Danielsville mayor Todd Higdon says he is running for mayor again because there are too many goals and unfinished projects in the works for him to walk away now.
“Danielsville requires a working, hands on, mayor,” he said.
Challenger and former mayor Philip Croya says he wants the job back because some folks asked him to come back and he wants to give residents a choice for mayor.
“They say I did a good job and have good views of where the city should go, so I’m trying again,” he said. “I’m not going to put mayor Higdon down. It’s all about choice. Some people wanted a choice and I’m giving them one.”
City voters will choose between the two on Nov. 5.
A LOOK AT TODD HIGDON
Higdon has lived in the city since he built his home in Long Estates, a subdivision he developed, in 2005. He and his wife, Stephanie, are the parents of two children, 10-year old Natalie and 2-year old Knox. He is the owner/operator of CarQuest on General Daniel Avenue.
Higdon ran for mayor in a special called election in March 2012, defeating mayor pro tem Junne Temple, after former mayor Croya resigned in January 2012, just nine days into a new term. Croya is now seeking re-election, challenging Higdon for the mayor’s seat for a new three-year term that begins Jan. 1.
“We have eight projects that are going on now, or will soon be going on, including a $103,000 sewer pond project, a $600,000 water tank project and a $600,000 roundabout project at the red light, for starters,” Higdon said. “These kind of projects take up a lot of time and it helps me that I own a business here in town and can be here to meet with individuals and agencies in a short amount of time. All of these projects are designed to grow Danielsville. For many years, it’s been ‘let go,’ and the council and I want to bring it up to what it should be as the county seat.”
Higdon said that the new roundabout that will eventually replace the red light at the intersection of Hwys. 29 and 98 will solve about 60 percent of the traffic problems in town, according to D.O. T. projections. The project has moved slower than the council anticipated, Higdon said, due to property acquisitions and Georgia Power right-of-way issues.
He also pointed to the new configuration of the old courthouse roundabout in the center of town, which has improved traffic flow greatly, particularly during high volume times, such as when school begins and ends each day.
“The school system is happy with it, as are the great majority of citizens, once they got used to the new configuration,” Higdon said.
A new water tower near the school campuses on Madison Street is a major improvement for the city, Higdon noted. “The water tower is huge, it is, stand alone, one of the most important projects for Danielsville in years,” he said. “It will increase our water capacity for fire protection and infrastructure and allow our city to grow…The city is pretty much maxed out in water capacity right now, but engineers tell us that with the new tower, we’ll have enough water for five grocery stores the size of Ingles.”
The city is also plans to move forward on a $400,000 SPLOST-funded project to renovate old water and sewer lines.
And if approved by a vote next year, the city plans to annex the Sherwood community into the city – something Higdon said will benefit both the city and the subdivision.
“It is a drug haven with some rundown properties,” he said. “We can provide the many fine upstanding citizens in that community with more police patrols, stricter codes and better lighting, for starters. That will also help the city by decreasing crime in our area and increasing our population.”
Higdon said he is particularly proud of the way the new council has worked together to bring the water system, which operated in the red for many years, to self-sustainment.
“We’re operating in the black now,” he said. “That in itself is huge.”
He said the council, office staff, maintenance staff and police department are all running smoothly and are working cooperatively with county and state agencies to make Danielsville better.
“The council members support each other 100 percent,” he said. “Each one is an independent thinker; they’re not followers and not afraid to express an opinion, but we all respect each other and are always able to come to a consensus. There’s not been a cross word between us.”
And he has praise for city employees as well.
“Our employees have taken the city’s operations to a whole new level,” he said. “Our office staff is great, always looking for ways to save on expenses and our maintenance department, with the addition of adequate staff, is doing things it’s never been able to do before, such as edging sidewalks.”
Higdon pointed out that city clerk Susan Payne and the council found $25,000 in frivolous expenditures that they could eliminate last year.
The city’s new police chief Brenan Baird has hired three part-time police officers that will soon begin to patrol mainly at night and on weekends.
