PTC mayor’s race now a party of 4; Bloom sets run for Post 4
If someone else enters the race for Peachtree City mayor, the new entrant might as well starting handing out racing silks, helmets and jockey’s whips, because it could turn out to be a horse race.
Tuesday night, Councilman George Dienhart announced his candidacy for the mayor’s post, joining fellow council member Vanessa Fleisch and sitting mayor Don Haddix. When you add already-announced businessman Ryan Jolly to the list, that puts the field at four, and there’s still time for another horse or two to make their entry in the crowded field before qualifying in August.
Dienhart’s announcement means that three of the five current council members will be seeking office, which could conceivably make council meetings either very interesting, very contentious, and perhaps at times both from now through the election in November.
Although Fleisch has almost exclusively shied from the theatrics that have dominated council on a more recurring fashion the past year, Dienhart hasn’t hesitated to mix it up with Haddix.
Dienhart will have to resign in order to qualify for office, setting up a potential special election for the remaining two-plus years on his Post 2 seat. The last time this happened was in 2009 when then-Councilman Don Haddix resigned mid-term to run for mayor.
Fleisch will not have to resign because her term on council will expire Dec. 31, prior to the date in which she would take office.
Qualifying for the mayor’s seat and the Post 3 and Post 4 council seats will take place from Aug. 26 through Aug. 30.
The race for city council is just starting to heat up, as resident Josh Bloom announced Thursday to council that he would seek the Post 4 seat being vacated by Vanessa Fleisch. Bloom, a pilot for Pinnacle Airlines, said his family has fallen in love with the city and he wants the city to “continue to grow and flourish.”
Bloom has served as the vice chair of the city’s Needs Assessment Committee, which studied how much property owners pay for city services and how much citizens were willing to pay.
Dienhart said Monday that he has been thinking about running for mayor for about four months after he was encouraged by members of the Fayette County Local Issues Tea Party and also the county Republican party.
“I think at some point if you are going to be in the public service game and people ask you to do something, you have to step it up and lead,” Dienhart said.
One of the biggest issues is that the mayor sets the tone for how the city is perceived both in and out of Peachtree City, Dienhart noted.
“We need some civility back in office,” Dienhart said, adding that he has shown he has the ability to “work well with others.”
Dienhart chided Haddix for complaining that the mayor wasn’t contacted by Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown to discuss a proposed one-cent sales tax for two years. Dienhart said he was in on those negotiations, however.
“We in Peachtree City wound up with a pretty good deal out of this if we get people to pass it,” Dienhart said “It’s one more example of what we don’t have in office now, and what we could have if people choose me as our next mayor.”
Dienhart in his Tuesday announcement to the county Tea Party said he proposes to work with state transportation officials to close the existing median on Ga. Highway 54 at Line Creek Road in an effort to prevent a brand-new traffic light from coming to the highway to serve a RaceTrac gas station and a proposed Chick-fil-A restaurant. Those stores are being developed as part of a piecemeal shopping center called The Overlook that has drawn scorn in part because the developer wants to create a road linking to Planterra Way, which neighbors contend will lead to more cut through traffic through the Planterra Ridge subdivision.
Dienhart also said he wants the city to be promoted as a great place for younger families, not just as a great place to retire. One suggestion is for the city to beef up code enforcement, particularly in neighborhoods with starter homes where rental properties need to be “taken care of as well as owner-occupied properties.”
“We need to start writing tickets to the landowners — this will ensure that we do not have absentee landlords,” Dienhart said. “Code enforcement must become a major focus of city government.”
A city resident since 2008, Dienhart was unable to win over a council majority on his median closure proposal Thursday night, but he will get another shot at a later date because of the 2-2 deadlock on the matter with Councilwoman Fleisch absent due to a death in her family.
Given that Haddix sided with Dienhart on the matter, it will be interesting to see Fleisch’s decision on the issue. The two votes against the closure came from Council members Kim Learnard, who preferred working with the developer to improve the shopping center and Eric Imker, who said he worried about a potential lawsuit from the shopping center developer. Imker didn’t change his stance even after hearing advice from City Attorney Ted Meeker that the city would not face a lawsuit because the final decision on the median and traffic light request is up to the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Bloom, for his part, said council needs to become a working group, pointing to dissent in the ranks ranging from disputes over lawsuits, annexations, budgets and recreation “to name a few.”
“How can we expect this body to manage our issues when the body itself can’t resolve their own issues,” Bloom said.
Bloom also said he wants to see improvements to city landscaping and at least consider Dienhart’s idea to limit traffic problems from getting worse on Hwy. 54 West.
“I do know that we must first stop or at least slow the growing traffic problem before we can actually find a long-term solution,” Bloom said.