1-19-16 Council Meeting

The council voted to make some changes to our charter (the rules governing our city) at our last council meeting.

The first change the council made was to add a section in the charter that required the council to review the compensation the council receives every odd calendar year.  In effect, the point of the addition is to give the council the opportunity to review how much the council receives in compensation without the need for a specific  council member to have the stigma of adding it to the agenda.  Personally, I will never ask for a raise, but I hope they don’t decide to take any Mayoral pay away.  I knew what I was getting into when I ran, and the $6,000 I make a year is fine by me.

The next change was to add something to the Meetings section of our charter that allowed 3 council members to cancel a special called meeting that has been called by the mayor or vice mayor.  Currently, the mayor, vice mayor, or 3 council members can call a meeting, but cancelling a special called meeting may now be done by 3 council members.

Next, there were conflicting sections within the charter about what constituted a quorum (the number of people needed to conduct city business and vote).    We resolved to define a quorum as 4 members of all the council.

The next change was in the section defined Council Interference with Administration.  The best way to state this change is to contrast the old with the new.  The old sentence read, “…the city council or it’s members shall deal with city officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the manager solely through the manager…”, and the new sentence will read, “…the Mayor, city council, or it’s members shall deal with city officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the manager solely through the manager…”.

The next change was to deal with conflicting explanations for how the mayor’s seat is to be filled in the case of a vacancy.  One section read that the council elects a replacement while another read the Vice Mayor acts as mayor until a replacement is elected.  We made both sections read that the Vice Mayor will replace in case of a vacancy.  Hopefully no one on the council is trying to get rid of me yet, but we needed to fix the discrepancy in what happens if the mayor’s seat becomes unexpectedly vacant.

The last change was to make an exception within the Charter to allow for someone from the council to be on our Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB).  The CVB asked that one of our council be included in their board to facilitate communication between the city and the board.

I’ll keep you updated on how these changes affect decision making in the city moving forward.

 

 

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Thank You

My wife, Lori, is such a beautiful source of love and inspiration.  She is the biggest contributor to my endeavors, and her commitment to excellence helps drive our family daily.  Thank you Lori.

The support I have received throughout the process of running for the Mayor’s office has been my wings when I felt tired or discouraged.  Interacting with so many people in such a short period of time was a reminder from my last campaign that my neighbor’s words of support and encouragement stay with me moving forward.  Those are the interactions that I can remember most vividly and fondly.  If you spoke to me and encouraged me, it made a difference.  Thank you.  The outpouring on Facebook and in person has been overwhelming, and I’ve never been told congratulations so much in my life.  All of the support before, during, and after the race has been so humbling.

The Mayor has agreed to administer my oath of office at City Hall on January 4th at 7:00 p.m.  He has become such a meaningful person in my life, and I owe him a thank you beyond measure not only for the work he has put in before me, but also for the principles he helped instill.

Thank you to Jerry Payne and Tony Hullender.  Because of their input and fight they have for the city, I believe I had to work harder and push more to earn the job of Mayor.  This process made me a better candidate.  It was a clean campaign where we tried to put forth our ideas and experience for the city.

I am so excited for the future.  Thank you all for the gift of hope, excitement, and possibility for me personally and for our city.

Fondly,

Mayor-Elect Millwood

 

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My Answers to Catoosa News Questions

