By Kristi Reed
The Dacula City Council met in work session on Wednesday, June 4, to meet with the citizens who have expressed an interest in filling the council seat vacated by Gregory Reeves, who resigned last month in the wake of his arrest on a theft charge involving the alleged misuse of a city-issued credit card.
The city charter allows the council to appoint a successor in the event a council member is unable to complete his or her term. Reeves' most recent term began on Jan. 1 of this year, meaning the council appointee will serve until Dec. 31, 2017. Four Dacula residents -- Tommy Bradberry, Donna Barber Peairs, Frank Garland and Tim Montgomery -- have stepped forward as potential replacements.
In order to serve on the council, the candidate must have been a city resident for at least one year prior to the date of his or her appointment, must live within the city limits for the duration of his or her term and must be a registered and qualified voter in municipal elections. The appointee will be paid a council member's salary of $4,100 a year.
"It's not a job where you have a lot of power. It's not a job where you have a lot of money. It's a job where you get a lot of criticism for what you try to do with what you have," said Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks. "I appreciate you volunteering and showing interest in the position."
During the question and answer session on Wednesday night, Councilwoman Sue Robinson asked each of the prospective council members why they wanted to serve on the Dacula City Council.
Donna Barber Peairs, a resident of Dacula for more than 18 years and an assistant cafeteria manager at Mountain View High School, said she has "a desire and hunger" to serve.
Frank Garland, a church council member and former member of a union negotiating team at Kraft Foods, believes he could make a difference as a member of the council.
"I think I am a good team player," he said. "I think I could help."
Lifelong Dacula resident Tommy Bradberry wants to help Dacula maintain its small-town feel and wants the city to be a place where his children will want to spend the rest of their lives.
Former councilman Tim Montgomery, a local veterinarian, said he still has unfinished business from his time on the council. Montgomery, who lost his reelection bid to current councilman Hubert Wells in 2011, said he feels Dacula receives too little in return for the tax dollar the city sends to Gwinnett County and reiterated his oft-stated opinion that Dacula is the "red-headed stepchild" of the county.
Councilman Hubert Wells had several questions for the prospective council members, including one regarding whether or not the candidates would be able to put aside moral or ethical views and make a decision based on what was best for the city. Wells cited alcohol-related measures as an example of a situation in which a candidate's religious, moral or ethical views might not coincide with the most beneficial course of action for the city.
Peairs and Bradberry indicated they would be able to put the good of the city first. Montgomery and Garland said they would have an issue doing so.
"I'd have to say I'd first have to be true to my moral base," Montgomery said. "When I stand before God, I'm not going to be answering for the city of Dacula."
"No ... I just couldn't do that," Garland said, but added he would not let his moral or ethical beliefs keep him from respecting the will of the people.
Wells also asked the prospective council members if any of them had obligations that would prevent attendance at council meetings. All but Montgomery said no, with Montgomery explaining his professional obligations might cause him to miss one or two meetings per year.
Mayor Wilbanks also had several questions for those interested in serving on the council.
In response to Wilbanks' question regarding what one thing he or she would change about the city if they could, Garland and Bradberry said traffic. Peairs said she would most like to see improvements in the appearance of downtown and Montgomery said he would like to get a commitment from Gwinnett County to fund the expansion of the sewer system, a project for which the county has already committed funds.
Wilbanks also asked the candidates how they would handle criticism.
Peairs said she believes there is value to criticism and that one should handle it with dignity and understand it is not possible to please everyone. Bradberry expressed a similar opinion saying it is important to listen to criticism and to let people know their concerns matter to you. Garland said sometime "you have to bite your lip" and explain the situation. Montgomery shared his belief that the best approach is to maintain control of your emotions and keep a level head.
In closing the meeting, Wilbanks said the council may choose someone from those who have expressed an interest in serving, or may choose someone from outside the group.
"We're moving forward with the process," he said.
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