“Brenan is doing a great job, he is personable, professional and is making the department more professional,” Higdon said. “He has developed a 150-page SOP (operating manual) that spells out the roles and responsibilities of our officers.” Higdon said officer Henry Hicks remains on medical leave since his vehicle accident earlier this year, and that he is much missed.
Higdon said he encourages everyone in the city to vote.
“Please vote, it’s your voice, please use it, it’s your opportunity to say what you like, what you dislike,” he said. Higdon pointed out that each election costs about $3,000 to conduct.
A LOOK AT PHILIP CROYA
Croya said his resignation after nine days in office in 2012 was a principled stand against a wrongdoing in the police department.
“I quit because the (then) council would not let me discipline the police chief (then chief Matt Pilkington) about the illegal use of radar, they thought I was picking on him,” he said. “I was not going to sit there and go along with something illegal.”
Though Pilkington was not the officer who used the radar illegally, Croya maintains he knew of the situation and did nothing about the officer who used the radar illegally (that officer later resigned).
“That’s the problem I had with it,” he said.
Croya has lived in Danielsville with is wife Janet and son Keegan for the past 11 years, and is a lifelong resident of Madison County. He currently works full-time for Athens-Clarke County government.
Croya said that all that’s been done to improve the city over the past year and half were in the works when he was mayor.
“The water tower, red light, we were working on it,” he said. He said his vision of the city’s future is all about growth, and though the Hwy. 29 bypass is currently on a 20-year hold, he feels it’s never too early to plan for it.
“The corners of where the bypass will be are good commercial prospects,” he said. “I want to see the city prepare for expansion.”
He likes the idea of annexing the Sherwood subdivision into the city, but disagrees that it continues as a drug-ridden area today.
“The drug problems are not there anymore,” he said. “Things are already better because all those old rundown homes are empty.”
Croya said he used to ride through there on police patrols with former officers Brent Zellner and Cliff Moody at night and saw that things were better.
“I was with them a lot of nights, I wanted to learn more about Danielsville after dark, and I was ridiculed for it,” he said.
Croya said he likes the idea of a new water tower on the south side of town for the revenue it will bring the city.
He said it will keep the maintenance department busier with the additional wells and said he was concerned whether the fire sprinklers have been inspected.
On the new roundabout, Croya said he would have preferred keeping the red light with added turning lanes.
“Two (roundabouts) in the city on the same road is not good,” he said, but added he will abide by the council’s decision on the matter if he is re-elected, adding that it can always be changed later on.
And Croya had nothing but praise for the current council and city employees, noting that he pointed out Michael Wideman as a good prospect for the council when he resigned as mayor. He also said that he is responsible for the hiring of Payne as city clerk, who he said has done a great job.
“I found her and I hired her,” he said. “She’s great person to keep the mayor informed.”
Croya said he doesn’t feel that his full-time job in Athens will interfere with his duties as mayor in any way.
“I can juggle it,” he said. “The mayor does not need to be in the city all day. Seeing the employees on a daily basis leads to micro managing. It’s the mayor’s job to oversee, not put the employees under a microscope. I don’t think that’s a good impression…it wouldn’t be that much, it never was in the two years that I did it.”
Croya also had praise for the maintenance and police departments.
He said new police chief Baird has a lot of expertise, training and experience.
“They need to get him some more employees to support him so he can spread his wings,” he said.
But, he pointed out, he has received complaints from citizens about not seeing evening and nighttime patrols. “That’s one of the biggest issues I’ll deal with (as mayor),” he said. “Citizens are complaining they don’t see police in the city when they get off work.”
Croya said he simply wants citizens to have a choice for mayor in November.
“I’m not going door-to-door,” said Croya. “I stood my ground and resigned when I saw something wrong (before), I stood up to what was right. When you have one versus the other of us you won’t see much difference, but I will treat people with respect and not talk down to them. I’ll treat their problems as my problems because that’s my job.”
Croya also wanted to address online bloggers.
“Those people don’t know me, but they think they do,” he said. “I did say politics are evil, you just have to learn to deal with it. Emotion always gets in the way and politics has no emotion, you just have to learn the difference between the two.”