Newborn won’t have a special election to fill its vacant mayor’s seat as Gregg Ellwanger was the lone person to qualify for the seat.
Ellwanger, 54, is a physical therapist at Rockdale Medical Center and swim coach volunteer at the Covington Family Y, and he is expected to be sworn into office as mayor at March’s council meeting, Town Clerk Lisa Rowe said Monday.
The fact no election was needed was a relief to town officials as Rowe had said previously the town had neither the money nor the staff to hold a special election, which had been scheduled for March 18. A previous cost estimate was $6,000 for a special election.
The mayor’s seat was vacant following the death of mayor Roger Sheridan, who died in early December at the age of 92 less than a month after being elected to a second term of mayor. Former mayor pro tem Mark Vandervoet was named interim mayor, but he resigned Jan. 27 because he sold his house and moved out of the town limits.
Ellwanger, who moved to Newborn in 2001, said Sheridan did a lot of the heavy lifting during the past four years to improve the town’s streets and infrastructure, and Ellwanger said he just wants to learn as much as he can and help the town maintain its charm.
“The previous mayor got a lot of fantastic things done with capital improvement type things, the water system, town park, a lot of paving that needed to be done. Roger did a fantastic job, and I think the town council there now has some experience and seem to work very well together,” Ellwanger said Monday. “Our town is relatively symbiotic, and most folks just want it stay quiet – they love the town park – and keep the streets from having too many potholes and keep the skunks and foxes out of town.”
He said when he first moved to town, there was some discussion about whether to disband the town and have the area revert to unincorporated Newton County.
“I really think the history of our small town sort of protects the folks who live in our community by having a little buffer between what goes on in the county through our strong in-town ordinances,” he said. “Having local control is a plus and keeping that small town atmosphere. It just happened that the mayor pro tem was leaving town, so the position sort of opened up, and, hey, I look at it as community service.”
Ellwanger joins his mother, Councilwoman Martha Ellwanger, on the council. He said he doesn’t believe there are any conflicts of interest, but if anyone expresses serious concern, either he or his mother is willing to step down if necessary. However, Ellwanger said many people in the small town are very close and he doesn’t think it’s going to be an issue.
“Mom’s always been very independent and she never does anything I tell her,” Ellwanger said, joking.
Ellwanger has been in physical therapy for 30 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Georgia, a physical therapy degree from Georgia State University and a master’s degree in athletic training and exercise physiology from Georgia State.
He and his wife, Denise, have three sons, Drew, Joey and Robbie, who have followed in Ellwanger’s footsteps as swimmers. Ellwanger and his sons volunteer at the Covington Y, and the family is involved at Newborn United Methodist Church. The family lives on a farm in the heart of Newborn – which used to house a petting zoo – and have sheep and chickens.