Marcus Wiedower has said he recognized from the beginning that his occupation as a custom home builder would raise questions as he sought to make his case for a spot on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners.
“I knew that in a suspicious society people are going to read that (his occupation) and automatically assume that I’m going to do whatever I can to bolster the position of development,” Wiedower said. “It’s just simply not the case."
Widower is the only one of the three candidates who works in Oconee County, and in his capacity as custom home builder he comes into contact with the county’s Planning Department and Utility Department, among others, and well as with contractors and developers.
Wiedower said he does not see that as an issue and does not anticipate having to recuse himself because of his connections with his past employer in the county or with the prominent members of the development community who support him.
“I think what they’re (members of the development community) hoping for is that there is someone that will at least listen to their side,” Wiedower said.
Early voting starts tomorrow (Monday), and a record number 27,845 voters are eligible to cast their ballots, including 24,055 active voters and 3,790 inactive voters who can cast a ballot if they show up to vote.
The county has registered 2,011 new voter since registration closed on April 26 for the May primary, according to Pay Hayes, chair of the Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration. The new registration figure represents an increase of 960 active voters since Sept. 15.
I asked about the business links of Wiedower, Ben Bridges and Chuck Horton, all seeking to fill a vacation spot on the Board of Commissioners, in interviews I did at the end of last month with all of the candidates in the special election to be held on Nov. 8.
I asked follow up questions for all, and I asked Wiedower to explain his concerns that people might misunderstand his work. I also asked him about the influence of his supporters in the development community.
Widower acknowledged that as a builder he is linked to developers, but he said he does not do development himself.
Developers create shopping centers or subdivisions or things of that sort, Wiedower said.
“That’s not what I do,” He said. “If there is a lot available for someone to build on and they purchase it and they come to me and they want to build their personal house on it, that’s what I do.”
On his Financial Disclosure form filed with the local election office, Wiedower lists his job as project manager/general contractor with BluePrint Builders, 8771 Macon Highway, and your wife as a nurse with RN Network, headquartered in Baco Raton, Florida.
Wiedower said he didn’t think his work would result in his having to recuse himself from a vote on the Board of Commissioners.
Wiedower said he didn’t feel it would be necessary to recuse himself when his former employer, Ken Beall of Beall and Associates, brings a rezone before the BOC. Beall is one of the most prominent land planners working for developers in the county.
Wiedower said he resigned from Beall, Gonnsen and Company, the forerunner of the current company, in 2004 “and quite frankly had zero contact with that company for quite some time after that.”
According to Wiedower’s LinkedIn profile, he worked for Beal, Gonnsen and Company from March of 1999 to July of 2005.
Wiedower lists himself on his Financial Disclosure form as president of three companies: BluePrint Builders, 3 BH Inc., and Bulldawg Builders.
Wiedower said these are interconnected companies. He has a partner in the companies named Todd Burton, who lives in Athens, he said.
On his LinkedIn page, he also lists himself as a partner in East Heath and Heathside and president of Burton Realty and Development Company.
Wiedower said he didn’t need to list those on his Financial Disclosure form because he doesn’t own a large enough stake in them.
Burton Realty, he said, is really Burton’s company.
East Heath and Heathside are project management companies “that haven’t gotten off the ground.”
Wiedower said his LinkedIn profile isn’t up-to-date.
He also said the description on that site of his partnership with Burton isn’t correct. On that LinkedIn page, he says that his partner “is well versed in historic renovation as well as any commercial construction including self-storage facilities. If you can dream it, we can build it.”
I did a search of building permits in Oconee County under all of the companies Wiedower listed on his Financial Disclosure Form and on his LinkedIn page.
I found only four single family dwellings in the last 10 years.
Three are under the name of Burton Realty, in years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and one is under the name E.W. Homes, in 2007.
Wiedower has been rather straightforward in listing his supporters.
On his web page, he lists Ed and Carl Nichols. Carl Nichols played a prominent role in the Presbyterian Homes land deal.
Larry Benson of Benson Bakery and Spring Hill Suites and former campaign manager for BOC Chairman Melvin Davis, gave him $1,000, he reported with the Financial Disclosure form.
Matt Elder of Oconee Waste Transport is listed as a supporter on Wiedower’s Facebook Page, and Elder has signs on his two properties in the center of Watkinsville.
Wiedower has a sign on developer Jeff Bell’s project at Lavista Road.
Wiedower’s office is next door to Kelly Mahoney, owner of Value Added Concepts LLC. Mahoney developed Athens Ridge and is developing Falls of Oconee and the project between the two of these.
Wiedower refused to say how much money he has raised for his campaign.
“I’ll disclose that I guess when I need to,” he said. He and the others candidates have until Oct. 24 to file that form.
The entire video of this segment of my interview with Wiedower is below.
Horton’s Financial Disclosure
Horton lists himself as director of the Athens Downtown Parking system on his Financial Disclosure form and his wife as a retired college administrator.
Horton said his job has “nothing to do with...my role if I’m elected as a county commissioner in Oconee County.”
Horton said he could not imagine having to recuse himself, but “If I needed to recuse myself, I’d certainly do that and I’ll tell you why I recused myself.”
Horton said he had raised about $3,500 in his campaign and put in some of his own money.
The video of the exchange with Horton is below.
Bridges’ Financial Disclosure
Bridges is a production manager at Pilgrims in Athens. He has responsibility for the Chick-fil-A line at the processing plant, he said.
His wife is an office manager for Country Financial outside Butler’s Crossing.
Bridges said his work at Pilgrims would have no effect on his work as a commissioner.
He said he could not even imagine circumstances that would require him to recuse himself on a Commission vote.
Bridges said he has raised about $300 and financed most of the expenses of his campaign.
The video of Bridges’ response to my questions on this topic is below.
The videos of the complete interviews with Wiedower, Horton and Bridges are on this Channel at the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site.