1. What are your feelings about possibly taking over for someone who’s been in office for so many years?
Joe Barger has been an exceptional mentor during my time as his Vice-Mayor, and I will continue to seek out his expertise if I am blessed with the honor of succeeding him. As Mayor, it would be my goal to apply his ethics and common sense approach in a way that carries on to future generations.   Recently, Joe said, “As long as the next Mayor thinks more about the people than politics, they will be just fine.”  Seeing him fight for citizens’ concerns and following through with their issues has been the most impressive aspect of my time with him.  I have made it my goal to continue his tradition of being a strong advocate for people’s concerns in our city.  Mayor Barger has been my Mayor since I was born, and he will always be my Mayor.  I find comfort in that I have learned from a legend, and his example gives me confidence moving forward with our city.
2. What are some of your short and long-term goals if elected mayor.
Our council meetings are poorly attended because people only come when they have something they want to put on the agenda.  This presented a challenge to me in my main goal of creating a citizenry that is informed, and can in turn, inform the council.  I don’t believe that the answer to poorly attended meetings is to have more meetings.  It’s our job as a council to put the work in and find innovative ways to access our city’s expertise and ideas from its citizens.  In the short term, I would like to finish the work I have begun using current technology to bring our next generation into the political process.  The specific things I have accomplished during my time on the council and want to finish, improve, and continue are the following:  I have “friended” many citizens on social media (ViceMayor Millwood on Facebook) to keep people up to date about what we are doing on the council.  Posting our agendas ahead of time gives people a chance to see what we are voting on before the council meeting.  When the city has issues with things like trucks hitting our underpass, what to do in our recreation fields, and finding the best place for a potential dog park, I can talk to truckers, our recreational leaders, and dog owners before I even step foot in a council meeting.  Our quarterly newsletter and online posting of our meetings (live and on demand) are other great avenues we need to continue and inform people about.  I also write a blog about current events in the city at nickmillwood.com in order to keep people up to date with my personal goals through the council
In the long term, I would like to protect the quaint/historic look and feel of our downtown while encouraging smart and planned growth in our growth corridors outside our downtown.  We have a college coming in by Zaxby’s on Alabama Highway, and managing the traffic flow through this growth is a big concern.  Widening Alabama Hwy to alleviate the traffic our citizens experience coming in from that area should be a top priority of our next Mayor.  We also have exciting growth opportunity going down Hwy 41 toward the truck stop exit.  We have annexed all the way to the county line going that direction, and we are currently finishing some important infrastructure to bring more industrial/manufacturing opportunities to our community.  I would like to emphasize this growth needs to be managed carefully.  We could grow immediately and fast by opening up our planning/zoning, but through identifying specific needs within the community and keeping in mind what serves our citizens and tax base most beneficially, we can grow in a way that fits our community’s needs and values.  Big purple fireworks stores may be profitable, but we can do better as a community to grow smart.  I would also like to see our tax base remain low in the long term.  We have had small adjustments, both up and down, since I’ve been on the council, but the goal has been to maintain a flat income level to maintain our services, employees, and infrastructure.  Our millage rate is well below other local municipalities, and it needs to remain that way.
3. What is the main thing voters should consider or know about you when casting their vote in the runoff election?
Voters should know that I have dedicated my life to making our community a better place.  As a teacher, coach, and FCA leader, I have the opportunity daily to impact the lives of our city’s youth and provide them with a male role model they can count on.  As Vice-Mayor, I have worked tirelessly to inform the community and draw from our collective expertise to help make the best decisions for our city.  As a husband and father to 4 daughters, I am fulfilling the most important role of all and helping to secure a bright future for our community by nurturing my children to ultimately be our leaders.  I believe I have the drive, education, heart, and experience to be a Mayor that makes our city proud.

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Take Away Mayor’s Office?

The video of the meeting is available at the link HERE.  Go to the 33:15 mark to see this particular portion of the meeting.

There was a motion at our last council meeting to take the office space away from the Mayor and give it to the council as a whole.  The council currently has office space available to utilize next to the Mayor’s office, but it sits empty.  There is no functional or operational need to take away the Mayor’s office.  This motion on the Mayor’s way out of office after 40 years of service is in extreme poor taste.  We should be celebrating this Mayor’s accomplishments during this time as opposed to belittling his position.  Those are my thoughts, but I encourage you to watch the video yourself and make your own judgement.

