Marcus Wiedower said he will bring his listening skills and his planning skills to the Oconee County Board of Commissioners if voters select him for Post II in the special election on Nov 8.
“All I do all day long is plan,” said Wiedower, a custom home builder, in an hour-long interview. He said he will bring to the Commission “an educated, experienced voice” that “has a planning background.”
He said the Commission has been overly reactive rather than proactive in dealing with the challenges before it.
The interview with Wiedower is the third of three with candidates for the Post II position on the Board of Commissioners to be featured on Oconee County Observations. The complete video of the interview with Wiedower is at the bottom of this post.
All three candidates responded to the same basic questions about a wide range of issues facing the county. The interviews with all three candidates were conducted before any of the videos were posted.
Wiedower, 41, is president of BluePrint Builders, 3 BH Inc., and Bulldawg Builders, 8771 Old Macon Highway.
He also has interests in East Heath, Heathside, and Burton Realty and Development and had an interest in E.W. Homes. He said he works in partnership with Todd Burton of Athens.
Wiedower was a project manager for Beall, Gonnsen and Co., a prominent Oconee County land planning and engineering firm, from March of 1999 to July of 2005. The firm is now known as Beall and Associates.
Wiedower lives at 1081 Princeton Lane, just outside Watkinsville, off New High Shoals Road.
I interviewed Wiedower in the library of my home on Sept. 27.
I had interviewed Bridges on Sept. 24 and interviewed Horton on Sept. 25. The candidates chose the dates for the interviews.
Sarah Bell helped me video record the interviews.
I asked all the candidates questions about recent zoning decisions, about road projects, about water and sewer issues, about county governance, about business links and political alliances, and about campaign financing and strategy.
Wiedower, Bridges and Horton are running as Republicans in the November election for the unexpired Post II position, left vacant when John Daniell stepped down in March to run for Commission Chairman. Daniell will be unopposed on the November Ballot.
Wiedower said he does not know how he would have voted on the recent rezone for land on SR 316 between Jimmy Daniell Road and Virgil Langford Road for an auto dealership complex because he doesn’t have enough information about the project.
Wiedower said he did understand that “we have to have development that bolsters our tax base.”
Wiedower said he “could see supporting” the rezone in 2015 for 70 acres on U.S. 441 at Hog Mountain Road for the Presbyterian Homes of Georgia continuing care retirement community because the Commission had restricted turns out of the entrance on Lake Wellbrook Road to keep traffic from traveling through residential neighborhoods.
Wiedower said he would have voted for the rezone of two acres on Hog mountain Road in June for two fast food restaurants because of the constitutional challenge registered by Ken Beall of Beall and Associates, representing the land owner.
Sheriff Scott Berry opposed the rezone for safety reasons, and Wiedower said he was sympathetic with the concern, but “sometimes you don’t get to pick and decide what business” goes into a properly zoned property.
Wiedower was working with Beall, Gonnsen and Co. in 2005 when that firm successfully sought a rezone for Grove Park subdivision, a master plan development on Hog Mountain Road.
In such a firm, Wiedower said, “a lot of time you get directed on what you are expected to do whether you like it or not.”
The master plan developments the county approved allow for intensive development on small lots and require sewer capacity.
“Was it a mistake?” Wiedower said of those developments. “Probably so.”
Wiedower said the county made a mistake in deciding back in 1999 or earlier to turn Mars Hill Road over to the state for the widening project underway.
“I wish we had kept control,” Wiedower said, so that the county could “control the outcome.”
Wiedower said he didn’t know what agreements the county made to land owner Doug Dickens regarding a median cut on Mars Hill Road, making it difficult for him to know if the county should pay upwards of $23,000 for the project.
In general, he said, developers should pay the cost of road projects needed for the development.
Wiedower didn’t have a clear on answer on whether the county should extend Bishop Farms Parkway to provide a second entrance for the University of North Georgia.
If the project is for development, he said, the developer should pay, but the county itself should assume the costs for some roads.
Wiedower said he is “not privy to all of the numbers” so could not say if the county should have agreed to pay for Parkway Boulevard Extension to accommodate expansion of Epps Bridge Centre and other development in the Epps Bridge Parkway area.
He repeated his assertion, however, that the county should build roads to stimulate development and for safety.
Wiedower said the proposed Daniells Bridge Road flyover of SR Loop 10 is part of a plan to extend the Oconee Connector and he favors the project. Before the county goes forward, however, it should study “all options” for how the road should connect with Daniells Bridge Road.
Water And Sewer
Wiedower said the county has been reactive rather than proactive in responding to the sewer problems it faces. It needs to stop responding to problems and start planning for the future, he said.
“We are fire fighting right now,” he said. “We’ve got a problem, and we’re trying to put out fires.”
Wiedower said he would not vote to put a sewer line down Calls Creek, as has been proposed as part of upgrade of the county’s Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant, “without a long, hard look at all of our options.”
Wiedower said the county needs “to know what our options are” regarding construction of a water treatment plant and water distribution system for Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir now filling in Walton County.
Oconee County is a partner with Walton County on the project, and Wiedower said the counties need to figure out when they will need the water from the reservoir before going forward with more investment.
Wiedower said the Commission has not demonstrated a “lot of foresight” in dealing with the space needs of the county. He said he is opposed to constructing a “lavish building” to accommodate the administrative offices moving out of the Courthouse as judicial functions expand.
Wiedower said it is clear the county’s Animal Shelter “needs some love,” but he said he thinks some grading at the current sight might be sufficient to solve the problems with the existing facility.
Wiedower said the county’s administrative officer is the “day-to-day person” who should manage county operations, but he is critical of how the Commission back in 2009 changed the organizational chart to make that clear.
He said the Commission needs to revisit the issue and “take a harder look” at who is in charge of activities in the county.
He said there “wasn’t enough planning” back in 2009 to allow the change voted on by the Commission to be successful.
Wiedower said “I definitely think there could be more transparency” involving activities of the Commission, but he said he isn’t sure if the Commission holds too many executive sessions at present.
He said “there needs to be a lot more communication about what is going on” in county government and said he hopes the new web site being developed will help address that need.
Wiedower said he does not anticipate any conflicts of interest because of his role as a custom home builder.
“I’m not bringing development to Oconee County,” he said. Rather, he said, he is only building on lots already zoned for development by the developer or land owner.
“I’m a builder, and building is forever going to be linked to development,” he acknowledged.
He said he didn’t feel he would need to recuse himself when his former employer Ken Beall brings a rezone issue before the Commission because it has been more than 10 years since he worked for Beall.
Wiedower said he had “good conversations” with Chairman Melvin Davis, the other incumbent commissioners, and Mark Thomas, running unopposed for Post I on the BOC in November.
He said he didn’t know “directly” if any of these people were supporting him, but, if they are, he will “appreciate it.”
Wiedower would not say how much money he has raised to support his campaign.
“I’ll disclose that, I guess, when I need to,” he said. The deadline for filing that report is Oct. 24.
Wiedower said he is doing polling in the county to help him make decisions in the campaign.
His strategy for the remaining weeks of the campaign is simple.
“I just want to meet as many people as possible,” he said.
Background And Video
If none of the three candidates gets a majority on Nov. 8, a runoff between the two top candidates will be held on Dec. 6.
The Post II term will expire at the end of 2018.
The video below is of the complete interview with Wiedower.
As with the videos for the interviews with Bridges and Horton, there is a gap between the audio and the video as the video progresses.
This is a technical problem related to the editing. I am continuing to try to solve the problem but didn’t want to delay making the interviews available to the public.
I did editing to incorporate images from the three cameras used, but I did not eliminate any of the questions or answers.