The City of Dahlonega will see a new face during its city council meetings at the start of the new year after Johnny Ariemma tallied enough votes in a tight race against opponent Tony Owens for the Post 4 seat during Tuesday’s general/special municipal election.
Incumbents Ron Larson and JoAnne Taylor both retained their seats on the council during the election. Larson defeated challenger Dewey Moye, while Taylor ran unopposed.
The city will also see the hours for on-premise alcohol sales on Sundays moved up to 11 a.m. after local voters overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill (SB) 17, also known as the Sunday Brunch Bill.
In the race for Post 4, Ariemma won the seat vacated by councilman Bruce Hoffman, who opted not to run for reelection. Ariemma received 50.85 percent of the vote, earning 387 votes out of the 761 ballots cast.
Ariemma beat his opponent Owens by the slimmest of margins, taking the seat by 16 votes.
Owens earned 48.75 percent of the votes, receiving 371 votes.
Ariemma gave a special thanks to those who supported him with their votes and those who helped him during his campaign.
“I am very humbled and thankful for all who participated in this election and for those who voted for me I am most appreciative,” said Ariemma. “A special thank you to my wife Catherine, my campaign manager Kevin Dodds and my very good friend Casey Moye for all their assistance and support.”
Ariemma doubled down on his campaign promises and also expressed his eagerness to work with his fellow council members.
“As I stated during my campaign, I plan to hold town hall meetings,” Ariemma said. “It is important to hear what the taxpayers have to say and to ensure a transparent government. Additionally, I plan to investigate our water/sewer rates and to go through the 2020 budget detail ledgers to propose ways to reduce the cost to taxpayers.
He added that he wants to target any unnecessary spending.
“We must look at duplication of services; I have ideas on how we can eliminate or reduce these duplications,” he said. “I look forward to working with the city council to engage with the Lumpkin County commissioners and UNG representatives to get the county and university to partner with the city in a number of areas. Lastly, it is very important that we strengthen our ordinances to protect our historic properties and maintain retail on the street level, which is vital to our tourism industry. My goal is to work hard for the citizens of Dahlonega.”
The race for Post 6 saw incumbent Larson retain his seat on the city council by garnering 60.21 percent of the vote, receiving 457 of the 759 votes for the position.
Moye finished with 39.53 percent of the vote, landing 300 votes.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to have served the citizens of Dahlonega over the past four years,” said Larson. “I appreciate the vote of confidence in your re-electing me to serve another four-year term.”
Larson also spoke about the strengths of the city and what he plans to prioritize during his second term on the council.
“The City is on solid financial footing,” Larson said. “Tourism dollars continue to grow, and the sound investment of those dollars is paying dividends with growth in the number of visitors to our community. A focus on keeping property taxes in check, or lower, has been and will continue to be a priority, while not reducing services or deferring needed infrastructure repair and upgrades. Building relationships with the County, UNG [University of North Georgia] and the BOE [Board of Education] is critical. Working together to minimize duplicate services and maximize the value of the strengths of each organization is our goal. The employees of the City are outstanding. Continuing to support them and provide them with the resources to do their job will continue to be a priority.”
Running unopposed, Post 5 incumbent JoAnne Taylor won a second term with 628 votes out of the 652 ballots cast for the seat.
Taylor thanked those who voted for her on Election Day.
“Thank you so much to all who voted to allow me to continue to serve Dahlonega in Post 5,” said Taylor. “It has been an opportunity to give back to this community I love. My leadership and business skills developed over a 32-year career have allowed me to contribute to solving some of the challenges we face as a city. Though much has been accomplished, the list is still long. We are fortunate to have a superb city staff who perform all the real work of the city.”
Taylor said she hopes to continue to focus on managing the growth of the city during her second term in office.
“We need to make well thought out investments in infrastructure improvements,” she said. “We will continue to work with the county on road improvements, water projects and joint projects that save taxpayer dollars.”
SB 17, more commonly known as the Sunday Brunch Bill, was passed by the Georgia Senate on February 13, 2018 and allows for communities that already have Sunday sales to vote on whether or not to move roll back on-premise consumption sales hours from the current designated time of 12:30 p.m. to an earlier time of 11 a.m.
The residents of Dahlonega overwhelmingly voted to enact the Sunday Brunch Bill, as they voted in favor of the bill by a whomping 74.49 percent. The bill garnered 584 favorable votes out of the 784 ballots tallied.
The Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA), who helped push the Brunch Bill over the past four years, estimates the change has the potential to bring in an additional $25,000 per year.
The roll back from the Sunday Brunch Bill is set to take affect immediately.