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My Case for Mayor

Serving on the council and having the opportunity to be mentored by Mayor Barger is one of my best and most enduring arguments I have for why I am qualified to be our next Mayor.  Learning from a man who has seen our city through so many struggles, successes, and ultimately the beautiful community we are today has been such an honor.  The last few years I have served on the council have been a time of great change for our city, and I have learned a great deal in my time as Councilman/Vice-Mayor.  In serving as Vice-Mayor, I have had the opportunity to chair council meetings on the occasions the Mayor was unable to attend.  This has given me first hand experience in managing debate on a number of topics.  There was a very large learning curve when I first came onto our council, and the Mayor and other council members were helpful in explaining not only the city’s current position, but also some of the history in how we came to be where we are.  Learning about all the different pots of money and how it can and cannot be spent was very eye opening.  The structure and flow of resources in our local government is much more complex than I had thought before serving.  I am a stronger and more prepared candidate because of the time I have spent serving on our city’s council, and I will be ready on day one to fulfill the duties of the office.

Another qualification I wanted to highlight is my time as a teacher in the community.  I teach, coach, and help lead our FCA program at Ringgold Middle school, a school in the heart of the City of Ringgold.  Interacting with many of our city’s youth and their parents through the years has given me the opportunity to have my finger on the pulse of what it’s like living in Ringgold from families across the economic spectrum.  I can see our need for quality recreation and mentoring for our at-risk youth.  Teaching has given me the opportunity to better understand the values and aspirations of our city’s residents and, in particular, our next generation.

As I move to the accomplishments section of this post, I want to make the point that while I brought many of these issues to the council for consideration, I alone cannot enact any of these changes.  The council requires a majority vote, and in every one of these instances I had some help.  First of all, I wanted to give our citizens a better opportunity to be informed about what was happening at city hall.  Before I ran for council, the city police showed up at my door one day to break up my daughter’s birthday party in order to comply with a parking ordinance that had been passed by the city council specifically for my neighborhood just a week or two prior.  When I went and addressed the council about why we had not been informed, I was told that I should have been coming to the meetings in order to know what was going on.  To me, that wasn’t good enough.  The motion I was able to get passed during my time on the council was having our meetings posted online so they can be watched both live and on demand.  You can click a specific agenda item that interests you, or you have an expertise in, and see just that part of our meeting.  I have already had some valuable feedback from citizens who are watching those videos.  The link is HERE if you would like to see the progress we’re making in this area.  I have also systematically “friended” every voter on our voter registration list on Facebook in order to keep people informed.  Sending out our agendas ahead of time, updating on current/potential projects, and informing generally about city business are just some of the things I’ve been able to do effectively using social media.  We’ve also begun sending out a quarterly newsletter to each residence in order to inform and keep our citizens up to date.

There are many other things I am proud of this council for accomplishing, but I just wanted to mention a few briefly.  We have added wifi to our downtown area in order to serve our citizens and benefit our businesses.  The first block has been wired from the Historic Depot to the old Ringgold Price Drug building and more is soon to come.  This is something I have been able to accomplish during my time on the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB).  We have also added wifi at the Ringgold Pool and our recreation fields behind the pool.  Also,regarding our recreation fields, we finally have a plan in place that we are moving forward with.  That plan is HERE.  When I came on the council, we had a plan in place that was unworkable and extremely cost prohibitive.  We are steadily making our recreation field area more and more like a park.  I hope to rename the park soon to something other than “Ringgold Recreation Complex”.  It just doesn’t have a nice ring to it.  I am curious what some of you think a good name would be.

In the future, I want to protect our downtown area against modernization.  I love the quaint feel of the old buildings, depot, and hometown stores.  We have an opportunity to move the digital sign out of our downtown and give it even more visibility at the corner of Highway 41 and Alabama Highway by 1st Tn Bank.  This would protect the historic feel of our downtown while making even better use of this valuable resource.  Our business growth corridors need to be developed through areas like Alabama Highway (Hwy 151) where the new college is coming, Ooltewah Ringgold Road, and Highway 41 toward Tunnel Hill and toward Graysville.    I would like to find creative services for the community that have great cost to benefit ratios such as the dog park idea I wrote about HERE.  The city has opportunities to extend our nature trail along the creek  and make what is already a staple of this community something that is truly special.  Our tax rate in the city needs to remain low so our citizens can enjoy more of their own money and continue to invest in our community through patronizing our businesses.

