For the upcoming elections in November, Fort Oglethorpe voters will have two choices for mayor: incumbent Earl Gray and Louis Hamm, a pastor, chaplain and former council member.
For the City Council, Ward 1, voters will choose between incumbent Rhonda James and Melissa Jacks, a teacher at Heritage High School.
All voting for mayor and city council members will take place at Fort Oglethorpe City Hall, 500 City Hall Drive, Fort Oglethorpe. Fort Oglethorpe voters will have to go to other voting locations to vote on the school tax referendum.
Early voting for the elections is Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Oct. 14 through Nov. 1. There will be extended hours on Oct. 31, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early voting for mayor and city council positions is at Fort Oglethorpe City Hall. Voting for the school tax referendum is at Freedom Center, 5238 Evitt St., Ringgold, or West Side Voting Precinct at 3319 Lakeview Dr., Rossville.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 5, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voting for mayor and city council positions is at Fort Oglethorpe City Hall. Voting on the school tax referendum must be done at voters’ assigned precincts.
For more information: https://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do or call Catoosa County Elections at 706-935-3990.
Earl Gray (incumbent)
Government experience: Fort Oglethorpe City Councilman 2010-2015, Fort Oglethorpe Mayor 2016-present
Education/work experience: 200 hours of training from University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute for Georgia Municipal Association; small business owner
Accomplishments (personal and/or instrumental in): Hired a new city manager, police chief, building inspector, recreation director, court clerk — five of the most important positions in the city — and kept everything running smoothly; no tax increases; no cuts in services; a lot of growth on Battlefield Parkway and Hwy. 41, including Publix, Food City and a lot of restaurants and other businesses
Problems city is facing: Always problems with water and sewer because of how contract with Tennessee American Water Company works
Vision for city: Capitalize on the economy while it’s good; concentrate on growth on Hwy. 41 in the Scruggs Road area that’s so close to the new soccer stadium, hotels and water park planned for East Ridge
Local/state elected officials candidate admires: Sen. Jeff Mullis, Rep. Dewayne Hill, Rep. Steve Tarvin, Gov. Brian Kemp
Quote: “When I look back on my voting record as a councilman, I’m proud of it. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last four years. We’ve had no negative press at all. I think things will get even better in the next four years.”
Government experience: Fort Oglethorpe City Councilman 2006-2013
Education/work experience: Plumber for over 40 years (now retired); pastor of Salem Road Baptist Church in Rossville; Chaplain with Southern Cross Ministries for Fire, Police, and EMS Georgia Association of Law Enforcement Chaplains; P.O.S.T. Certified Chaplain (Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training); 120 Credits from University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute for Georgia Municipal Association (Municipal Finance 1 & 2, Municipal Law, Managing Meetings, Emergency Management, Downtown Development Authorities); Courses from Robert E Knox Jr. Municipal Leadership Institute
Accomplishments (personal and/or instrumental in): While on city council 2006-2013: Upgrade of sewer and water lines; Patterson Ave. extension; West Chickamauga Creek sewer to Battlefield Parkway; Costco Warehouse; Cabela’s Outdoor Sports Store; Parkway Plaza next to Walmart; Lafayette Road Federal Local Access Road Grant through Appalachian Regional Commission for $3 million
Problems city is facing: High water/sewer rates, especially hard on older people; county funds to Fort Oglethorpe fire department eliminated; too many empty retail spaces; lack of transparency
Vision for city: Work with city manager to secure funds to replace the monies the county cut from their budget for the Fort Oglethorpe Fire Department; work to balance the budget while keeping costs down to avoid tax increases; work to keep the water and sewer rates from increasing; work to see Lafayette Road completed with the Appalachian Regional Commission Grant; more effectively advertise empty retail space available in the city by interacting with landlords and placing available space on the city web site where investors and business owners can find it
Local/state elected officials candidate admires: Sonny Perdue when he was governor of Georgia
Quote: “I like the current council members and feel I could work well with them. I want citizens to know I will always take or return their calls.”
CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES
Rhonda James (incumbent)
Government experience: Fort Oglethorpe City Councilwoman 2016-present
Education/work experience: 20 years as chief financial officer at Dalton Utilities, 20 years as controller at Chattem Chemicals, former senior accountant at Chattem, BS degree in accounting, Master’s degree in business administration, Human Resources Specialist certificate, Georgia Municipal Association Certificate of Achievement
Other Experience: 35 years of leadership experience
Accomplishments (personal and/or instrumental in): Brought dog park idea to Fort Oglethorpe and founding member of the Fort Oglethorpe Dog Park Committee, unity within Fort Oglethorpe government, unity among Fort Oglethorpe, Ringgold and Catoosa County governments, upgrading of city infrastructure to prepare for further growth, quarterly council meetings to discuss ideas, good steward of city funds
Problems city is facing: Need to market what we offer better — dog park, walking trails, playground
Vision for city: Extend walking trails, initiate group walks for residents, work in Phase II of playground after new play equipment is installed (Phase II includes fixing or replacing pavilions and other things), working with police chief to restart Citizens Police Academy
Local/state elected officials candidate admires: Senator Jeff Mullis, Fort Oglethorpe mayor and council members
Quote: “I believe in servant leadership and I think this council has done that and shown that we try to do the right thing.”
Government experience: Have gained a lot of experience learning about and dealing with government over rezoning issues while representing my subdivision in Fort Oglethorpe when a developer (who had not even fulfilled his promises to repave roads in the subdivision) sought rezoning to place an RV storage unit adjacent to the subdivision — studied city codes and ordinances, worked with and appeared before city council with a fellow resident who is a civil engineer, on behalf of my subdivision, vote was unanimous against rezoning; over six years of experience working with a panel of attorneys, as administratrix, to secure restitution for a medical malpractice/wrongful death case — in active communication with many Georgia officials during that time, including the governor, state representative, Georgia Advocacy, Georgia Bureau of Investigations, and the Department of Justice; watch city council meetings online.
Education/work experience: Currently a full-time Business Education teacher at Heritage High School; have taught at Ringgold High School and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School; BS degree in business marketing; 30 years of experience in marketing and management, including working for two fortune 50 companies —International Business Machine Corporation and Eastman Kodak Company; licensed in both business and marketing; leadership positions and a part of many leadership teams/committees throughout approximately 20 years of teaching with Catoosa County Schools
Other experience: Diverse background in the following industries: web design and marketing, printing, publishing, technology/computer science, medical/eye care, education and music; side businesses specializing in marketing, web design and music promotion and performance; pianist, soloist, outreach coordinator and webmaster at church; music outreach ministry for assisted living and similar facilities; resource/advisory leadership chair position with homeowners association and liaison to HOA president
Accomplishments (personal and/or instrumental in): See previous answers.
Problems city is facing: Inconsistent and improper enforcement of city ordinances and codes; lack of transparency; lack of the right kind of economic growth
Vision for city: Five priorities: Public Safety and Code Enforcement — work with both law enforcement, city code enforcement management and residents to achieve objectives;
Business Partnership Development and Growth — obtain integral business partnerships to advance and improve our community, create a strategic plan to manage and monitor objectives with a targeted list of potential new business partners; Economic Development — foster the right kind of economic growth and development, encourage large business expansion and growth into Fort Oglethorpe, work with city management and business partners to prepare a business press kit for potential investors; Historic Preservation and Development — protect and expand our historic downtown Lafayette Road district and other historic areas; Fort Oglethorpe Entertainment and Festivals — foster, develop and expand entertainment in Fort Oglethorpe to include large festivals and similar events that rival our neighboring towns and cities, create an organized, systematic management system for events and entertainment.
Local/state elected officials candidate admires: Mayor Nick Millwood; also, very impressed with the Secretary of State’s office when working with them regarding the medical malpractice issue, though never met the Secretary of State himself.
Quote: “I will be an active voice of my community — advocating for protection, the right kind of economic development, historic development and preservation, and will work to obtain integral business partnerships to foster growth and development to advance and improve our community. I’ll do what I believe is right, because ultimately I answer to my Heavenly Father.”