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3 candidates set sights on Duluth council seat

Billy Jones

Billy Jones

DULUTH -- Three Duluth residents are vying for a vacant seat on the Duluth City Council.

Billy Jones, George Rhode and Elise Whitworth are running for Council Post 3, a seat being vacated by retiring Councilman Jim Hall.

All three candidates agree the struggling economy is a big challenge the council will have to face.

Jones, who served on the Citizens' Budget Committee, said he knows how hard it was for the city to balance the fiscal year 2010 budget.

"I know FY '11 will be just as hard, if not harder," he said.

The lifelong Duluth resident has been active in the community for years, volunteering for the annual Duluth Fall Festival and serving on the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. He also filled an unexpired term on the City Council in 1992.

"I decided to step it up a notch," he said on why he decided to run for the council. "I have five generations living in the city limits. I have a very vested interest in the city and its future."

As the economy recovers, Jones said the council needs to have a prioritized plan to address the city's infrastructure needs and improve the roads and parks.

Rhode, who has lived in Duluth for 28 years, has also been active in the community, serving in several civic organizations and as chairman of the Duluth City Alcohol Review Board.

"I decided it was time to step forward to the front line," he said. "I feel like I could bring a new perspective and energy to the City Council."

If elected, Rhode said he will work with employees to learn as much as possible about city operations. He wants to tackle economic redevelopment projects, such as revitalizing the Buford Highway corridor, and build a senior activity building at W.P. Jones Park.

As for redeveloping the old City Hall block, Rhode said some parts of some of the buildings must be torn down.

"I'd like to see as much saved as possible because it's part of the character of the city," he said.

Whitworth, a longtime Gwinnett County resident who moved to Duluth more than two years ago, said the city's major challenges are aging infrastructure, economic decline and job loss, and overdevelopment of retail space.

She said she wants to serve as a catalyst for increased job opportunities, sustainable economic growth, improving infrastructure, crime prevention, increasing sidewalks, walking and biking trails, preserving Duluth's historical heritage and hometown character, and advancing the fine arts.

"I am concerned about the direction our country is taking and the impact it has on our local citizens and economy," she said. "I want to be an active part of the solution and serve as an advocate for Duluth families and businesses, preserving and advancing core values of faith, family, and flag."

Incumbents Marsha Anderson Bomar and Jim Dugan are running unopposed.

At a glance

Post 3

* Billy Jones

* Age: 50

* Education: Some college

* Occupation: Project manager at Cisco

* Political experience: Filled an unexpired term on the City Council in 1992

* Family: Divorced; children David, 28, and Dana, 23, granddaughter Madison, 2

* If Elected: With five generations of family living in Duluth, Jones said he'll bring a unique perspective on the history and needs of the city. "No other candidate has that connection," he said.

* Elise Whitworth

* Age: 61

* Education: Bachelor's in psychology from Medical University of the Americas, master's in adult education from the University of Georgia and master's in divinity from Emory University

* Occupation: Online faculty with Axia College of the University of Phoenix

* Political Experience: Appointed to Duluth Ethics Board in 2009

* Family: Single

* If elected: "I will facilitate increased job opportunities, improved infrastructure, crime prevention, multi-generational planning, sustainable growth and preservation of our historical heritage and hometown character."

* George Rhode

* Age: 60

* Education: Bachelor's in business administration from Southern Illinois University and graduate work in hospital and rehabilitation administration

* Occupation: Retired from U.S. Army

* Family: Single

* If Elected: "I plan to work closely on the Buford Highway redevelopment (and the) 'Old City Hall' block and secure funding to build a senior activity building."