MOULTRIE, Ga. — The candidates for a Moultrie City Council seat made clear Monday night that both want business growth within the city.
Incumbent Daniel Dunn and challenger Kenneth “Ken” Turnipseed faced off at a public forum sponsored by the Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce and held at the Colquitt County Arts Center.
Each introduced himself to the audience of about 60 people at the opening of the program. Dunn, a financial consultant who was first elected to the District II Post 5 seat in 2005, said he ran in that election with two goals: To make Moultrie business-friendly and to make it a place that young people will want to stay in or return to to raise their families.
“I have kept those promises,” he said, “but I can’t stop there — we can’t stop there.”
Turnipseed, an attorney with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s in tax accounting, said he brings his education and experience, a strong work ethic and a love of collaboration. Taken together, he said he believes those traits will help find new ways to do things that will encourage businesses to come to Moultrie.
“I want to hear what the people have to say,” he said.
In response to questions that were submitted by voters, both men praised the arrival of the South Georgia campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine as a major boon to the local economy.
Dunn participated in the effort to attract the medical school. He said those events were described incorrectly in an earlier Observer story, so he summarized them for the attendees. Dunn was a member of the Development Authority when Jim Matney, president of Colquitt Regional Medical Center and a fellow member of the authority, raised the prospect of bringing PCOM to Moultrie. Dunn said he, Matney and Development Authority Chairman Larry Franklin were in New York to negotiate with a gun manufacturer who was looking to move production into the South. While there, they rented a car and drove to Philadelphia to meet the president of PCOM. Dunn said he believes that was the first visit by someone from Moultrie to PCOM’s main campus.
Later, after Dunn became chairman of the authority, he wrote a letter urging PCOM to open a campus in Moultrie — one of several such letters from local boards and organizations.
“It was a team effort,” he said. “… It’s the most important seed that’s ever been planted in this county. It will change rural healthcare.”
The PCOM negotiations took place before Turnipseed became the authority’s lawyer, but he said the benefits of the college to the community are clear.
“PCOM has been a game-changer in this town,” Turnipseed said.
But he wondered whether the city is prepared for the growth that PCOM South Georgia is already bringing.
“Are the roads ready?” he asked. “Can we run the sewer, the gas?”
Turnipseed said he hopes to bring his business and legal expertise to bear on the challenges of getting businesses in the city, and his experiences not only here but in other places he’s worked gives him “a new set of eyes” on the problems.
“I’ve seen how government makes it easier or harder for folks to grow,” he said.
Dunn said Moultrie has a reputation for being hard to do business with, and changing that has been one of his focuses as a councilman. He listed some of the city’s recent successes — criteria he said is making it easier for businesses:
* The city’s property tax rate is the lowest it’s been in 20 years or more.
* The city’s finances are in the best shape they’ve been in 32 years.
* A $22 million upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant has given the city surplus capacity.
* The electrical system also has surplus capacity.
* Partnerships with multiple groups but most notably with the county government.
* The Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in particular, and the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax as well, have provided the city with the financial ability to fund capital projects, such as road repairs.
While all questions were asked of both candidates, some contained specific challenges to one or the other.
One asked if Dunn had voted against development of the Publix shopping center.
“There’s been people to spread that I didn’t want Publix in Moultrie,” Dunn said. “… I want two Publix in Moultrie!”
The vote the question referred to, though, came in the middle of a lawsuit between two developers who each wanted tax abatements to try to lure the grocery chain, Dunn said. He said he voted that the city government should stay out of the situation until the lawsuit was settled.
Another question expressed concern that Turnipseed wouldn’t have time to devote to city council work on top of his legal practice and other responsibilities. Turnipseed said he’d spoken with other council members who assured him the hardest part was getting elected. He said if he’s got time to run a campaign, then clearly he’ll have time to serve.
“I’m always available,” he said. “I’ve always got time for the people of Moultrie.”
Dunn and Turnipseed are the only candidates in the only contested race in Moultrie’s municipal election. District II is a superdistrict that stretches across the center of Moultrie from southwest to northeast. It is the largest district in the city and has two other representatives on the council, but they’re not up for election this year. One candidate is running unopposed in each of the other two districts.
Early voting starts Tuesday at the Colquitt County Courthouse Annex, 101 E. Central Ave., and ends Oct. 29. Election Day is Nov. 2.