Oconee Patch presents a two-part series about the candidates running for the office of Mayor of Watkinsville. Part one focuses on Charles Ivie. Look for part two, an interview with Dan Matthews, on Sept. 21 at 4:30 p.m.
didn't expect to retire this year from a long sales career just to run for another full-time job as mayor of .
But Ivie, 62, who has lived in Oconee County all his life, said it was perfect timing and something he's wanted to do to give back to the community that's been so good to him.
“I was going to retire whether I ran for mayor or not,” Ivie said. “When I learned that (current) , I said, 'OK, now's my opportunity,' so I qualified to run for mayor.”
, who manages an Athens law-firm and .
If elected to lead the city of Ivie said one of the most important things he'll do is continue a tradition that started with past mayors of being open and accessible to citizens.
Ivie said he'll likely have more time to devote to the job than his opponent, who has a part-time job.
“We've had two very successful mayors recently, and I think the reason they were successful is because of availability,” Ivie said. “They were retired, they didn't have other things to attract their attention, or to hold their attention. They were able to devote some time to actually being the mayor, and they were both very accessible. Certainly I will have the time because my only job other than Mayor of Watkinsville will be my wife's honey-do list.”
Ivie said he will bring his experience as a sales manager working with “all kinds of people in all kinds of different situations,” and overseeing a $5 million sales budget, to the job.
Ivie said he'd like for the city to continue streetscaping and , encourage residents to recycle more and consider other opportunities that would enhance the quality of life for residents.
Business support promised
Tourism and support for local businesses are also some areas Ivie said he'd like to continue to support and grow.
“One of the things I will do as mayor is to continue to support Watkinsville,” Ivie said. “Not only for tourism, but industry, small businesses – anything that would enhance Watkinsville is what I would work towards, from a financial standpoint, from a quality-of-life standpoint, from a beautification standpoint.”
Ivie has volunteered in local blood drives and the American Cancer Society's program. He has previous experience in elected office, serving as a Watkinsville City Council member in the early 1970s. Among some of the decisions he recalls making is the purchase to upgrade firefighting equipment for the city.
“We bought the first modern fire truck that Watkinsville had,” Ivie said. “Before we bought this fire truck, our means of firefighting was a 1942 Ford model A, 30 years old at the time. This was a very, very big decision because it was a very, very small budget. There wasn't a lot of money flowing around.”
Among some of the most important issues facing the city today is revenue, Ivie said. Earlier this year, commissioners had to cut the budget by $131,000 to $1.2 million, after receiving 10 percent less revenue.
“The economic atmosphere is not all that good right now and many economists are saying 2012 could be worse than 2011,” Ivie said. “I think the budget and revenues are going to be the main thing the mayor and council are going to have to deal with.”
No new taxes
Ivie spoke out publicly against a decision by council members in August to raise the mayor's salary from $7,200 to $9,700, saying it's wrong and not the best idea for the city at a time when funding is scarce.
"Since they voted on it, I guess that problem is moot," Ivie said. "I tried to talk them out of it, and that didn't work. At the end of the day that's what the council wanted and their wishes should be honored."
The council also considered but ultimately struck down a proposal to raise the property tax millage rate from 2.9 to 3.47 in August. The increase would have raised an additional $12,000 for the city government.
Ivie said he'd oppose other measures to increase taxes for citizens.
“I am the last person in the world that wants to see a tax increase,” he said. “I think that we would look at ways to save money before we even dream of tax increases.”
One of those ideas for saving money could be in the recycling program, which he'd like to find a way to expand and encourage more citizen participation. The curbside service is single-stream, meaning participants can mix paper, plastic and glass recyclables in the same container, for $8 a month.
“It's just something we're going to have to put boots on the ground and say this is what we need to do folks, and say it's your tax money that's paying for hauling some of this stuff away (to the landfill). If we can go on the other side and take some of it away, then we aren't going to use so much tax money and we can use it for the other things that are more beneficial.”