February 26, 2014

Pennington to step down as mayor for run for governor

Final City Council meeting is Monday

Charles Oliver

— David Pennington jokes that he isn’t stepping down as mayor of Dalton, he’s being fired by the state.

Pennington plans to qualify on Tuesday to challenge Gov. Nathan Deal in the May 20 Republican primary.

“As soon as I qualify, under the state Constitution I’m no longer the mayor,” he said.

That means the City Council meeting Monday will be his final council meeting as mayor.

“Obviously, this will free me up, give me a little more time to campaign,” he said. “But the mayor and council are part-time positions, and our department heads are so good, our employees are so good that it has been one of the easiest jobs I’ve ever had.”

Pennington announced his candidacy for governor last year, saying the state has been headed in the wrong direction for several years.

“At the moment the state is just treading water. The state’s economy is still struggling, especially outside the metro Atlanta area. You can see that in the budget problems our two local school systems and our county government are facing,” he said. “If we are struggling this much during the fifth year of a recovery, imagine how bad things will be if we have another recession.”

Both Dalton Public Schools and Whitfield County Schools as well as the Whitfield County government have had tight budgets during the past few years. Both the county Board of Commissioners and the Dalton Board of Education have warned that property tax increases might be needed this year to cover shortfalls in their operating budgets.

Pennington has talked about steps he believes the state should take to boost economic growth. Tax reform, including a large cut in the income tax, is one of his top priorities.

City Council member George Sadosuk, who was elected mayor pro tem by his fellow council members last year, will become acting mayor when Pennington steps down. Sadosuk will serve as acting mayor until a special election is held to fill the unexpired part of Pennington’s term, which concludes at the end of 2015. City Attorney Jim Bisson said the special election can be held either on the May 20 primary date or during the November general election.

“If (the council) wants to have it during the primary, they would have to make the call on or before March 20,” Bisson said. “So we have time to do it during the primary or the general election. That will be a call for the mayor and council to make.”

Some council members said Wednesday they expect they will decide on the date of the special election soon.

Sadosuk, who said he doesn’t plan to run in the special election, said he isn’t opposed to holding it during the primary, but he said he does have concerns about whether such a short campaign period is fair to candidates.

Council member Gary Crews said council members want to hear from potential candidates and the public on when they would like the election to be held. He said he expects the council will set it for the May primary unless members are convinced that doesn’t give adequate time for candidates to prepare an agenda and run an effective campaign.