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Flowery Branch looks for stability
Tuesdays election would fill councils chairs into the foreseeable future
0304FloweryFred Richards
Fred Richards

Maybe 2012 is the year when the door stops revolving in Flowery Branch.

Tuesday's City Council election will mean a full council for the first time in months, even though one member, Tara Richards, will be serving in Afghanistan through August as a U.S. Air Force Reserves captain.

Still, through emails and the prospect of hooking up Richards with the council via the Internet, all seats on the council, plus the mayor's position, will be filled.

"At this point, it looks like we'll have a stable council for almost two years and the best part is ... we're all looking at the same goals for the city," Mayor Mike Miller said.

Keeping up with the council over the past two-plus years has been tricky, at best, with the spate of resignations due to retirement, jobs changing and political ambitions.

The council started 2010 on a promising note, with a full slate of council members and a mayor just elected to a second four-year term.

But then Craig Lutz announced in late January of that year that he planned to run for the South Hall seat on the Hall County Board of Commissioners, making that official with his resignation in April. And then, one month later, Diane Hirling quit as mayor, saying she was retiring to Florida.

Elections and resignations followed and then, for a time, in 2011, it seemed the council had settled again. In September, Kris Yardley resigned to run for the state House of Representatives.

And then Councilman Chris Fetterman resigned in January, just months after winning re-election to a second four-year term and days before being sworn into office.

Mary Jones, unchallenged in qualifying for Fetterman's seat, returned to the council last month to fill one of two vacant seats.

Three challengers are vying for Yardley's Post 3 seat on Tuesday: Jason Covert, Fred Richards and Pat Zalewski.

The winner will serve out the rest of his term, which is set to end Dec. 31, 2013.

Jones' return helped the council in a couple of ways. She helped reduce the potential for the lack of a quorum, the needed majority to hold a meeting, and she brought some experience, having served on the council 2006-09.

"We were fortunate ... that we never had any (turnover)," Jones said of her time on the council. "We had people on vacation or something like that, but not a void, and we usually tried to schedule around that."

Regarding the past couple of years, "I have felt sorry for those who tried to serve, as well as the people that are in charge of the city of Flowery Branch, the employees," Jones said.

"It's all a matter of putting people in the seats and hopefully no crisis comes up and a seat is open again," she said.

Councilman Joe Anglin agreed that a full council working toward the same goals is crucial for the city.

"There are times we're not in harmony ... but as long as we can work through our differences in an amicable way, that's going to be important," he said.

Miller said he believes the council isn't divided into camps, a problem that has plagued previous councils in the city, almost as much as turnover.

"We're all looking at the same goals for the city," he said. "I think we all agree we are much larger residentially than commercially and we need to up that (commercial) base. We want to be proactive with the growth.

"Every time you have change, you have a new set of opinions ... and it's hard to get a cohesive group that's on the same page, if the page keeps turning," Miller said.

No further elections are planned until November 2013, when the mayor's seat and Post 3, 4 and 5 seats are up for grabs. Anglin is in Post 4 and Richards is in Post 5.
And Richards, whose pre-deployment training has caused some meeting issues, should stay in the loop until she returns from Afghanistan.

In an interview before she left, she said she expects to email Miller and City Manager Bill Andrew occasionally and especially "if there are major issues."

"With the retreat (on March 17), through emails (with city officials), I'll probably look at the agenda and try to weigh in a little bit on priorities and what (the city has) planned in the next year or two," she said.

"We teased her and told her we were going to Skype her in on meeting nights, and that's not all that far-fetched," Jones said. "It could happen."

 

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