Wednesday, February 21, 2018

New Watkinsville Mayor Said Impartiality And A Desire For Collaboration Will Guide Him In His New Role

Mayor’s Report

Dave Shearon used his first mayoral report to the City Council and the public to spell out a series of what he called “general principles” that will guide him as he serves as mayor of Oconee County’s county seat.

Shearon said he would be nonpartisan and impartial in addressing issues before the city.

He said whatever he did would be based on the city charter and other controlling documents for the city.

Shearon said he was a strong believer in collaboration and that he would be asking the five Council members of council to help him reach out to the community.

The final principle listed by Shearon has to do with the culture and sense of Watkinsville, which he called a “state of mind.”

“We need to define what it is that makes us great,” Shearon said.

Shearon will hold his second meeting with Council tonight. The session starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 191 VFW Drive, in Watkinsville.

Outsized Influence

The city of Watkinsville has only about 2,800 citizens, as Shearon noted in his comments. (The 2010 Census count was 2,832, and the Census Bureau estimates that the figure in 2016 was 2,872.)

Shearon Gives Mayor's Report 1/24/2018

Yet its influence in Oconee County, with an estimated population of 35,071, is much greater than that 8 percent-of-the-population-ratio would suggest.

Watkinsville is the historical center of the county, lies at the intersection of two of its major north-south roads (SR 15 and U.S. 441), and is the county seat.

In addition, the Post Office in Watkinsville delivers mail throughout much of the county, giving many people a sense that they are in Watkinsville even though they play no role in its governance.

Shearon said he was working on behalf of those 2,800 citizens, but the “general principles” he listed for his term as mayor likely will have influence beyond the city’s borders.

Mix Of Emotions

Shearon said he had “a mix of emotions that are trying to be reconciled in my brain” as he gave his first mayor’s report at the Jan. 24 Council meeting. (The meeting had been delayed a week because of bad weather.)

He said he had a “bit of melancholy,” reflecting on the passing of Mayor Charles Ivie, whom he called an “unwitting mentor.”

The mayor noted that he had been in the corporate world (in advertising in Chicago) for about 20 years, “And I’ve been able to speak in front of large groups of people.”

“I have to tell you I feel a little nervous, more nervous than I’ve ever been,” he said as he started his nearly 20 minutes of comments. “This is the greatest responsibility that I’ve had, even under those corporate circumstances,” he said.

Shearon left that corporate world to move to Watkinsville in 1997 and take over Ashford Manor Bed And Breakfast on Main Street. (The postal address is 4 Harden Hill Road.)

Shearon ran unopposed in the election for the mayor in November.

Non-Partisan, Impartial

“We will observe a nonpartisan, impartial approach to city issues,” Shearon said in his report.

“The best decisions for Watkinsville and its citizens will not be defined by political party approach or any special issues or special interests.

“So each action proposal or project will start with the notion of this will be good for Watkinsville because, regardless of who says it, and regardless of what their background is,” Shearon said.

All races in the city are nonpartisan.

Structure-Oriented

Shearon told the group that he is “very structure oriented” and that he had used his time in preparing to be mayor by doing a lot of research on the city charter and on the city’s human resources documents.

He said he will hold departmental meetings on a regular basis and lead a series of retreats.

He noted that there have been discussions about creating a new position of city manager or administrator.

“We will set in motion, from this day, a program to discuss that and assess our jobs as they are via the actual job descriptions in the charter,” he said.

Collaboration

“Another principle I feel very strongly about is collaboration,” Shearon said.

“That is not just amongst us, but with the community. Collaboration and community involvement, they go together,” he said.

“I’d like to make sure that people feel welcome, informed, and involved,” Shearon said. “I will work on several ways to try to accomplish that.”

Shearon mentioned roundtables and focus groups as tools he will use.

He also said he “will be asking for the City Council members to make as much outreach as they possibly can.”

State Of Mind

Shearon said the city needs to ask how it defines itself and proposed that it take an inventory of its assets.

“Watkinsville is great,” he said, and it should try to clarify what makes it that way.

He listed the city’s “cultural heritage,” and “history” are part of what makes the city special.

Shearon said the city also should focus on its auto traffic patterns, its “citizen traffic patterns,” its “green spaces” and “other spaces where we can collectively meet each other and collaborate.”

“One of the things that makes us what we are is the number of restaurants that we have in this town,” Shearon said, pointing out that most of them, as well as the businesses on Main Street, are “owner-attended.”

“I’ve mentioned the word fun a couple of times,” the new major said. “It’s a weird thing to apply that term to something as serious as what we do here.

“But there is a joy, an exhilaration, that comes from being able to, one, live here, a tremendous community, and then be able to serve and to help.”

Video

Sarah Bell attended the Council meeting on Jan. 24 and recorded the video below.

Shearon began his report at 1:25:54 in the video.

The initial part of the meeting was consumed with building permits, alcohol licenses, and related matters, which the Council discusses and votes on routinely at its meetings.

I have created a channel on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site for this video and others from Watkinsville City Council meetings. It is here.

OCO: Watkinsville Council 1 24 2018 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

State Resource Team Praises Oconee County For Promotion Of Tourism And Offers Recommendations

***Criticism Too***

The state resource team studying tourism and its potential in Oconee County offered much praise of the county in the report it delivered last week at Oconee Veterans Park.

“You all have some really gorgeous things in your community,” team leader Cindy Eidson said. “Everything was so incredible.”

Monday, February 19, 2018

Libraries Are Not A Relic, Former Rep. Williams Says At Groundbreaking For Oconee County Bogart Library Expansion

***Challenge For Funders***

Former state Rep. Chuck Williams told a crowd of more than 50 people who turned out on Saturday for the groundbreaking of the 5,900-square-foot addition to the Bogart Library that getting state funding for library construction today is difficult because of a misconception.

“When it comes to libraries, there’s a challenge at the state to make sure that everyone needs to understand that libraries--public libraries like this--are not a relic,” Williams said.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Friends Of Barber Creek Seeking To Play Leadership Role In Discussion Of Oconee County Water Master Plan

***Board Elects New President***

Members of the Board of Directors of the Friends of Barber Creek have decided they want to play a leadership role as Oconee County completes work on its Water and Wastewater Master Plan revision.

The Board earlier this week elected Allan Antley, 1040 Lake Wellbrook Drive in Lake Wellbrook subdivision, as president, and decided to make new efforts to revive its membership base.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Oconee County Issues Building Permit For Online Grocery Operation At Epps Bridge Walmart

March Launch

Oconee County issued a building permit late last month for alterations to the Walmart Super Center, 1911 Epps Bridge Parkway, to incorporate an online grocery operation at the store.

Included is restriping of parking on the west side of the building to denote online grocery pickup parking and parking lot signage for the designated area.

Secretary Of State Candidate Told Oconee County Republicans He Wants To Make Sure Only Americans Vote In State Elections

Takes Pro Business Stance

Brad Raffensperger told Oconee County Republicans he is motivated by three key issues in his bid to get the Republican nomination for Secretary of State in the May 22 primary.

He said he wants to make sure that only Americans vote in elections in the state, that Georgia is a great place to find a job, and that Georgia is a great place to build a business.

Speaker Tells Oconee Democrats They Need To Reach Out To Others To Win Elections

***Urged Involvement In Local Races***

Democratic activist Daniel Blackman from Forsyth County told the gathering of Oconee County Democrats last month that he was really pleased to see so many people in the audience, but he said it wasn’t enough.

Blackman said there were not enough young people in the group.