Conner photo

Nick Conner

Nick Conner says he's willing to step down as Cohutta's representative on the 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) Advisory Committee if asked to.

But he doesn't appear to have a choice.

Conner qualified on Friday for the November election for the Cohutta Town Council, one of four candidates seeking two seats on the council.

A bylaw of the SPLOST committee says a member can "not currently (be) an elected official nor expected to be a candidate for an election during the term of service." The committee is expected to meet at least through mid-November.

Conner said it would be "understandable" if he is now removed from the SPLOST committee.

"There would be no negative feelings," he said. "I understand their point of things. When I filled out the application form I said that I planned to run. But if it means resigning from the SPLOST committee, to better serve my town, that's what I will do."

Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Lynn Laughter said Conner became ineligible for the 16-member committee when he qualified to run for office, and his position will be filled by county alternate Micheal E. Kelley II.

"I'm assuming tomorrow (Wednesday) night he (Conner) will resign and Michael Kelley will take his place," she said. "But I don't know that he has to officially resign because he is just not eligible to serve on the committee."

The committee meets Wednesday night at 6 at the community center in Edwards Park in Varnell.

The committee's bylaws state: "If a committee member is unable to complete his or her term, due to resignation, removal or otherwise, one of the alternates will become a voting member of the committee. If the vacancy occurs from Whitfield County’s appointee, then the county alternate will become the member. If the vacancy occurs from the city of Dalton, then the city alternate will become the member. If a vacancy occurs from Cohutta, Tunnel Hill or Varnell, the county alternate will become the member. If more than two vacancies occur, a replacement member will be appointed to fill the vacancy by the Whitfield Board of Commissioners.”

"Nick is a really great guy, and I look forward to seeing him do really great things for Cohutta and our county in general," Kelley said. "He's a family man, a believer and a really good person. I want to serve this community, too, and I'm grateful for this opportunity. I want to make sure that I step into this gap. I've known Nick for a while, and I'm sure that I can reach out to him and talk to him about things that are important to his area."

Cohutta Mayor Ron Shinnick said he would prefer to see someone from Cohutta fill that seat. But Laughter said they do not have the time to go through another selection process.

The application process was handled by the county government, which was supposed to vet applicants for eligibility to serve, which also included living in the jurisdiction they would serve, to be registered voters and to have voted in two of the last four general elections or primaries unless they have recently moved to the county, have recently become naturalized U.S. citizens or were not previously qualified to vote because of their age.

Each member of the county Board of Commissioners appointed two members, and the council as a whole appointed one alternate. The Dalton City Council appointed three members and one alternate, and the councils of Cohutta, Tunnel Hill and Varnell appointed one member each.

Conner was the only person to apply to represent Cohutta on the committee. The application form asked, "Are you currently an elected official or planning to run for office during the time of the committee?" Conner answered, "Yes."

"I feel like I was honest with everyone involved," he said. "I also informed the mayor of my intention (to run for office), but he may not have understood that could mean I could not serve on the committee."

Conner said he was encouraged by "many people" to apply for the committee. He said he was also encouraged to run for the Town Council.

Shinnick said he did not see Conner's application form and did not know he was going to run for office. But he said he does not know what the council could have done if they did know.

"He was the only one to apply. I know that I encouraged several people to apply," he said.

Laughter said Conner's admission on the application form that he intended to run for office should have disqualified him.

"I don't know how we allowed him to serve on the committee," she said.

"I want to serve my community," Conner said, noting that no one else applied for the committee from Cohutta.

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