GILLSVILLE CANDIDATE

The only Gillsville candidate facing opposition who attended the political forum was Larry Poole, who is a candidate in the Post 2 council race.

Lula and Gillsville candidates spoke at a political forum in Homer on their reasons for seeking office and what their priorities would be if elected.

The Banks County Chamber of Commerce CVB hosted the political forum and all candidates in the Nov. 2 town elections were invited to attend.

LULA

In Lula, the two candidates for mayor, incumbent Jim Grier and Joe Thomas, and District 3 city council candidate Gene Bramlett were the only ones to attend the political forum. Bramlett’s opponent, Mordecai Wilson did not attend.

Other candidates in the Nov. 2 Lula election are District 2 city council incumbent Marvin Moore and challengers Patty Thomas and Denise Shockley.

LULA MAYOR’S RACE

Opening statements from the candidates in the Lula mayor’s race included the following:

Jim Grier: “Although I’ve only been a full-time resident of Lula since 2003, my family roots are very deep in Lula. Over the past four years, I’ve had the honor of serving Lula just like two of my great-grandfathers and my grandfather. My great-grandfather, J.D. Adams, owned a dry goods store on Main Street in Lula and served multiple terms on the Lula City Council. You will find his name on the corner stone on the old city hall and jail on Main Street. My other great-grandfather, Simon Terrell, served as a council member for the city of Belton and then my grandfather, Hudson Terrell, served as a council member and mayor for the city of Belton and council member and mayor for the city of Lula. His name is on the front of a plaque of our current city hall. My mother and father left Lula in the later years of the depression and went to Atlanta to look for work. My mom had a job at the Department of Labor and my dad went to work for Georgia Power. After dad returned from World War II, they married. I had both sets of grandparents here in Lula. We spent just about every other weekend and every summer here in Lula. I currently live in a house that has been in my house since 1895. So, I love Lula. That is what has motivated me to step up and serve Lula for the past four years and I want to do that some more.”

Joe Thomas: “For the past eight years, I have worked for the post office in Lula. Prior to that, my wife, Patty, and I owned the flower shop in Lula. I spent 18 years running the print press in Oakwood and Doraville. Before that, I owned a commercial floor covering company in Atlanta. I served in the Marine Corps and studied at Georgia Tech. I want to explore the idea for term limits for mayor and council members. This will give fresh ideas instead of stale ideas.”

Question: Why are you running for office? A summary of the candidate responses is as follows:

Thomas: “I got into this race because several people approached me wanting a different, more responsive, city council. I tried to persuade other people to run but they wouldn’t do it, so I’m stuck with it. I look forward to the opportunity to change the city for the better. I want to create better transparency for the citizens who feel left out. I want to maintain the small-town feel of Lula with destroying the existing appeal.”

Grier: “From 2005 to 2012, I served as chairman of the Lula Downtown Development Authority and during that time the DDA developed a vision of Lula for 2020 that really showed what a thriving city would look like. Because of that, I feel like I have a vested interest in what Lula could become. When several residents approached me back in 2017 and encouraged me to run, I told them no and then I told them no six more times. Then I saw there were things I could contribute to the city and where I could make a difference. So, I said yes. So, four years, I pledged to work together for our future in Lula and over those four years, I’ve done just that. I’ve worked together with the city council and our city employees, our new planning commission, Hall and Banks County Board of Commissioners, Hall and Banks County sheriff’s departments, our state legislators and senators and our congressmen and senators in Washington. We have made great strides over 2018 and 2019 but just as we were gaining momentum, the pandemic came along and it threw us a curveball, a knuckleball and a sinker all at the same time. So, over the past two years, I’ve worked with our city council and our city staff to ensure that critical city services were provided without interruption. We worked together to minimize expenses during the time when city revenues were uncertain and while other cities were raising taxes to cover lost revenue, Lula continued to roll back our millage rate. So, there is no city tax in Lula. You can look around Lula and see a number of the things that were accomplished in those two years but there is more to be done and I want to be a part of that. I think I still have a lot to contribute because of the positive relationships that have been developed over the past four years.”

Question: What previous experience do you have with a budget and managing people? A summary of the candidate responses is as follows:

Grier: “From 1980 to 1988, I worked with Oglethorpe Power Corporation as an engineering manager. My first job, I hired two engineers. A few years later, I was manager of the energy and forecasting section and had a staff of 14 and an annual budget of $2 million for five years. During that time, I was tapped to serve three new business units for Oglethorpe Power in addition to managing my current unit. I was responsible for preparing the staffing plan, job descriptions and the budget for those areas as well as for my own section. The first step was to prepare goals and objectives for five- year plan for my business unit and then I developed a three-year budget for that plan. Then, I was responsible for a monthly budget review and a line item review for senior management. After leaving Oglethorpe Power, I founded Southeastern Property Appraisals. Later, I built a relationship that formed six other real-estate related companies that I owned and managed. In 30 years, I have hired and managed approximately 50 employees. My experience has taught me to plan and develop a budget and then to analyze the revenue and expenses and it has served me well in business and it continues to serve me well as mayor of the city of Lula.”

Thomas: “I owned a commercial flooring business in the 70s. I also led a press crew of six employees and quality and production standards were met. More recently, running a flower shop in the town of Lula was challenging. It helped me better understand the challenges of running a small business in a small town.”

