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Clermont quiet before town council election
Four candidates are vying for three positions
Assistant Clerk Amy Lomax tallies the number of early voters Monday in the Clermont City Hall. The town has four candidates running for three at-large seats on its council, but the election isn’t getting much attention from residents. As of Monday afternoon, only five people had cast a ballot in advance voting.

Coming this week

Later this week, learn about a contested race in Lula and what happens when no one qualifies for a race, as happened this election season in Gillsville.

There are no campaign signs in Clermont.

One week before voters choose three residents to serve the next four years on the town council, there is nothing that feels out of the ordinary.

Cars pull in and out of the post office parking lot, reflecting sunlight on their windshields. A couple practices tennis in the park. A man clears leaves from his Main Street lawn while his curious but calm Boykin spaniel stands guard.

Four people have signed up to fill three positions up for election on the Town Council in the Nov. 8 election. Two of them — John Brady and Seth Weaver — are incumbents.

One, Donna Reeves, is the mother of outgoing council member Albert Reeves. The other, Debra Armour, helped coordinate a number of community events, including helping to found the annual Clermont Days festival.

By Monday afternoon, five ballots had been cast for the election at Clermont's City Hall.

Early voting ends this week, and after Tuesday's votes are tallied, the recipients of the top three votes will take their seats on the council for a four-year term that begins in January.

It's not exactly the talk of the town. In fact, a visitor is hard-pressed to find anyone who knows about the election or is willing to discuss it.

Some, when asked, say they aren't aware of the upcoming political event.

"I haven't been keeping up with it. I don't know who's running or anything," says Ellene Ballew, who said she has lived in Clermont for 13 years. "I didn't know there was (an election) coming up."

Others, citing the talk given to small town societies, aren't willing to say publicly what they feel.

And the majority of those one encounters in an afternoon in Clermont don't live inside the boundaries of Clermont's one square mile and cannot vote in Tuesday's election.

"We don't have a big turnout for municipal elections, but all votes count..." says Brady, a 63-year-old Hall County native who is seeking his second full-term on the council. "Usually, there's not a whole lot of interest in the Town Council ... as long as it's running like they want it to, they don't want to get involved."

The 2010 census recorded fewer than 900 Clermont residents. Of those, a little more than 100 voted in the last Town Council election in 2009. In 2007, some 60 people voted in the municipal race, according to Deputy City Clerk Amy Lomax.

Lomax says city officials are hoping to generate interest in this year's election with reminders of it in the quarterly town newsletter, "Clermont Connection."

An overarching theme for candidates and residents alike seems to be maintaining the rural atmosphere, limiting change and keeping out large commercial development.

A man outside the post office tells the tale of how the developer of his subdivision wasn't allowed to annex, because the Town Council did not want the residential development of the housing boom to change the makeup of the community.

"Just about everybody knows everybody up here; we're a small town ..." Brady said. "We like the way it is ... we're just a small, country-living, rural town."

The Town Council in Clermont reflects family ties in the community. Many residents' last names — like that of Mayor James Nix — can be found on a 1904 roster of students of Chattahoochee High School, which once stood in the town limits when Clermont was called Dip.

Weaver, who, at 31 is seeking his third term on the Town Council, is the son of Warren Weaver, former mayor and council member.

Donna Reeves, who moved to Clermont with her husband 15 years ago, is seeking election to council following in the footsteps of her son, Albert Reeves, who will leave the town's governing board at the end of the year.

Larry Becker says that's just "the nature of the town."

"It's a very family-oriented town. There's a lot of people who have lived in this town, and their families have lived in this town for generations ..." said Becker, who has lived for nearly two decades just a mile from the Clermont line. "I really do think that having that family relationship helps you have a good idea — if you're going to be on the city council — what the people in this town are really interested in and what's good for the town."

Clermont, as a community, made headlines last year as the townspeople united against a county effort to use special sales tax funds to build a library outside the town limits.

The political fervor of those days is almost invisible now, however.

But Clermont's residents do have their concerns.

Though Ballew admits her lack of knowledge of the upcoming town election, she does hope that whomever wins will help her get her dirt road paved.

And while Becker lives outside of the town, he hopes the council will reconsider a recent prohibition on alcohol sales near his home.

In August, as some 100 cities across the state were gearing up to give their residents a choice on Sunday alcohol sales, a divided town council prohibited the sale of any alcoholic beverages at any time in Clermont.

Armour, in her second try at the Town Council, says the alcohol prohibition is a subject on the minds of "a lot of people" in Clermont. She believes it's an issue that should be decided by the townspeople.

"Some things, I don't think, should be passed with just us saying ‘yea' or ‘nay,' because people are the ones that put us in there, and their opinion, to me, counts," Armour said.

Armour, who moved to Clermont in 1992 from Maryland, is the closest thing to a newcomer of the field of candidates. Ever since she arrived in Clermont, though, Armour has helped coordinate community events and even sought a post on the council, albeit unsuccessfully, 10 years ago.

Weaver, a lifelong resident and heir of the council position, likes the idea of mixing tradition with new ideas.

"I'd like to see some new ideas and new people get in there," he said.

And Brady, too, says that if he's re-elected he wants to have the town's charter changed to create term limits for council members.

Regardless of how long they serve, those elected next week will be the recipient of a raise the Town Council afforded itself in a vote earlier this year.

At the start of the new year, the mayor's monthly salary will double from $75 to $150. Council pay will also increase from $60 to $120.

Candidate Reeves could not be reached for comment for this report.