Who's running for city council?

The election may not be until November but the field is already filling up with a crowd of contenders for Dahlonega City Council.

A total of 12 recently declared their intent to run for office with candidates ranging from a professor to a deputy to retired professionals to multiple business owners.

Here’s an early look at the way the competition is lining up:



After three terms, Mayor Gary McCullough has opted to retire from the head of the council at the end of the year. Currently two contenders are vying to fill his seat.


Sam Norton is the current Post 5 representative and the owner of a trio of downtown businesses (Picnic Cafe, Humble Candle and High Cotton). He also owns a 300-acre farm in South Georgia

“I feel that I have the vision and the experience to guide the council forward as Dahlonega prepares for the certain growth that is headed our way,” he said. “We are at a critical juncture of preserving our heritage and way of life while encouraging smart growth. I also feel my unique experiences as a proven businessman, public servant, tax payer, and father, exclusively position me to lead our community as mayor.  I am motivated to give back to the community which has so graciously included me and my family.”


Rajpal Sagoo is the owner and operator of MDD Holdings, Inc. a small business/start up consulting and holdings company. One of MDD holdings is the Dahlonega restaurant, The EndZone.

“Through my time at UNG, I was always curious to know why more businesses were not setting up in the area,” said Sagoo. “Why more high paying jobs, controlled infrastructure growth, and local resident utilization for careers was not happening. When I graduated and was able to make a full time move with my company, I started to get those results. Most of my clients refused to move up here. They stated obvious things such as issues with ISPs (Windstream), but also told me about the cost of business inside the City of Dahlonega. With high fees and ridiculous ordinances, it's sometimes impossible for any of that to happen. Right now, Dahlonega needs a leader who can keep the historical integrity of this City, while ushering in a new generation to carry on the torch that so many have worked so hard to keep lit. I hope to be that, and create solutions for our massive debt, business and job shortages and high taxes.



Johnny Ariemma is a former council member and an entrepreneur, who retired after starting an automotive paint distribution network that stretched throughout the country.  He has invested in local real estate and over the last decade has restored The Dahlonega Square Villa (The Baker Law Office), The Dahlonega Square Hotel (McGuire House) and  Restaurant 1888 (The Gallord /Rogers Higgins house).  

“I am inspired to run as I am tired of the current mentality and direction of City Hall,” he said. “We need to drain the swamp of non-business friendly council members and abolish retirement for life for council members, which is ridiculous. Council members are paid $400 monthly by the city tax payers for their time. Retirement for life is not a cost city tax payers should have the burden to pay.  The current council raised taxes two years in a row, doubled license fees, pushing to institute paid parking on the square, taxed our festivals, increased bed tax an additional three percent and voted to allow the second oldest historic property on the square to be demolished. The increasing cost of water is due to the lack of partnership between the county and city.  I am a business man who knows how to balance a budget and make practical good decisions for our community."   

He has yet to determine which city council post he will run for.


Incumbent Michael Clemons is the Post 2 representative and a licensed low voltage contractor who has owned Ace Wiring Systems since 2005.

"I love serving this wonderful community and the people of the town of Dahlonega. I am inspired by the uniqueness and charm of this small town and want to help it grow and be a wonderful place to live and work as many have done before us. I am always inspired by the citizens of the City of Dahlonega to go above and beyond my commitment as a councilman; I have served on the city council for 15 years and have 267 training hours with the Georgia Municipal Association and have thoroughly enjoyed the honor of being a servant leader."


Paul Dunlap is a professor at University of North Georgia where he has 13 years experience teaching photography and supervising senior capstone exhibitions. He also serves as the Accreditation Coordinator for the Department of Visual Arts. 

“What motivates me to run for office has a great deal to do with the last three years that I've spent in Leadership Lumpkin County, first as a class participant and as Chair of the program for the last two years,” he said. “I’ve learned a great deal about this community of which I've been a part for 25 years. I want to put that knowledge to good use. I love this town and want to learn more.”

He has yet to determine which city council post he will run for.


