Charles Ivie is a man of few words. Dan Matthews is a man of many.
At least that was the persona the two Watkinsville mayoral candidates demonstrated in the forum organized for them on Thursday night.
Matthews often answered questions in detail, brought up new issues and called out to the audience.
Thirteen times in responding to questions, Matthews was still speaking when time-keeper Jay Hanley signaled he had exceeded his allotted one minute for an answer. That was out of 24 responses given to questions posed.
Matthews also ran up against the time constraint in making his introductory comments.
Charles Ivie answered most of those questions in a few sentences. In several cases, he paused and thought before offering a response.
He never exceeded his allotted time in responding to any of the questions or in his introductory or closing comments.
Those stylistic characteristics differentiated Ivie, 69, and Matthews, 48, more than their stands on the issues in the mayoral race.
In fact, in responses to the questions posed to them by Blake Giles, editor of The Oconee Enterprise, the two agreed much more than they disagreed.
That included whether the city should contract with the county in the future to run the election (yes, though, at present the city runs its own elections), on how to work with county officials (more communication), on the importance of Harris Shoals Park and the Oconee Farmers Market (very important) , and on the success of the city’s beer and wine ordinance (quite successful).
They differed on what to do with future Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenues.
Ivie would extend sewage lines to the city's industrial park. Matthews would create a bypass on SR 15 to connect to U.S. 441 without passing through downtown Watkinsville, if there were enough money to do so.
They also disagreed on the salary for the mayor. Matthews said he was glad the city council increased the annual salary from $7,200 to $9,700. Ivie said the salary should have been left at the lower level.
The candidate forum, held at the Oconee County Library in Watkinsville, was sponsored by the Enterprise. The questions posed were submitted to Giles either at the session or prior to it.
About 60 people attended, though many of those said in response to a question from Matthews that they were not Watkinsville residents.
On Nov. 8, only the roughly 1,900 registered voters in Watkinsville proper will get to decide who will be the next mayor of Oconee County’s largest and oldest city.
Because Watkinsville is the seat of Oconee County, what the mayor and council do has impact far beyond its borders, and a number of county officials were present at the forum on Thursday night.
The mayoral race is nonpartisan, but party was a subtext to the forum nonetheless.
Maridee Williams, general manager of the weekly newspaper, said at the beginning of the forum that “we’re not looking for Rs and Ds tonight.”
But the information sheet the paper prepared and distributed to those attending listed Matthews as past chairman of the Oconee County Democratic Committee.
When Matthews asked at the beginning of his introductory comments how many people already had made up their mind about the election, Hanley, chairman of the Oconee County Republican Party and production assistant at the Enterprise, raised his hand prominently.
As time keeper, Hanley was seated at the very front of the room, just in front of the candidates, so his raised hand was visible to all.
And when Editor Giles asked the candidates about their relationships with federal and state officials, Matthews acknowledged he had “got to know Mr. Williams pretty well” in the special election this summer in which Chuck Williams, a Republican, defeated Matthews in a special election for the Georgia House of Representatives. Matthews ran as a Democrat.
In response to the question, Ivie went out of his way to call U.S. Representative Paul Broun a “good friend.” Broun, from Oconee County, is a conservative Republican.
Ivie is retiring as district manager for Baldwin Filters. Matthews is office manager for Athens attorney Eric Krasle.
About half way through the forum, Giles asked the two candidates to talk about their vision for downtown.
Ivie focused on parking for the downtown businesses. Matthews emphasized the need for bike paths and sidewalks for citizens.
Ivie has lived in Watkinsville for 40 years and served on the Watkinsville City Council in 1973 and 1974. Matthews has lived in the county for 10 years.
One of the questions Giles read asked what kinds of volunteer work the two had done in the city during their periods of residence.
Matthews rattled off a list of activities. Ivie said his work and other commitments had made that impossible.
The biggest controversy of the night came at the very end, when, in his closing comments, Matthews told Ivie he didn’t like his signs, which are yellow and black.
Ivie said an expert told him the color was “eye catching.”
“Georgia Tech didn’t have anything to do with it,” he added.
The full video of the candidate forum is available on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site.
How can a candidate be "non-partisan" when in their closing statements they ask for donations to the Oconee Democrats yard sale?
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