Downtown Winder top issue for candidates

WINDER - For each of the four candidates, including two incumbents, seeking election to the Winder City Council, the city's downtown area is a priority.

Don Graden, who said traffic is his top concern, has challenged incumbent James Lester "Sonny" Morris in Ward 1, while incumbent Mike Mingus, a proponent of downtown revitalization, and Robert Dixon are vying for an at-large seat.

James Ridley Parrish is running unopposed for Ward 3.

Ward 1

A 28-year resident of Winder, Graden said, if elected, he would like to see the council consider making downtown streets one-way and coordinate traffic lights to maximize flow.

"Traffic is a big issue, a really big issue," he said. "There's a lot of things that have to go into play if (improvements are) going to happen."

Morris, a lifelong resident of Winder, said traffic improvements within the Main Street are in the works but a second underpass and a bypass north and south of the city are much needed, as well as additional parking for downtown businesses.

"I would like to see us try to do an amphitheater downtown," Morris added. "I think that's been one of our better projects, the civic center and the park area, and it needs to be improved and enhanced."

At large

A former member of the Barrow County Board of Education, Dixon said his candidacy stems from a desire to serve his city and county once again.

Dixon served 26 years on the school board and is a former Winder-Barrow High School teacher and coach.

"My wife and I have been actively involved in the city and county," Dixon said. "We have a lot of time to give to serve, and I think we need some mature leadership and people used to making major decisions during this tough economic time."

Mingus said one of the most important issues in his campaign for re-election, based on information he has received from his constituents, is revitalization of the downtown area.

Dixon agreed.

"Downtown Winder is struggling for survival," he said. "We need to assist our small businesses in every way we can. I am an advocate for the business community so I want to put that to work."

Winder residents can cast their votes for city council from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Winder City Hall.

SideBar: The candidates

Winder City Council Ward 1

Political newcomer Don Graden has challenged incumbent James Lester "Sonny" Morris for the Ward 1 seat on the Winder City Council.

· Name: Don Graden

· Age: 49

· Education: Attended the University of Florida

· Occupation: Inside sales for integrated technology systems

· Political experience: None

· Family: Wife Shelley; 14-year-old daughter Kylie and a 4-year-old daughter Tybee

· If elected: Will fix the traffic issues in downtown, make one-way streeting and maintain tax rate

· Name: James Lester "Sonny" Morris (i)

· Age: 67

· Education: Graduated from Winder-Barrow High School; attended DeKalb Junior College and Georgia State University

· Occupation: Semi-retired; sales representative for CompuPack Inc.

· Political experience: Served on the Winder City Council for 23

· Family: Wife Janet; two children, Lisa Morris Carter and Bart Morris; five grandchildren

· If elected: "If re-elected I will continue to support our public schools and libraries, support the growth of downtown and all the businesses there."

At large seat

Former Barrow County Board of Education member Robert Dixon has challenged incumbent Mike Mingus for an at-large seat on the Winder City Council.

· Name: Robert "Bob" Dixon

· Age: 74

· Education: B.S. in education from Georgia Southern and graduate studies at University of Georgia and Western Carolina College

· Occupation: Retired sales manager with a Fortune 500 company, served six years of active duty in the Georgia Army National guard and is a former Winder-Barrow High School teacher and coach

· Political experience: Served for 26 years on the Barrow County Board of Education

· Family: Wife Diane; two sons, Brent, 38, and Jeffrey, 36, and a daughter, Teri, 42; five granddaughters

· If elected: "I plan to help return Winder to a check and balance system of government. I strongly pledge to participate in budget planning and to be a citizens' councilman and to involve the citizens of our city in our government."

· Name: Mike Mingus (i)

· Age: 59

· Education: Graduated from Winder-Barrow High School; attended Gainesville College and graduated from Lanier Technical College

· Occupation: Computer programmer

· Political experience: 20 years serving as at-large councilman for the city of Winder

· Family: Wife Wendy; two children, two step-children, and two grandchildren.

· If elected: "Continue to be active, open-minded and available as I have been for the past 20 years on the council."