Question: If elected, what would be your immediate priorities in office? A summary of the candidate responses is as follows:

Grier: “It is critical that we continue to prepare for the growth that is anticipated for our area while attracting the type of growth we actually want. I will continue to support our families with the parks and kinds of family activities they need and deserve. I will continue to support our local businesses so that we can grow and prosper. I will continue to provide new infrastructure, needed roads and water and sewer facilities to serve our communities and I will do this with no city taxes in Lula.”

Thomas: “I will update the city website with accurate and current information. I want to create a communication pipeline so that citizens have a pro-active method of getting information about current issues, get them involved in government and get them interested in government and pertinent events.”

LULA DISTRICT 3 COUNCIL SEAT

Opening statements from Bramlett, a candidate in the District 3 council race, included the following:

Gene Bramlett: “I was born and raised in Oglethorpe County. I moved to Hall County in 1991. I’ve been in construction most of my life. I’ve owned two businesses. I served in the military. I’m married and have four children and eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. I wish to serve the City of Lula.

Question: Why are you running for office?

The reason I am running I think it is time for change in the city of Lula. We need new blood. It is my first time running for any office so I’m not a politician but I want to serve the people of Lula from the oldest to the youngest and that is the reason I’m running.

Question: What previous experience do you have with a budget and managing people? A summary of the candidate responses is as follows: I’ve owned two businesses and I’ve worked commercial construction most of my life.

Question: If elected, what would be your immediate priorities in office? A summary of the candidate responses is as follows. “First of all, I will talk to the citizens of Lula and see what their objectives are and with the council to see what on-going issues are, plus I like growth but I want controlled growth.”

GILLSVILLE

In Gillsville, the Post 1 and Post 2 council seats will be on the ballot. The only candidate facing opposition who attended the political forum was Larry Poole, who is a candidate in the Post 2 council race. He is facing Jeff Perry in the race. Perry and the Post 1 candidates, Phil Ferguson and Kody Rylee, did not attend the political forum.

Poole’s opening statement included the following: “I went to Banks County High School. I’ve been married 56 years. We have three kids, eight grands and two great-grands. As far as career and my past, I worked Southern Bell for most of my career in communications and the corporate world. As I said I went to Banks County High School and then I went to Gainesville College. I spent a little time at Piedmont and then finished and graduated at Georgia. My second career after I retired from the telephone company was with Hall County Engineering. I worked there for about 12 or 13 years. I’ve been a mayor and council member in Gillsville for 25 years.”

Poole’s answer to the question, “Why are you running for office?” included the following: “One of my main reasons is having watched what takes place in cities, I was mayor for quite a few years and we would meet with different towns and cities, I saw Braselton go from a laid-back country town to a town where a subdivision took it over. I don’t want to see that happen to our country cities like Gillsville. I realize that you have a certain amount of growth that you have to deal with. I’m a fiscal conservative. I want to see the town continue to flourish and function with the limited funding we have. We don’t have city taxes and I don’t want us to get in a position where we have to do that. That is one of my main reasons for wanting to stay on the council. What I am going to do is represent the citizens. To me that is important.”

As for the question on his experience with budgets and supervising employees, Poole’s response included the following: “I worked for many years with a large company. I managed technical groups with trucks and equipment and then I got higher and went to the headquarter’s office. I worked with the human resources department. I also managed a group that helped people convert from using paper to computers in Georgia and the Carolinas.”

As for what his immediate priorities would be, Poole stated, “We’ve been trying to develop a better grasp of zoning ordinances and subdivision ordinances. We’re getting to a point where we are getting feelers on those things and we need to be prepared for that. That will be one of my highest priorities. Continuing with that, we have an old building that dates back to over 1800. We’ve got to get work done on it and comply with historic regulations. We’ve been told that’s one of the best commercial examples of a commercial building people have seen in the state. We have a lot we are working on. We just need to continue those projects.”

As for the accomplishments that he is most proud of, Poole said: “As for my time on the council, there are so many projects I’m proud of. It isn’t about me, it’s about the team. What I’m going to tell you isn’t about me. It’s about the team. Realigning State Route 52 is one of my proudest accomplishments. It was a hazard in many ways. I had to negotiate pretty heavily with DOT. The biggest challenge was Norfolk Southern and their right-of-way but with some help of some good people, we were able to put that together. Along with that, I have to mention the streetscape. Gillsville really hadn’t gotten any grants so I set my eyes on doing that and we went through that process. I had to write a great deal of that. If you haven’t done that, you can’t imagine the political nature of doing those things.”

GILLSVILLE MAYOR’S RACE

Wade Dale is running unopposed in the mayor’s race. He did attend the forum and spoke, giving the following opening statement, “I grew up here and went to school here. I started my schooling at Gillsville Elementary and then moved here and graduated from Banks County High School in 1978. I got a scholarship to play baseball at Piedmont College. Those years were the years that were formative years. My wife and I have been married 42 years. I met her here in Banks County and we have enjoyed being here. As you get older, community gets more important to you and doing the things we need to do.”

As to why he decided to seek the mayor’s seat, Dale said, “I have never been a politician but I was asked and I did it and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve enjoyed it. I want to inject some new ideas into Gillsville. I want to keep it the way it is. It is a historic town. It needs to stay a historic town but we do need a little new life coming into it. I do want to inject some newness so we can grow a little. Stay small but grow a little.”

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