Flowery Branch election
Voting info: Early voting, through Oct. 30, City Hall, 5517 Main St., 770-967-6371
Mayor: Diane Hirling (I), unopposed
City Council: Post 3, Stacy Carlson, Kristopher Yardley; Post 4, James Miller, Otto Mutzberg; Post 5, Christopher Bozeman, Tara Richards
Coming Sunday: Election preview
In Sunday’s Times, we’ll take an in-depth look at the Nov. 3 municipal races in several Hall County cities, including contests for Gainesville school board, Flowery Branch City Council and Lula mayor and council.
FLOWERY BRANCH — One thing’s for sure: Flowery Branch City Council appears headed for evening meetings.
There was general agreement at a Thursday night political forum, featuring candidates for three vacant council seats, that the council should veer from its current practice of holding only early morning business meetings.
Otherwise, the candidates differed only slightly on issues ranging from financial management to dealing with growth.
Longtime city resident Ken Cochran moderated the one-hour forum, the first formal gathering of the candidates before the Nov. 3 election.
Until Thursday night, Stacy Carlson, Kristopher Yardley, Mike Miller, Otto Mutzberg, Christopher Bozeman and Tara Richards each were seeking one of three council seats being vacated by incumbents.
The forum, which took place in the historic train depot before about 25 people, began with Cochran announcing that Mutzberg had sent an e-mail saying that he was withdrawing from the race. City Clerk Melissa McCain said the withdrawal isn’t formal until he signs an affidavit.
If Mutzberg withdraws officially, Miller would face no opposition in his bid.
The forum began with each candidate giving personal background and talking about why they were running and what they would do if elected.
Yardley said he believed the city faces some challenges, such as road improvements, but needs to accomplish them "while keeping the hometown feel."
Carlson stressed improvements to the city park, which she visits regularly with her son. She also said she would like to see an end to political "drama" in the city.
Miller agreed with that sentiment at one point, saying, "We need to bring professionalism back to City Council."
Bozeman said he was concerned the city’s police department might be overstaffed, but that the department’s size might be more justified if the city limits are expanded.
Richards didn’t attend the forum because of a previously scheduled conflict. Jessica Tullar, a friend and city resident, stood in for her throughout the event, drawing an objection from one audience member.
Cochran refused to pull her from the forum as other audience members voiced approval for allowing her to participate.
During her opening comments, Tullar said Richards was "very in tune with what’s going on in Flowery Branch and is focused on continuing Flowery Branch’s economic vitality."