July 12, 2014

Jamie Jones: Who wants to be Dalton’s next mayor?

Dalton’s mayor is “weak.” Not in the physical, mental or the emotional sense.

The mayor of Dalton can’t bring a motion before the city council. The mayor isn’t allowed to vote unless there is a tie. Despite this weak system of governance, the mayor can still use his or her influence to steer an agenda through the council. So no, the mayor isn’t only relegated to posing for ribbon cuttings or making appearances at events on the city’s behalf.

The city currently does not have a mayor. That will change this fall. Qualifying for mayor of Dalton is Aug. 25-27 at city hall. The fee to run is $540.

But with qualifying a little over six weeks away, no one has publicly announced his or her intentions to run. We haven’t heard many names of possible candidates being churned out by Dalton’s rumor mill either. Our staff is plugged into the local political scene fairly well.

Dalton needs strong, qualified candidates to run for mayor. Competition often breeds better candidates. It would be a disservice to Dalton’s residents for only two to face off in the Nov. 4 election. An unopposed candidate would be worse.

Seven years ago, longtime mayor and city councilman Ray Elrod decided not to seek another term as mayor. Not having to face an incumbent, which historically brings name recognition, cash and experience, apparently led to a large field. I hope that happens again this fall. Back in 2007, Daltonians could select a mayor from a cornucopia of candidates. There were four — count’em four — people running for the open position: Terry Christie, a retired Dalton State College professor and recent Dalton City Council member; DeForrest Parrott, the former head of Dalton Utilities; David Pennington, an insurance salesman and political neophyte; and Chip Sellers, a former Dalton Public Schools board of education member and carpet industry executive. Voters whittled the foursome to a duo, then picked Pennington as their next mayor in a runoff.

When Pennington sought and won a second term in 2011, only one person challenged him, Joel Goldberg. But Pennington left his mayoral post earlier this year to run for governor of Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal soundly won the Republican primary.

That opened the door for a new mayor. Who will that new mayor be? None of the current council members (Gary Crews, Tate O’Gwin and Denise Wood) have floated their names in the mayor race. Dalton Mayor Pro Tem George Sadosuk hasn’t publicly expressed interest in being the next mayor.

Many people speculated that Pennington, after being knocked out of the governor’s race, would seek his former position as mayor of Dalton. In interviews with The Daily Citizen, Pennington said otherwise.

“My political career before this was as a part-time mayor. I’m a businessman and a private person,” he said in May. “In fact, if there was any downside to this it was a loss of some of my privacy. I intend to go back to my business and my private life.”

Perhaps several Dalton residents are considering running for mayor. Maybe those potential candidates are feeling out the field to gauge their chances of winning.

Or maybe they are waiting for that first person to announce in the newspaper, “I would like to be the next mayor of Dalton.”

Will that person be you?

Jamie Jones is managing editor of The Daily Citizen.

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