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Four vie for Dacula council seat, mayor

DACULA - For the past several months, Dacula's people and politicians came together to fight for the local library.

But now the sides are squaring off for the Nov. 3 election.

Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks faces competition from a former ally, Betty Hale, who lobbied for the library before it opened three years ago and became a familiar face in the fight to keep it.

Also on the ballot, Gene Greeson, a former councilman, is staging a comeback, taking on incumbent Gregory Reeves.

Councilman Wendell Holcombe is unopposed for re-election.

Wilbanks, who served a term as mayor in the 1970s before taking over the post again in 2002, said his experience at this time of economic upheaval is important.

But Hale, whose husband was on the city council for more than a decade, said Wilbanks hasn't been able to get along with county officials, leaving the city in an unfavorable position.

"I think that he has done a good job up until now, but it's time we do some mending the gap and bring out people together," Hale said. "It seems they are always disagreeing and fighting over things. I want to restore harmony and bring unity to our town."

Wilbanks said he is simply standing up for Dacula in his disagreement with Commissioner Mike Beaudreau over planning and annexation issues. Beaudreau wants the land outside of the city to remain rural, while Wilbanks wants to bring more development to provide jobs.

"You can't agree with people who don't want to agree," Wilbanks said.

He believes he can steer the city through the current financial crisis.

"In this economic time, you need someone who has had some experience and success in the mayor's role to keep our community family-friendly and safe," he said.

But Hale said the city needs new ideas.

"I think it's time to change," Hale said. "I have a love for my town and I just want to see it better and beautified."

City Council race

Greeson, who lost a race two years ago to Susan Robison, said the time since he left office have given him an opportunity to get back in touch with residents.

"Some people say it's changed for the better, and some say it's worse," he said of changes on the council. "It's your obligation to listen to what (residents) say. ... I've picked up some new ideas since I've been out."

Greeson said the Sugarloaf Parkway extension the county is building will help with traffic, but he wants to help find a solution to the downtown area, possible by three-laning Dacula Road.

In addition, Greeson wants to increase recycling in the city and work with the county on other issues such as reopening the pool at Dacula Park.

Reeves said he wants to continue to be fiscally conservative during these economic times, and he pointed out that Greeson voted for a pay raise while in office, while Reeves voted against it.

"I want to keep people's money in their pocket, especially in these hard financial times," Reeves said. "Having fiscal leadership is important for Dacula."

He said he wanted to keep sanitation prices low and continue to use county employees instead of privatizing it.

SideBar: At a glance

Dacula Mayor candidates

Betty Hale

· Age: 76

· Occupation: Retired media clerk

· Education: Dacula High School

· Political experience: Member of the Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals in the 1980s, before joining Planning and Zoning Commission from the early 1990s to present

· Family: Widow of Councilman R.G. Hale; three children, three grandchildren

· If elected: "I would like to beautify downtown." Hale would also like to establish a business association for city businesses and create unity with county officials

Jimmy Wilbanks (i)

· Age: 67

· Occupation: Retired educator and retired emergency management

· Education: Bachelor's and master's in education from the University of Georgia

· Political Experience: Mayor 2002-09, as well as a four-year term in the 1970s

· Family: Single

· If elected: "In this economic time, you need someone who has had some experience and success in the mayor's role to keep our community family-friendly and safe."

Dacula City Council candidates

Gene Greeson

· Age: 61

· Occupation: Truck driver

· Education: Dacula High School

· Political Experience: Dacula City Council for 10 years, 15 years on Planning and Zoning Board

· Family: Wife Sandra, two children, one granddaughter

· If elected: Reduce traffic, increase recycling options, focus on economy

Gregory Reeves (i)

· Age: 39

· Occupation: Realtor

· Education: Some college

· Political Experience: Elected to council in 2005

· Family: Single

· If elected: "I want to continue with responsible growth

and with good fiscal policies."