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New political era begins in Flowery Branch
Resignations, elections have created turnover on city council
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The Flowery Branch City Council meets Thursday evening for an oath ceremony and public hearing in the town’s City Hall. From left are Council members Tara Richards, Joe Anglin and Kris Yardley, City Clerk Melissa McCain, Mayor Mike Miller and Councilwoman Amanda Swafford. Councilman Chris Fetterman is not pictured.

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Flowery Branch City Council Chris Fetterman talks about the elected group, which has a new mayor and two new council members since this time last year.

At this time last year, Chris Fetterman was one of two rookie Flowery Branch City Council members, having tucked away not quite two years of experience.

But now, with this year’s turnover on the council, he is the senior member.

“That scary, isn’t it?” he asked, observing the situation last week with some self-deprecating humor.

Looking ahead, Fetterman said he feels comfortable with the City Council and its direction.

“We still have a young council, guys and gals with young families,” he said of his 30- and 40-something colleagues. “We definitely are going to have a good pulse on what the people of Flowery Branch want.”

The council’s transition began in January, with three new council members — Mike Miller, Tara Richards and Kris Yardley — replacing three incumbents who chose not to seek re-election.

And then former Councilman Craig Lutz resigned in April, midway through his first four-year term, to run for the Hall County Board of Commissioners’ South Hall seat, which he won last week.

One month later, Diane Hirling resigned her mayor’s post to retire to Florida. Miller, who had been serving as mayor pro tem, took over as interim mayor and served until Sept. 27, when he resigned to qualify for mayor.

To fill the vacant seats, the city had special elections, with Amanda Swafford winning Sept. 21 to serve out Lutz’s term and Miller and Joe Anglin winning Tuesday. Anglin, the only candidate without opposition, won Miller’s old council seat.
Miller and Anglin were sworn in to their new jobs on Thursday.

“I think we’ve got a good diverse background among the council (members),” Miller said. “We’ve got intelligent people who (have) conservative values and want to do what’s best for the entire city of Flowery Branch, not one section or one side of Interstate 985.”

Miller has said he wants the city “to come up with a 10-year plan, so we know where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.

“We’ve got growth coming — we know that, so we’ve got to put that vision on paper. We’ve got transportation and some infrastructure things we need to address.”

He added, “At this point, I think we’re playing catch-up and paying dearly for previous judgments on the infrastructure. We’ve got some pipe issues with water — we did some of that (kind of work) this year, water and sewer.”

Miller said Lutz’s election serves as a boost for the city, given his previous service on the council.

He “understands what the agreements (with the county) are and which ones have not been followed,” Miller said. “We need to get some city and county staff — and also for Oakwood — to sit down at the table and hash those things out and come to some sort of resolution.”

Fetterman also said he felt encouraged by the new commission makeup.

“We’ve got some county commissioners now who are going to be more municipal friendly, and that will definitely help us in going forward,” he said.

Before Tuesday’s election, Lutz had already formed a bond with Commissioner Ashley Bell and Scott Gibbs, who won his District 3, or North Hall, seat in the Republican primary earlier in the year.

They’ve talked about having a better working relationship with Hall’s cities.

“I think the municipalities are key economic drivers for the county,” Lutz said after his election Tuesday night.

As for Anglin, he is on a learning curve and acknowledged as much at Thursday night’s council meeting.

“I’m doing a lot of listening right now,” he said.

Anglin, who teaches physical science and coaches boys basketball at Davis Middle School in South Hall, said he decided to run in the first place because “I enjoy serving and I’ve always enjoyed government.

“I just want to do what I can to run an efficient and effective government,” he said.

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