly.”
French said he believes the best way for downtown Dawsonville to see economic improvement would be to work with the Georgia Department of Transportation to make a bypass to “enable the city to get heavy traffic.” McCracken said he believes small improvements, like landscaping, can be made now while conversations between different government entities occur.
Illg, a small business owner himself, spoke with great enthusiasm on the economic development of the city.
“It takes a lot of money to build a bypass,” Illg said. “We need to figure out how to get the money to do it. If we can’t build a bypass, then we have to figure out how in the world do we relocate downtown? How do we make the land acquisitions that we need to make in order to get our businesses in a position where they can market sufficiently to the citizens?”
The end of the forum consisted of each candidate detailing their top three biggest priorities during their time with the city council:
Post 2 incumbent William Illg
Hiring someone in charge of Economic Development in the city: Understands how to rebuild cities financially
Marketing downtown Dawsonville at the North Georgia Premium Outlets: Get people the six miles down the road to downtown
Installing an amphitheater at Main Street Park: Live music, plays and shows
Post 4 incumbent Mark Wade French
Mending fences with the Dawson County Board of Commissioners: had financial arguments in the past
Adding a clear service delivery area for the sewer authority: City growth will cause issues
Working with GDOT to get a bypass to direct traffic to downtown Dawsonville: brings people to downtown
Post 4 candidate Jamie McCracken
Revisiting ‘perpetual challenges’: Negotiating with landowners in the city
Renewing a Master Plan for the city: Current one was written in 2013
Building on the current successes of Main Street Park: executing on different entertainment ideas
Early and absentee voting starts Tuesday, Oct. 12 with the in-person election being held on Tuesday, Nov. 2.