Political signs

In Ringgold there are contested race for the mayor’s seat and three City Council seats.

For the upcoming elections in November, Ringgold voters will have three choices for mayor: incumbent Nick Millwood; Paul Lee, a business owner and pro wrestler; and Tony Hullender, a construction business owner.

For the City Council, three seats are available. The top three vote-getters will fill the positions. Six candidates are seeking council seats: incumbent Sara Clark; Jake Haynes, who works for Catoosa County Public Schools; Charlie A. Lamar, an engineer; Donald R. Pangle, a truck driver; Ray Reavely, semi-retired, works part-time as a bondsman; Rhonda Swaney, a speech-language pathologist.

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. All early voting for Ringgold residents is at Freedom Center, 5238 Evitt St., Ringgold.

Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 5, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. All voting 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.

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Nick Millwood (incumbent)

Government experience: Four years as city councilman; mayor 2016-present

Education/work experience: Math teacher at Ringgold Middle School, teaching for 11 years, many hours of courses at University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute for Georgia Municipal Association

Accomplishments (personal and/or instrumental in): Seeking out the expertise and experience of people throughout the city has been my proudest accomplishment; keeping the electorate, which holds elected officials accountable, informed

Positives: The city has added a lot of infrastructure in preparation for more growth; aiming for the right kind of growth in the right places: growth downtown that respects the history and atmosphere of the city (small businesses, second-story office space, restaurants, festivals and events), larger businesses on Battlefield Parkway, additional businesses within industrial park

Problems city is facing: Responsibly managing our growth – honoring our history while embracing the future; government resistance to transparency

Vision for city: More low cost/high benefit projects, like a dog park; extend nature trail; add businesses to industrial park; more diversity of restaurants; take advantage of northwest Georgia being one of the few areas of the state actually growing; take advantage of having three interstate exits

Local/state elected officials candidate admires: Former mayor Joe Barger is a wealth of knowledge and has been very helpful to me

Quote: “Political campaign season is such a great experience. Elections give me a renewed opportunity to connect with our voters throughout the city and listen to the hopes and concerns so many of you are willing to share. I have seen many of the candidates out on the campaign trail as well, and I also wanted to applaud them for taking the time out of their lives to pursue an opportunity to shape our city’s future and serve their community. I have not and will not have a negative thing to say about any of them. Cheer them all on and vote your conscience at the end of the day. If you live in city limits and I have not spoken to you before elections begin, please reach out to me. I will try to find you, but our little city is growing every year. I hope to see you soon.”

Paul Lee

Education/work experience: Own a car lot; own gym; own brand of motorsport, ATVs, scooters, dirt bikes; own events venue; business and residential rental property; events coordinator and host; longtime businessman and business owner; volunteer (along with wife) with Special Olympics and Miracle League

Problems city is facing: Most people don’t realize Ringgold has what is called a “weak mayor” system – the mayor is mostly a figurehead who opens and closes meetings and shows up at ribbon cuttings; I want that to change. City needs to bring in more businesses, take advantage of having three interstate exits, stop working against businesses

Vision for city: Take care of businesses, make Ringgold the gateway to Georgia that it should be, make sure the police department gets its own building, lower residential taxes by increasing businesses in the city, create growth

Local/state elected officials candidate admires: Sen. Jeff Mullis, Rep. Dewayne Hill, Tax Commissioner Gary Autry, Catoosa Commission Chair Steven Henry, Gov. Brian Kemp

Quote: “Both other candidates are good men, men of integrity, but they have a vision and I have a plan to make it happen. This may be the only opportunity to make real change in the city and I need voters to help. I want people to know I’m running as Paul Lee the business man, not Paul Lee the wrestler.”