Incumbent Roman Gaddis is the Post 1 representative and the Executive Director of Technology for the Dawson County School System.  

"I’m running for council because I want to serve my community and help cast a vision for the future of Dahlonega,” he said. “I want to continue to assist with building relationships with the county and the university, which is vital to the success of our community. I’m also running for council because I believe our city needs strategic leaders willing to work for the best interests of our community and its stakeholders, which includes property owners, business owners, residents, and students. I’m also running for council again to continue working on expanding the historic district and the downtown commercial business district."


Helen Hardman is a retired tourism professional and grant writer.

“I feel that my professional experience and expertise in promotions, budget management and tourism for 28 years will help Dahlonega,” she said. “That's what inspired me to run. I was President of Convention & Visitors Bureaus in Helen, Augusta, and Gainesville/Lake Lanier Islands. Prior to getting into the tourism industry, I was a banker, then wrote grants for Georgia Mountains Regional Commission.”

She has yet to determine which city council post she will run for.


Casey Moye is a commercial banker on the GA 400 corridor.

He said his goal, if elected, would be “reducing taxes and attracting businesses to the area.”

He has yet to determine which city council post he will run for.


Incumbent Mitchell Ridley is the Post 3 representative who has also worked for 37 years as a barber.

"We are just about to see the benefits of a very difficult time in Dahlonega,” he said. “Coming out of the recession we restructured the debt on the water treatment plant, where we could keep our bond rating up and meet the debt repayment. We made improvement in our IT at City Hall, updated the codification of ordinances to improve the search ability of those ordinances, made improvements at the waste water treatment plant, worked with DDA for the development of the North GA Film program which had an economic impact of over $300,000 so far into the local economy, worked with staff and Senator Gooch and Representative Tanner for a raise in the hotel/motel tax for improvements in the downtown area at no cost to city taxpayers and have worked with staff, council and the chamber to keep Dahlonega as a showcase city which can be seen in our number three ranking on the list of the 21 best small towns in America in 2016."


Alan Roach has been a law enforcement officer at the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office since 1994.  

“I have chosen to run for the seat that is being vacated by Sam Norton so that he can run for Mayor of the city of Dahlonega,” he said. “I have chosen to run for Dahlonega’s City council so that I can continue to serve our community.  For many years, I have been serving the community through my position as a law enforcement officer.  I feel as a member of the Dahlonega City council, I will be able to continue this service.”

Roach will run for Post 5.


Penny Sharp is the co-owner of Dahlonega Walking Tours, a family business on the Public Square.

"I was inspired to run for city council by my personal experience and frustration working with our current city council while we were trying to save the Parks Building,” she said. “I feel our elected officials should be more transparent, responsive and supportive of Dahlonega citizens and appointed commissions. We also have many talented and smart people whose opinions. talents and skills are not being tapped. Citizens should be open to more information about why decisions are being made. Emails should be responded to promptly and opinions and ideas from the community should be given support and genuine consideration. No citizen should walk away from a meeting feeling like a decision was made behind closed doors before it was ever heard in public.”

She has yet to determine which city council post she will run for.


JoAnne Taylor is a local volunteer and retired corporate executive who worked for IBM for 32 years. There she was VP responsible for the global telecommunications industry segment.

“I’ve been an involved citizen in our community for many years,” she said. “Given the challenges and opportunities which Dahlonega faces, serving on the City Council would make good use of my management, financial, and negotiation skills. I look forward to giving back to this wonderful community.”

She has yet to determine which city council post she will run for.


This is the first in a series of city election previews leading to the November election. If you or someone you know is planning on running for city council feel free to send an email to publisher Matt Aiken or call The Nugget office at 706-864-3613.

Editor’s Note: While other sources have reported that Noah Steinberg is in the running, he told The Nugget he is still weighing his options before officially joining the race.

Second Slider: 

The Dahlonega Nugget

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 36,
Dahlonega, GA 30533

Phone: 706-864-3613
Fax: 706-864-5812