Residents of Varnell voted for change Tuesday, ousting both incumbents on the City Council in favor of their challengers.
In the race for Seat 5 on the council, Richard Lowe topped incumbent Bob Roche, while Sandy Pangle defeated incumbent David Owens convincingly for Seat 3.
Lowe received 118 votes (53%) to 104 votes (47%) for Roche, while Pangle received 148 votes (65%) to 78 votes (35%) for Owens.
Pangle, a Whitfield County native and alumnus of what is now Dalton State College, said he's "humbled by the support" he received in winning his race and pleased his message of togetherness resonated with voters.
"I connected with them," he said. "I want to help build a city where we know each other and have community spirit."
That goal could be accomplished by utilizing Varnell's community center more, he said. "It could be something as simple as a chili cook-off or having some music by local people."
Pangle has lived in Varnell for 28 years and is director of engineering for Americo Manufacturing in Acworth.
Owens has served on the Varnell City Council for 22 of the last 24 years, including almost 14 years as mayor pro tem and several months as interim mayor. During the years Owens has served on the council, the city has grown from roughly 300 residents to approximately 2,000.
Owens was one of three council members two years ago who voted to abolish the police department.
Pangle does not believe the city's police department should be disbanded.
He'd also like to attenuate the number of islands of unincorporated property within the city, he said. "That's a major (priority)."
Roche won a special election in 2017 to fill the unexpired term of Andrea Gordy, who resigned after questions about her residency were raised, and, during his tenure, the city reinstated the police department, among other accomplishments.
In a statement, Roche said he appreciated the opportunity to have served on the council the past two years.
"It has been a great experience, and I hope we were able to provide benefit to the community," Roche said. "I wish the new council the best of luck as they move forward."
Like Roche, Lowe has a business background, spending nearly four decades with Shaw Industries before his retirement. A Varnell native, Lowe graduated from what is now Dalton State College before earning a bachelor of business administration degree from Brenau College, which is now Brenau University.
Lowe is "very proud" of his election, and he's "appreciative of all the citizens (who) came out to vote," he said. "A lot of citizens of Varnell had asked me to run, and they put their trust in me."
Among Lowe's highest priorities will be working to better define Varnell's geographic borders, he said. "It can be difficult to define where the city limits are."
The council also needs to begin plotting future budgets, although that process is complicated by not knowing whether there will be another Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) in Whitfield County, and, if there is, how much money Varnell will receive, he said. Lowe hopes to attract more business to Varnell, and, like Pangle, is interested in addressing unincorporated islands within the city.
He also thanked his opponent, Roche, for the admirable campaign he ran, as well as his years of service to the community.
Lowe served briefly on the Varnell City Council more than three decades ago, filling out an unexpired term, and he's eager to return to the governing body with additional years of experience and knowledge under his belt, he said. "I'm looking forward to the future, seeing what we can do for the citizens of Varnell."