The office of Mayor has been something I considered pursuing in the last two years of my current term as my service turned into something that has become part of who I am.  The last few years as a husband, father, teacher, and councilman have been the most rewarding time of my life.  I believe through my experience I can be a Mayor who will honor our community and help guide it into the next generation with respect and vision.  I have the temperament, confidence, and passion to make our city proud of it’s next Mayor.  The experiences of my life have led me to this crossroad, and becoming our Mayor would be an honor that I would work every day of my life to fulfill with integrity.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Vice-Mayor Millwood.

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Challenging Paul Lee’s Candidacy

UPDATE:  Paul has been declared ineligible to run for the office of Ringgold mayor.

Paul Lee and I have never met.This is in no way an attack on his character. However, the evidence strongly suggests he doesn’t live in the city, which is a requirement to run for the office of Mayor in the City of Ringgold.  Click the link HERE for the city code which spells out the 12 month residency requirement.  Many people have approached me over the course of the last two weeks about the fact that he lives at a county residence outside the city (in what I’ve heard is an exceptionally large home) and has for quite some time.  One of my jobs is to protect the citizens of Ringgold from being hoodwinked, so I did some research in public record.  First, I was curious about the address he used in my neighborhood (Bluff View) in order to qualify, so I went to the tax assessor web page to look up info on who owned the house.  On August 7th, 2015 the house was transferred to Paul for $0 as a gift from a family member.  The link to the transfer is HERE (sale info at bottom of page).  Next I went by the Registrar’s office to see when he registered to vote in the city.  On August 11th, 2015 he changed his driver’s license address to my neighborhood and registered to vote in the city at that time.

Mayor Barger had also been approached by many people about his residency and wanted to challenge Paul’s candidacy formally.  Collectively the Mayor, myself, and the two other candidates for Mayor have filed a challenge at City Hall on the grounds he does not meet the requirements (specifically Sec 2.11 of city code linked above) to run for Mayor.  At this point, there will be a public hearing at City Hall in which Paul will have to defend his candidacy in order to have his name on the ballot.  He would have an opportunity to appeal to a higher court, so the process would need to be expedited in order to have closure before ballots are made.

In such a small city, the election can be easily swayed.  We deserve to have a fair election.  He may or may not have a shot at winning, but if he gets even one vote, it could change the outcome of the election and make it illegitimate.  When Mayor Barger won his seat, he was only 3 votes ahead of his closest rival.  I was only nine votes away from 4th place when I ran for council, which would have knocked me out of having the honor to serve.  As I don’t know Paul, I have nothing against him personally, but I do believe in playing by the rules.  I’ll post updates along the way to keep you informed.

Vice-Mayor Millwood

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New Recreation Field Master Plan

This is our new master plan for the fields behind our pool.  The paths shown encircling the area are going to be concreted.  There’s much more room for soccer because of it’s growth.  Earl and Darnell have done a fantastic job growing our community’s soccer program and they’re bringing families into the community to eat, play, and shop.  This plan basically doubles the size we currently provide for soccer.  The area by Emberson Drive is going to be a wounded warriors playground for everyone, but especially the disabled in and around our community.  Disabled kids who want to play will have a place, and disabled parents can actually go on the playground and play with their kids.  A splash pad is beside the pool that will come in the future.   We’ve also added a lot of parking along Emberson, by the soccer fields, and by our new canoe launch.  We’re excited to finally be moving forward with a plan.  Grading and drainage work is slated to begin this Fall to ready the fields and pathways.

Master Plan

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