Longtime Porterdale resident and political enthusiast Linda Finger vies against John Kottl, a new arrival to the city and a candidate whose platform is 'listening,' for the Porterdale Council Post 2 seat in November.
Council member Mary Johnson, who currently holds the seat, will not be running for re-election.
Finger, a business owner who has lived in Porterdale for the past 11 years, is running on a platform of installing a signal light at the intersection of Crowell Road and Ga. Highway 81, bringing a senior citizens club to the city, enforcing existing animal control ordinances and fostering greater public involvement in the city government.
Kottl, a retired airplane mechanic who moved to Porterdale a year and a half ago, says he is not making any campaign pledges because he doesn't believe in making promises he can't keep. This is the first public office Kottl has run for.
"That's what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to make statements that I know can't possibly be met," Kottl, 53, said. "To me it's about following through on what you say you're going to do. To me that's real important. And that's what people don't do in this country."
Finger, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Porterdale in 2005, believes that several of her campaign pledges can easily met by the city government right away.
Partial funding for the installation of the traffic signal has already been approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation she says. In addition Finger says the Newton County Board of Commissioners is also willing to contribute funds to the signalization, leaving the city of Porterdale to only pay a small percentage of the cost of the project.
The project has lagged behind says Finger because no one on the city council has aggressively pursued it.
"I do know it would have been done already if someone had been pushing for it," said Finger, 51. "You can't just sit back and be quiet and get things done."
Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby (who is also up for re-election in November) said the project had indeed been approved by GDOT and is scheduled to begin in July 2008. An environmental study on the project has just been completed, he said, and a final report on its findings will soon be ready.
"Once that's completed, we will look at purchasing the right of way which is a joint venture between the city of Porterdale and the Board of Commissioners," Hamby said.
According to Finger, a senior citizens club can easily be started in Porterdale. Finger said there are many seniors in Porterdale who don't have transportation to the Newton County Senior Services Center at Turner Lake.
"I don't really think it's a funding thing," Finger said. "They just ask for a place to meet. I will work to find a location that they can use. If it takes off and they have a lot of (interest), we'll secure funding for them. We can do fundraisers."
Additionally Finger believes that if the city council will only give more backing to its code enforcer, the city will then be able to strongly enforce its animal control ordinances without any additional funding.
"I don't think that that's a matter of funding, just a matter of being diligent," said Finger who has called the lack of animal control in Porterdale ridiculous in campaign flyers.
In July, 25 neglected dogs were taken from a Porterdale residence and 20 were euthanized as a result of their poor health. Their owner was charged with violating city ordinance.
As for increasing public involvement in the city government, Finger believes that this can be remedied by an attitudinal shift. A frequent attendant of city council meetings, Finger says she has seen attendance drop off sharply in the past two years.
"The reason for this is they're not treated fairly," said Finger of the Porterdale public at large. "I feel like the elected officials owe it to the community to listen to them. I think the meetings need to be structured to be more community friendly. Once the community starts to see that when they come in there they're not treated like hoodlums, they will be more inclined to come back."
Porterdale, like Covington and the BOC, has public comment time scheduled at the end of its city council meetings. The Newton County Board of Education, however, has time for public comments scheduled before its meetings.
Finger said the Porterdale city council members are for the most part friendly to residents who attend the meetings but it is Mayor Hamby who is not. Finger's boyfriend, James Himes, is running against Hamby for the mayor's seat on Nov. 6.
Kottl for his part says if he were elected he would go to extra lengths to listen to the concerns of Porterdale residents.
"I'm willing to listen to what the people say even after the election," Kottl said. "It's not about the people sitting on city government. We're servants of the people."
Kottl said he would also like to see a park built near the Yellow River for residents to enjoy.
"People here want to have a park," Kottl said. "I'm all for that so people can use the river."
The owner for the past ten years of a cleaning service called AKB, Finger says her years as a business owner have given her the management experience necessary to serve on the city council.
"I really think my experience from running my own business will help me in the running of Porterdale," Finger said. "A city to me should be run as a business."
Kottl described his public policy background as coming from "the school of hard knocks."
"I know enough about it to say that I don't know a lot about it," Kottl said. "When I first worked at US Air in 1981, I was new. Everybody in this life has to be new sometime. Just because somebody is new doesn't mean they can't bring something to the table."
Before moving to Porterdale, Finger lived in Covington for 11 years. Prior to that she lived in Tennessee. She has two sons, one daughter and four grandchildren. She also serves on Porterdale's Parks and Recreation Commission.
"I have just been very into everything in Porterdale that I could possibly be involved in," Finger said. "I feel like that seat needs a very strong-minded person and I am every strong."
A native of New York, Kottl served in the U.S. Airforce from 1976-1980. After that he worked at US Air for 24 years as an airplane mechanic.
He lived in Texas while his job took him all over the country. His hobbies currently include remodeling his home in Porterdale. He has three children living in Texas.
"I think I could do just as good a job as anyone else out there," Kottl said. "I'm willing to do things for the people. It's about what the people want, not what I want."
In September, a third candidate for the council Post 2 seat, Gigi Shinall, was ruled ineligible to run by Porterdale Elections Superintendent Tom Fox after Finger successfully raised a challenge to her candidacy. Fox ruled that Shinall did not meet the city's one-year residency requirement to run for public office.