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Mayor-elect Wade Dale sees growth opportunities in Gillsville
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New Gillsville Mayor Wade Dale. - photo by Scott Rogers

For mayor-elect Wade Dale, “it is what it is,” won’t fly in Gillsville. 

Dale, 61, sees opportunities for progress in the city he grew up in.

Some issues, such as truck traffic, a limited city budget and increased development surrounding the city may persist, but Dale told The Times that he’s comfortable with some modest growth coming to the city.

“I want to be a little progressive, but not so progressive that we put a Wal-Mart distribution center across the highway,” he said. 

Gillsville does not have any city property taxes, so to get money to expand its park or build roads it relies largely on local sales taxes, grants and some state funds distributed based on its size.
Even operations that seem routine can put a dent in the annual budget. Dale estimated that they had to spend nearly a 10th of their budget on their election this past November, the city’s first contested election in more than 11 years. Voting machines, poll workers and other costs added up to about $9,600, or about $105 per vote. 

Most days the poll workers were “bored stiff” during early voting, Dale said, who ran uncontested for mayor after spending six years on the city council. But 91 voters in a city of about 300 people wasn’t a bad turnout either, he said. 

Dale’s family has been in Gillsville a long time, and many of his relatives have stayed in the small East Hall town. The city’s current mayor, Roy Turpin, is Dale’s cousin. 

“Everybody on the council is my cousin,” he joked. “My dad had nine brothers and sisters and they all live right here in this town, so we have to be careful who we date.”

He knows just about everyone in the city, even with a new generation moving in, he said. 

“When I moved here, though, it was the old place. … there’s now a whole influx of my grandkids and the grandkids of others that used to live here, and they’re younger.” 

Dale and his wife, June, run a honey store in town, GrannaBee’s, and Dale works part time at the post office and as the assistant pastor at his church. 

Dale will be sworn in as the new mayor on Jan. 4. 

He’s proud of the streetscaping that previous leadership had done in front of his store and the rest of downtown.

Part of his vision is renovating what used to be Frankum’s, a general store downtown, which Dale called the “Home Depot of the '60s.” The building has been vacant for years, and the city has $160,000 earmarked for renovations but hasn’t been able to get the project going.

“You’ll swear you’re in an 1880s saloon in there,” Dale said, because there’s “mahogany everywhere.” 

He’d like to use the building as an event center the city can rent out and use for city council meetings. Currently, the city council meets at the city park. 

The park needs renovations too, he said, including new bathrooms, a walking trail and improvements to its ballfields. The city makes money renting out the park on weekends and hosting softball tournaments, but the fields need some work, he said, because the bases aren’t even attached to the ground. 

“You slide and hit second base and it goes out in the outfield,” he said. 

Finally, he would like to honor some notable Gillsvillians by renaming some roads in the city, he said. 

“I love this town, because I know everybody,” Dale said. “Not only do I know everybody, I enjoy being here.”