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Clermont election about preserving past, looking forward

POSTED: October 27, 2013 12:13 a.m.

Clermont is a small town experiencing tremendous growth, but residents aren’t sure how they feel about that.

The seeming contradiction of wanting to retain the small-town feel while attracting economic development and residents to help fill the city coffers is something the five candidates for town council are addressing in the campaign for two at-large council seats.

Hot issues in Clermont include growth, planning and zoning, history, alcohol sales, taxes and term limits.

Candidates Bret Adams, Lynn Adams, Kristi Crumpton and Bradley Armour are seeking to fill the seats of James “Sonny” Helton, who’s leaving the council, or incumbent Mary Ellen “Ma” Rogers, who is running to keep her seat.

The two Adamses are not related.

Clermont more than doubled its population from 2000 to 2010, according to census data, now at 875 residents.
Growth brings change, something most of the candidates have said is inevitable as they discuss plans for future development.

All but Rogers. At 86, “Ma” is a town native and has seen it change over more than a half century. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, and makes it clear she doesn’t like change.

Bret Adams also wants to keep the small-town feel of Clermont. A field service representative for Hulsey Grease, he likes that he doesn’t have to lock his doors at night. He said he’s the best candidate because he’ll make decisions in the best interest of the public, not himself.

“If I’m elected, I’ll be nothing more than a voice of the community to help (it) grow in ways the community wants,” Bret Adams said.

Lynn Adams, a director with the Georgia Mountains YMCA, previously served on the town’s planning and zoning board. She said she’s excited about growth, but said council needs to lead on future planning. She wants Clermont residents to know the election is about them, not her.

“I think that if we can develop a vision that everybody can look to, our future growth will affect us in a positive way,” she said.

With the town’s population growing, people moving into the area may have different ideas on such issues as term limits, taxes and alcohol sales. Lynn Adams, Armour, Crumpton and Bret Adams favor term limits; Rogers is not.

Lynn Adams and Armour are against creating voting wards, saying the town isn’t big enough. Crumpton and Bret Adams said the issue needed to be studied.

Crumpton, a media specialist at Mount Vernon Exploratory School, added she believes everyone should be treated the same.

“I think we do need to make sure that we have equal representation of all population groups,” said. “Because we do have such a diverse population here in Clermont.”

All candidates except Rogers said they generally supported allowing voters to decide on alcohol sales if there’s evidence showing the benefits. Rogers said she worried about the “young people.”

“I think, why do they want the alcohol in Clermont?” Rogers asked. “I mean, you wouldn’t have to go many steps to have it. We’ve just never liked it.

“A long, long, long time ago, the town might have one town drunk, but they didn’t bother nobody.”

All of the hopefuls ruled out raising taxes except in an emergency.

Several hopefuls talked about the importance of preserving the history of the area and historic buildings.

Crumpton, Rogers and Armour talked about the old downtown movie theater that was torn down. Armour said previous councils let historic buildings be razed because they didn’t have the foresight to protect such artifacts.

“All that could have been preserved if we had known then what we know now,” Armour said. “It would have been fantastic to preserve those, but it’s gone.”

Crumpton said redevelopment and improvements are growth that don’t have to lead to permanent structures.

She’s involved with the Clermont Historical Society and is co-founder of the farmer’s market.


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