While Bracknell now has four years under his belt on which to rely, Bearden is as determined as ever to win the contested seat and make a difference in the community.
“I decided to run again basically because of the response I have gotten from citizens from our city who have seen some changes, but not necessarily in a positive direction, and they asked me to run again,” Bearden said. “I’m just seeking the position to better our city.”
Bracknell, an educator for more than 30 years, said since he’s been in office there are several positive strides that have been made in which he is especially proud, including installing the sidewalks along Sage Street and establishing a handicap ramp in front of Temple Pharmacy.
He went into office hoping to change the perceived poor relationship the mayor and council had with the public during meetings and to bring transparency to the City Council. He believes he’s played a large part in helping achieve those goals by sponsoring the ordinance to establish an open committee system where all business to be taken up by the council is addressed in an informal setting before the meeting.
“The hope for that is as ordinances, concepts and ideas are being developed they’re now being developed in a little more relaxed atmosphere giving the public or anyone else with interest in the programs the chance to have input,” he said. “I’m really pleased that has kind of opened things up.”
Bearden didn’t believe four years ago there was much transparency in Temple’s government or good communication between the city and its residents. Her opinion hasn’t changed.
“I still agree with that statement,” she said. “One of the things I think needs to change is hearing more of a voice of the citizens of the city in decisions being made by our City Council. Sometimes I think they get too tunnel-visioned when making decisions instead of polling the ward they’re representing. I think a lot of times if you do that you can get some positive feedback from our citizens and maybe find a better way to manage our city’s money from sources you may not understand. It would give them a new look on things.”
As chairman of the Recreation Committee, Bracknell said he’s pleased the city has been able to add programs such as soccer, karate and Zumba classes without having to increase taxes on residents, despite the poor economy. The city has also expanded the hours and the number of operating days for the Senior Center.
“With the recession the way it is you want to look at ways to entertain and take care of your children with things that are not very expensive and the Recreation Department is a good place to do that,” he said. “Not only are we providing for our younger citizens, but we’re also keeping in mind we have a diverse population and keeping the seniors happy. We’ve cut back the budget and spending, but we have maintained and even increased services.”
Bracknell said if he is re-elected, he and his fellow council members will need to push forward while keeping in mind what has happened to property values and taking actions that helps those property values rise again by attracting businesses to provide local employment opportunities. He would also like to increase the sidewalk projects to connect all the schools in the city.
“One of the things that has handicapped me during my first term is when I took office it was one of the worst recessions the nation has faced, so we’ve had to deal within the framework of that,” he said. “So, I’m really proud that we haven’t had to raise taxes or borrow money, but we’ve been able to maintain services through the use of SPLOST that the voters voted for. We’ve got to continue to find a way to move the city forward without putting the burden on the taxpayers.”
Bearden doesn’t disagree that the economy has been tough, not only on the city, but on the city’s residents, and she believes the biggest challenge facing the city the next four years will be finding ways to cut back as the city’s residents have had to do in their own household budgets.
Bearden has worked at Bank of North Georgia for more than a decade and believes that experience would be beneficial to the city in balancing its budget and cutting back on expenses.
“They may not necessarily be popular decisions with the city, but we all are facing financial woes and we all are having to make cutbacks in areas that we may not enjoy doing, but we won’t suffer from,” she said. “There are decisions that you can make that we’ll feel the pinch, but they wouldn’t be detrimental to our city.”
Bearden also would like to increase the customer service at City Hall by having a live person answering the phone and not closing during the lunch hour when it may be the only time someone can get there to pay a bill.
“I would like to see a more open-door policy at our City Hall, a more friendly approach,” she said.
Bearden plans to take a cooperative approach with the city’s residents if elected and take their advice under consideration when making decisions.
“If elected, I would be there to represent the citizens of our city,” she said. “I’m very honest, very outspoken and will stand my ground when I feel it’s a good cause,” she said. “I’ve attended council meetings, I’ve talked to businesses and I’ve talked to individual citizens. I’m very out there and up front. They know I’m very active as far as what’s going on in the community and I have discussions all the time with citizens about things they’ve come up with that would be beneficial to the city, but aren’t necessarily being heard in City Council meetings.”
Just as he did four years ago, Bracknell still believes he’s the best person for the job because of his willingness to listen.
“I’ve tried to listen to the people of Temple and I’ve tried to carry their concerns and ideas to the table,” he said. “I really think that ability to listen and try to work the best compromise has helped me. I feel like we’re at a very pivotal point here with some of the things that need to be dealt with because we’re at a critical place with the whole recession and we need to move forward.”