Dalton City Council selects SPLOST advisory committee members, to vote on them on Monday

The members of the Dalton City Council have agreed on the council's representatives to an advisory committee that will make recommendations for projects that could be funded by a future Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). And council members plan to vote to make their picks official when they meet on Monday at 6 p.m. in City Hall.

The council will have three representatives on the 16-person committee and one of two alternates. Council members announced Tuesday their picks are:

• Steve Card, executive director of the Georgia Recreation and Park Association, which is involved with more than 200 city and county recreation agencies. Card is a former director of the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department.

• David Pennington IV, a fourth-generation small businessman in the insurance industry and the son of former mayor David Pennington. The elder Pennington was named by Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Lynn Laughter in a text to other commissioners as someone she did not think should serve on the advisory committee because of his opposition to a SPLOST measure on the March ballot, which failed. The elder Pennington did not apply for the committee but expressed concern that his relationship with his son might hurt his son's chances of serving.

• Allison Whittle, who works for Cross Plains Community Partner, which provides programs and services for the developmentally disabled. Whittle is married to the nephew of Dalton Mayor Dennis Mock's wife. Mock said because of that relationship he did not include her on his list of picks.

• Tiger Wagner (alternate), owner of Duvall Chemicals.

All are Dalton residents.

Mock said the five City Council members came to a consensus pretty quickly. Each of the applicants included background on themselves and a statement about why they wanted to serve on the advisory committee.

"I read all of the applications. I'm sure all of the other council members did as well," Mock said. "The consensus on the three representatives was pretty simple. We asked everybody to anonymously submit their top five picks, and we ended up with three who each got at least three votes. So those were our picks. To get the alternate, we took the top three out, then took out everybody who didn't get any votes, and went through that process again a couple of times."

Some council members said they chose this informal process because they did not have much time to pick candidates. The advisory committee is scheduled to hold its first meeting in August.

"We were impressed by their involvement in the community," Mock said of the representatives. "I think we ended up with a good mix."

Council member Annalee Harlan said she thinks the representatives bring a diverse set of experiences.

"Mr. Card is familiar with the city's needs from an operations standpoint," she said. "Allison works with a nonprofit that has served Dalton for a long time in a tenacious way. Mr. Pennington is young. He's someone who has intentionally chosen to stay in Dalton and carry on his family's tradition as small business owners. Each one will be looking at this through a different lens."

But she said all of them share something in common.

"I think they all want Dalton to be the jewel of north Georgia," she said. "They all expressed a willingness to make the time commitment to make this committee work."

Council member Gary Crews said he believes the council members have selected a strong group.

"I was impressed not only by the final group but by all the applicants," he said. "We had some really good people step up and say they want to be involved. The committee's meetings will be open to the public, and I expect that some of the people who weren't chosen will show up at those meetings to observe and to provide input when appropriate."

Card said Tuesday he is looking forward to serving on the advisory committee.

"As a city resident, and of course a county resident, I'm very interested in being part of this process," he said

Each member of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners will appoint two members to the advisory committee from their district — Laughter is elected county-wide — with the board as a whole appointing an alternate. County Administrator Mark Gibson said he expects the board members to make those appointments at their Aug. 11 meeting.

Gibson said commissioners have the full list of applicants and they could choose someone who applied to represent Dalton but was not selected if that person lives in their district.

Each of the county's small cities will appoint one member to the advisory committee.

The mayor and council of Varnell have appointed Paul Wilson to the advisory committee. Only one person applied from Cohutta, Nicholas Conner, and one from Tunnel Hill, William Middleton. Officials in both of those cities say they believe their respective councils will find them acceptable.

The Cohutta Town Council is set to meet on Tuesday. The Tunnel Hill City Council is next scheduled to meet on Aug. 13.

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