Tony Hullender

Government experience: Ringgold Planning and Zoning Commission for four years

Education/work experience/Accomplishments: Construction business owner, managed two multi-million dollar companies, Community Organizations Active in Disaster board member, chairman of Catoosa County Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, former music director (for 15 years) at Parkway Baptist Church

Problems city is facing: No big problems, but the city is not as well-represented at the county and state level as it should be

Vision for city: As a business owner, I have the time to take off and attend meetings with government officials, seek grants and represent the city. The office of the mayor cannot do a lot on its own, but the mayor can connect with the local needs of citizens and bring them to the council to deal with as a team. The mayor can be a liaison between the people and the council.

Local/state elected officials candidate admires: Sen. Jeff Mullis, Gov. Kemp, Judge Jeff Hullender, former Judge Gene Lowery (now deceased)

Quote: “Now is the time for leadership that measures and balances the needs of every neighborhood, and of every citizen of Ringgold. To lead this city, the next Mayor will have to work tirelessly to gain the confidence of every segment of our town. I believe I’m that leader.”

CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES

Sara Clark (incumbent)

Government experience: Four years on Ringgold city council, 14 years on Georgia Board of Natural Resources, eight years on Illinois Board of Education (seven as chairwoman); lobbied for Georgia on the environment

Education/work experience: Taught German at Wesleyan College in Macon

Problems city is facing: Not many problems right now; city is in a transition mode when it comes to social media use; city is facing real growth opportunities and needs to address them properly

Positives: We have a good Downtown Development Authority and a good Visitors Convention Center and Bureau; Ringgold could be a poster child for planning, because we’ve already started

Vision for city: Sustainable growth, not just a mishmash of growth; more walkable connectivity in downtown, connect pool and other areas with downtown via walkways; more small businesses and restaurants; make sure laws are followed

Local/state elected officials candidate admires: I know and admire former governor Nathan Deal. I appreciate Sen. Jeff Mullis and Rep. Dewayne Hill and the work they do for our district.

Quote: “My husband is a fifth generation Ringgold resident, which is why we moved back here nine years ago. I love Ringgold. I’m passionate about the environment. Winston Churchill once said you make a living by what you get but you make a life by what you give. I have a lot to be thankful for and want to give back by serving on the council and helping my community.

Jake Haynes

Government experience: Ringgold City Councilman 2014-2016

Education/work experience: Maintenance supervisor for Catoosa County Public Schools for 32 years; heating and air technician

Problems city is facing: Things are going pretty well; would like to see traffic controlled better, more traffic lights and sidewalks.

Vision for city: In the area of growth, a dog park would be good; more big stores, industry and larger businesses down Alabama Highway and Battlefield Parkway; some restaurants in the truck stop area; controlled growth to keep the small downtown feel at the center of the city; more businesses that pay a wage people can support a family on; lower taxes for residents; bring in more tourism with additional historic features at Ringgold Gap

Local/state elected officials candidate admires: Sen. Jeff Mullis, Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Earl Gray, Ringgold city council (“doing a fine job”)

Quote: “I’ve lived in the city of Ringgold my whole life. I’m honest, fair and hardworking. I don’t promise people things I can’t do – it takes three votes on the council to pass something. Part of being on the council is working with other people – the other council members, Fort Oglethorpe, the county and the state. I’m here to help people.”

Charlie Lamar

Government experience: U.S. Army; working with government but not directly for government: major contract with TVA for six years (as an engineer), work with municipal water plants across the country

Education/work experience: BS degree in chemical engineering, 30+ years leadership in the chemical industry, management of commercial construction projects, practical small business experience

Problems city is facing: City needs to be more pro-business and pro-growth, take advantage of infrastructure that is ready for growth; city has reputation for being difficult for businesses to deal with; city needs to be not only business-friendly but needs to seek out business

Vision for city: See our locals enjoying their hometown for dining, entertainment and activities; have Ringgold be a destination for people from surrounding counties; have Ringgold be a leader in growth and working with businesses and not a follower; okay for city to be a little sleepy but not for it to seem like midnight at 6 p.m.; more transparency in government

Local/state elected officials candidate admires: Ringgold Mayor Nick Millwood, Ringgold City Councilman Kelly Bomar, fellow candidate Rhonda Swaney, Catoosa County Commissioner Charlie Stephens

Quote: “As I am an advocate for civic duty I urge everyone to vote. As a veteran I volunteered to defend our country and at the very center of that is our right to choose our representatives. Please consider me for city council. I am asking for your vote.”

