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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
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.