Meet your candidates for municipal council: Mark French


Two seats on Dawsonville City Council are up for election this fall, with early voting starting in just a few weeks. As the election approaches, it is important to know the candidates you are voting for to fill council positions 2 and 4. DCN sat down with the four candidates to ask them a few questions about themselves and their goals if they were to be elected.

Mark French (incumbent)

French is 51 years old and is a Republican. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from North Georgia College and State University and currently works as an office manager for a local manufacturing company.

Previously, he worked for just under 20 years in the finance department of the Lumpkin County Government. He has lived in the city for 12 years and is involved with many community groups and organizations, including attending Dahlonega United Methodist Church and First Baptist Dawsonville.

He has served on city council since being elected to that post in 2017 and is running against Jamie McCracken for the Post 4 city council seat.

Q: Why are you running for city council?

A: “I think the experience I gained in County Lumpkin for about 20 years in local finance for a government office is something I can give back to my community. I was in a position in my life where I felt I could give the time we needed to serve my community and hopefully make it an even better place than it is.

Q: How does your job, political background, and life experiences make you a strong candidate for this seat?

A: “During my years in government service at the local level, I learned to deal with downturns in the economy just in case it needed to be so that you can be really responsible on the fiscal side – maybe it was. – to be the biggest lesson I learned in Lumpkin. I think that these years and the links that I have forged, both at the state and regional level, and with finance, is a strong element in my favor.

Q: What is your definition of leadership and what are some examples of leadership positions you have held?

A: “Leadership sets the example. It goes the extra mile, making sure the office runs cohesively and everyone is heard – you might not always agree with everyone, but a good leader will always listen and s ‘will surround people who are smarter than they are. I am in leadership right now with my job and city council.

Q: What are the main continuations or changes you plan to make to the city?

A: “One continuation is public participation. When I was first elected there was no room for public comment in our meetings unless you were in a real public hearing on a specific topic so I was able to work with my counterparts on the board and get something so that now at every meeting we have that designated time which I consider to be of paramount importance.

Another thing I would like to pursue is our financial responsibility. We’ve managed our budgets very well, we have a great finance team, and I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been able to avoid collecting a property tax in the city – I’d like to continue that way.

Another thing that I would like us to continue is some of our projects like Main Street Park; keep improving it and making it even better than it is. These are areas that I would like to pursue.

As for the areas that I would like to focus on to maybe improve, I would like to improve the city’s relationship with the county government. To say this has been controversial over the past year would be a gross understatement. As we continue to grow, the county and the city must be able to work together.

Another challenge for us that we really need to focus on is our growth and achieving balanced growth. Of course, residential growth will continue, but we need to compensate for it with commercial growth. What is critical in both of these cases is having the infrastructure to support them, so when we have new developments we need to make sure that we have control of the infrastructure to make sure that we do not meet in the short term. “

Q: How does Dawsonville make you want to be part of its government?

A: “I feel like I have something to offer. The years of experience I have had in local government and finance – it’s a small bunch of people who have that and it’s something I don’t think we had on council before I arrived. And I have the time to do it, which is another huge plus for me.

Q: What are the top three issues Dawsonville is currently facing and what are your plans to address them?

A: “The main one will be the relationship between the city and the Council of Commissioners. We just need to be able to get along and not bicker. We have to realize that we are on the same team; we have different positions on this team, but our team is made up of our residents, many of whom are both in the city and in the county.

The second is about our growth and how to deal with it. I think a cost impact study would be a very good thing to do and something to defend. I don’t know if I would implement [impact fees] right away, but what I would like to do is see a study to see if it’s feasible. The city has the money to fund a study, and while they are studying there, I have asked several constituents about a unified government, and I am not opposed to doing a study to see if that’s something we could do and have public hearings to see if the public is interested. It certainly has some advantages, for example a unified government means you would no longer be arguing over sales tax distributions, and I think this is something we could look at to see if that would benefit us.

These are my main issues right now that I have seen over the past four years; there could be more that could arise and I think we will address them as they arise, but these are, in my opinion, our biggest challenges.

Q: How important is supporting local small businesses in Dawsonville and do you have any plans to help move this initiative forward?

A: “I believe this is of the utmost importance. One of the things that I think might help is going to be a bit more in the long run, not going to be a quick fix.

I can build on my experience growing up in Dahlonega – until they could get their bypass, truck route, whatever you call it, you still had all the heavy traffic in the center – city. Once you have a bypass or a truck route you can approach the state and then relinquish its hold in that footprint and once you do that they become city streets and you can have ordinances that would maintain. [the trucks] outside these areas, unless they are making a delivery.

Then you can apply for grants, use local funds and improve walking, safety and appearance of it. And by doing that, you are going to make downtown more accessible to people, it will be safer for them, you will have more foot traffic, which will be great for our local businesses and it can really become a pedestrian city.

Q: In what direction would you like to see Dawsonville become a tourist attraction during your tenure?

A: “Of course the Motorsport Park is a huge draw for us, as is the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. I would like to work a little more closely with these two.

Maybe a convention center would be a good thing; I would like us to do a study on this to find out exactly what that would do. Then that would bring, well, if you have a convention center, then where are people going to stay? There are no hotels within the city limits, so this opens the doors to more in the city. It’s a multi-pronged approach.

Q: How much time are you willing or able to devote to being a board member?

A: “This one is easy: as much as it takes. I am single, so apart from taking care of my older father I am available. And luckily my job is very flexible, so whatever I have to do to fulfill this obligation, I am more than free to do so.

Q: What makes you the best candidate for the seat?

A: “I believe the qualities that make me best suited for this above competition are my years of experience, I have a cool head, I don’t lose my temper, I want to listen to the audience and allow her to participate, and I really love my small town. Throw it all with me, I have the time and the will to do it, and go. I’m not a politician, I’m just a guy trying to do my part.

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