Oconee Patch presents a two-part series about the candidates running for the office of Mayor of Watkinsville. Part one focused on . Dan Matthews is featured in part two.
lost his first major foray into politics running as a . Now he's setting his sites on the office of mayor for the city of .
“We've come to a point in Watkinsville's evolution where I think we need to continue with strong leadership, someone who sees all sides of the issues, and is willing to work with everybody to make Watkinsville the best place it could possibly be for the 2,000-plus residents and people coming to the area,” Matthews said. “I think I can do that job and look forward to the challenge.”
Matthews, 48, is running in the Nov. 8 election against , a 62-year-old sales manager of Baldwin Filters, who once served on the Watkinsville City Council. Ivie will be retiring this year from his job, and will be able to devote all of his time to the job, he has said.
Matthews, who manages the Athens law firm Eric K. Krase & Associates part-time, said his job shouldn't affect his ability to serve as mayor.
“I can contribute just as much if not more time than my opponent,” Matthews said.
Matthews isn't just stepping up for the office of mayor because he's interested in running for any elected office, he said.
“I learned a lot in the first go-round, and I have always maintained a keen community interest in Watkinsville, going to city council meetings and trying to remain involved as much as I can,” Matthews said. “I feel it is my ethical duty if I have any money left over from my previous campaign to either re-donate it back to the people who gave it to me, or run for another office.”
Matthews has previously served on the Historic Sites and Tourism Committee for Oconee County, and has worked for the local government twice – as a gym supervisor for the Parks and Recreation Department and as a guide at in the . He is a past chair of the Oconee County Democratic Committee.
Matthews also volunteered as a basketball coach, and last year helped the Parks and Recreation Department prepare and from Coca-cola for a new outdoor basketball court.
For years, Matthews has actively attended city meetings, and runs his own blog on local meetings and decisions. Except for last month, he said, his opponent hasn't been to many of the city council's most recent meetings.
“I must admit I had some concerns the person running against me had not attended a lot of those meetings, and that was my motivation for getting in the race,” Matthews said.
If elected to lead Watkinsville, Matthews said some of the things he'll strive for as mayor include building and promoting city parks and greenspaces, continuing paving and street programs from the previous administration, and promoting economic growth in the area.
“I want to keep Watkinsville going in a way that people want to come here, make it a destination, make it the art land of Georgia,” Matthews said. “We've got a lot to offer out here, and in many ways, Watkinsville embodies some of the best-kept secrets in Georgia.”
He specifically mentioned trying to expand , and assisting the city, local scouts and Georgia Daughters of the American Revolution in preserving the old Watkinsville Cemetery along Mulberry Street. Matthews would also like to find resources to build more bike paths and collaborate with county commissioners to continue replacing septic tanks and connecting properties to the county's sewer system to control development and encourage more industry to locate to the area.
“I want to do everything I can to support businesses and help the development authority attract new businesses to the area,” Matthews said. “Watkinsville is a very attractive community, and we have people that commute to Atlanta, people obviously work in Athens every day, and I just want to help contribute to that sense of community and growth in the area.”
As for deciding how the City Council would approach more potential budget cuts in the next fiscal year, “everything is always on the table,” he said.
Earlier this year, council had to cut the budget by $131,000 to $1.2 million, after receiving 10 percent less revenue. The council also considered raising the property tax millage rate in August from 2.9 to 3.47, which would have raised an additional $12,000 for the city.
“I certainly don't want to increase the millage rate," Matthews said. "I don't want to make people pay any more, I don't want to see any more red tape."