During his 30 years on Gainesville City Council, George Wangemann has run uncontested a few times.
This year is an exception.
The incumbent has a big bull’s-eye on his back with not one, but two challengers: Maria del Rosario Palacios and Albert Reeves.
Mayor Danny Dunagan and Ward 1 Councilman Sam Couvillon are also on the Nov. 7 ballot, but both are running unopposed.
Palacios has been active in the city’s large Hispanic community registering voters and trying to build the Latino voting bloc. She’s also a top-ranked officer with the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.
Reeves is a young entrepreneur who owned and operated the Monkey Barrel restaurant and bar in downtown Gainesville before it closed in 2016. He currently owns rental property downtown.
Gainesville City Council, Ward 4
When: Early voting begins Oct. 16; Election Day, Nov. 7
Where to vote: First Baptist Church, 751 Green St.; Brenau Downtown Center, 301 Main St.; Fair Street Neighborhood Center, 715 Fair St.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Brigham Young University
Occupation: Dental lab worker for Gibson’s Dental Designs
Political experience: Gainesville City School Board member, 1985-1987; Gainesvillle City Council member, 1987-2017; mayor of Gainesville, 1995-1996, 2004-2005
Education: Home-schooled, K-12
Occupation: Entrepreneur, owned Monkey Barrel, a downtown Gainesville restaurant that closed in 2016
Political experience: Elected to Clermont Town Council in 2007 and served one term
Maria del Rosario Palacios
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from the University of North Georgia
Occupation: Program coordinator for leadership development and policy with the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials
Political experience: Grass roots activist
Wangemann is taking the challengers seriously and said he would not be surprised to see a runoff between the two top vote-getters, should none of the candidates muster more than 50 percent of the vote election day.
“I’m working very hard, and that’s the secret to success,” Wangemann said. “You ask people for their vote, you demonstrate that you care about them. I’m taking a lot of literature on city government, on the community out to the people, encouraging folks to get involved in the community because any time you have a high level of contribution from its citizens, you’re going to have a much better, stronger and united community. That says a lot to me.”
Wangemann said his priority has always been economic development and would like to see council continue focusing on the city’s growth and progress.
Every chance he gets, Wangemann reminds voters he’s opposed to higher taxes, which he says attracts new business and creates jobs. He touts the proposed new projects downtown and midtown housing developments as an example of the city’s bright future.
“We’re trying to fulfill people’s needs and desires so that the community can move forward and continue to be a vibrant business atmosphere that we’ve been for many years,” Wangemann said.
Reeves said he wants to take his hands-on small business approach and apply it to the handling of city affairs.
“The city needs a little more progressive, forward-looking leadership,” Reeves said. “Planning and zoning needs to be more friendly to small businesses. I’ve opened two businesses in this town, and it’s tough if you don’t have the know-how.”
Reeves said he’s always been in business for himself and he credits his parents for instilling that in him at an early age. His father, Steve Reeves, is challenging incumbent Clermont Mayor Jim Nix, and his mother Donna Reeves is contending for a seat on Clermont Town Council.
“My mother home-schooled me, and she’s been in business all her life, too,” Reeves said.
Reeves said he’s waiting for early voting to begin Oct. 16 to start getting signs out and really begin pushing hard on his campaign.
“When I can tell people that starting today you can vote, that’s when I’ll start kicking off,” he said. “I want to keep it fresh. People have been bombarded with so many campaigns I don’t want to overwhelm them from day one.”
Reeves said he plans to run on his merits and say nothing detrimental about the incumbent.
“I’m not going to talk bad about Wangemann,” he said. “I’ve known Wangemann since I first got elected in Clermont. He’s a nice guy. We just have different points of view.”
Palacios said she was at a National Labor Leadership Institute retreat and declined an interview.