Home Support system Election of the City Council: interview with Mayor Donna Whitener

Election of the City Council: interview with Mayor Donna Whitener


FANNIN, Georgia – Donna Whitener is running for re-election as mayor of Blue Ridge. She has been outgoing mayor for 12 years. She spoke with FYN to discuss her experiences as mayor and her goals for the future. She’s running against Rhonda Haight, a city council holder.

On infrastructure:

Whitener says, “We actually did quite a bit of infrastructure projects… we spent about $ 18 million on rehabilitating water plants, transmission lines, two new million gallon tanks. She specifies that these projects took place at the beginning of her mandate as mayor, and that more recently: “We have probably made 20 million more in various projects such as the replacement of water pipes, streetscape projects, renovation projects, then you know that we ”I did a lot of things that took care of… the infrastructure and structures in our community that are important to us.

On the city sewers:

“You know, we’re just starting to do a lot with the sewers. We’re starting to see sewer problems popping up, and we’ve seen them all along because a lot of the pipes are clay, ”says Whitener,“ Our sewer system is so much smaller than our water system, we have over three thousand customers on our water system, but we have just over a thousand customers on our sewer system. She also explains that even though the infrastructure is outdated, system capacity has only recently become an issue: “It’s starting to happen because these lines just can’t handle it, they are collapsing and they have to. To be replaced.

On building heights:

Whitener says, “I know the big issue that everyone is asking about is the 60ft tall. It’s been there since 1978. Over the years we’ve had a lot of tall buildings, some of them have burned down, been demolished, changed over the years, but it always has been. In the last two terms… there has been a lot of talk about changing the height. She says two planning and development administrations recommended that the height limit be reduced to 45 feet, but she says the council never wanted to act: “They never wanted to change the height at this time- the. I never even talked about going 35ft … it went through the planning commission, it’s through the board members, and you know they’ve hit 35ft now, but the last time that we’ve had a discussion about it… it’s not going to happen.

On the form of government of the city manager:

Whitener says the biggest challenge with any form of government is “No one has really studied the city manager’s form of government.” Whitener explains that when she was first elected, she was in favor of a city manager, but quickly changed her mind: “As I started talking with other mayors and council members, the form of the city manager’s government is generally only used in large cities. We only have about, well, we have a population of just over 1200 people. She notes a small number of small municipalities that have a city manager, while the vast majority favor a mayor.

Whitener also cites a high turnover rate, a high level of control and the impersonality of a city manager: “In our small town a lot of our people are my age… these people like to pick up the phone… they like to have that. no one they can talk to, they have my phone number, they put me on speed dial, if there’s something wrong with them, if a tree falls, if they’ve had a storm, I get a call. “She says her personal connection with citizens is important and that it is lost with a city manager.

On zoning:

“I’m the only council member to have training in planning and zoning,” says Whitener, “Planning and zoning is about people’s property, and it involves dollars, it involves their money, their means of livelihood and the people around them, it affects their livelihoods too. She says training for counseling would help them deal with the increasingly difficult problem of growth and overdevelopment: that just “it’s a state of mind” or “it’s someone I know. “or” this is someone who speaks well “… I think that helps you sort out what makes sense and what doesn’t.”

About Blue Ridge Town Police:

Whitener first explains that the growth in Blue Ridge increases the burden on the police. From more wrecks to small incidents in town, she says the hike puts stress on the town’s officers: “We only have 10 officers, we have 4 part-time, we really need staff. .

“We have set aside money to hire two new agents. The problem is finding these people … with everything that has happened in the last few years, the funding for the police, the ugliness they had to endure … line for everyone, I’m tired, I want to go home at home and enjoy my family ”, and I understand that. So a lot of people have come out of this field, so we have to find these people that we can recruit somewhere who are still interested.

Whitener also says, “Maybe if they have the mayor and council support system, as for we want good police officers, we won’t tell you to take a step back, we will tell you to move on. before. You are a police officer, you know what to do and you know when to do it. So… we have to make sure that these agents know that we are supporting them.

On affordable housing:

“There are a lot of rumors that affordable housing has not been adopted. Affordable housing did not receive a yes or no vote. What was not passed is that they wanted to rezone an area where we already have sewer issues. We thought some of them had already been solved, but it’s not … three days before the vote they had had another blow in that area that had caused problems, and so we had about a million online repair dollars and a pumping station before any major housing can get in. It was 15 acres that they wanted to install 170 units. If we had rezoned this to R3, we would have had to put them on our sewer system, which would not have worked. It would have… been a problem… we couldn’t have done it, it would have ruined the whole sewer system for everyone in the neighborhood.

Whitener clarifies, “It’s not that I’m not for affordable housing, and for workforce housing, because I know it’s necessary. I get calls… quite often, but I have rental properties myself so I know there is a need there. But, the problem you have is that a lot of people are trying to sell the affordable housing, which this was … voted on, but it wasn’t, it was actually the neighborhood they had. selected.

Going forward, Whitener says, “This is my goal with affordable housing, I want to make sure that we don’t sell our affordable housing to people in the Atlanta area… I want to make sure we take care of the people of Blue Ridge and Fannin County first. ”

To the voters:

“I have always supported my fellow citizens. They were able to reach me 24/7. I had to say no to some citizens, but I always gave them the reasons why I couldn’t do what they wanted. I am accessible, I am reachable… I want citizens to know that I am there for them, and I am here to make sure that we have a safe and secure community.

FYN made an effort to contact every candidate, but we were ultimately unable to speak with the candidates for position 1 Herald Herndon and Jack Taylor; Display 3 candidates Brian Higgins and Christy Kay; Post 4 candidates Jacqueline Brown and William Whaley; and Post 5 candidates Bill Bivins and Nathan Fitts. Early voting is already underway and polling day is November 21, 2021.