Donald Pangle

Education/work experience: Associates degree in transportation; 17 years management experience; 25 years as an over-the-road truck driver; choir leader and adult Sunday School teacher at church

Problems city is facing: No serious problems; some flooding recently but city manager and staff are evaluating it

Vision for city: What citizens want – I would survey my constituents, see what their consensus goals are for the city and work accordingly. I would work to keep the city safe and family-friendly, work to attract business – not just service businesses but also industry, which would offer tax relief to residents. No personal agenda, just what is good for the city.

Local/state elected officials candidate admires: Gov. Brian Kemp, Rep. Dewayne Hill, Sen. Jeff Mullis, Sheriff Gary Sisk, Judge Jeff Hullender

Quote: “I’m a small government person. I don’t think the government has all the answers. People usually have answers if you listen to them. I would work with the other council members and discuss problems and find answers. Sometimes you have to go outside government to find answers. I believe in treating all people alike.”

Ray Reavely

Education/work experience: Bail bondsman for 25 years; worked for City of Ringgold Public Works for 10 years

Problems city is facing: City Charter needs to be restored to the form it was before the most recent change – return power to mayor; city needs to cut red tape for new businesses starting; need to get citizens more involved

Vision for city: Return power of mayor’s position so he can do an effective job representing and working for the city; cut red tape and offer incentives to bring in more business; go after businesses to locate within the city – don’t wait for them to come to you; help create more reasons for people to shop downtown – events, more businesses, greater variety of restaurants (steak house, fish house); tax breaks for people 70 or older; things to keep kids busy and off the streets; give power back to the voters and get them involved; livestream council and other city meetings so people who can’t get to them can be involved

Local/state elected officials candidate admires: Rep. Dewayne Hill, former Ringgold mayor Joe Barger

Quote: “I think it’s especially important to get our charter restored and to give businesses a reason to want to come to Ringgold. If a business faces a whole lot of red tape, they’re probably going to go somewhere else. The city should be asking businesses “what can we do to help,” not throwing roadblocks in their way. We’re growing out Alabama Highway and Battlefield Parkway and that’s good but it hurts the downtown businesses, so we need more reasons for people to come downtown. We need to watch what we spend and how we spend it.”

Rhonda Swaney

Education/work experience: Speech therapist with Dalton Public Schools, specializing in helping autistic children; 21 years as an educator; involved in church; mother of three children; owned and ran a small business in Ringgold for three years

Problems city is facing: City has a reputation as being difficult to do business with; business owners talk to one another and that reputation spreads; businesses that leave due to lack of growth; lack of incentives for larger businesses; lack of transparency in government

Positives: Ringgold is a vibrant, growing city; families are attracted to the small-town feel

Vision for city: Become more business-friendly; officials who talk less and listen more; invest in events and venues for a wider variety of people, especially teens and seniors; put less money into things we’ve always done and more into new ideas (a dog park would be one good idea – a place not only for dogs but where people can meet and build a sense of community); more transparency in everything; true citizen representation; responsible growth – businesses and places that enhance our lives but do not compromise our town’s charm

Local/state elected officials candidate admires: Former mayor Joe Barger, Mayor Nick Millwood, Councilwoman Sara Clark for being the only woman on the council and a force to be reckoned with, fellow candidate Charlie Lamar.

Quote: “Why is citizen involvement so important to me? Because it is our money that is being spent. The more involved we are, the less likely our money will be used inappropriately. My entire life’s work has been teaching other people how to use their voice to get what they need. Let me be your voice. Let me bring in fresh new ideas to Ringgold.”

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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