Mark Vandervoet's story in his own words:
"I am the oldest child of David and Mary Vandervoet, of Conyers, Ga. I remember when I was three years old looking out of the window of my fathers 88 or 89 Ford F-150 as we were traveling down the Bypass Road outside of Covington. We had a full load of furniture loaded in the back of our pickup headed for our new home in a new town that I don't recall ever going to. The house was the first and till now the last home my parents ever purchased. A 50-foot double wide on four acres in (as was quoted by many friends over the years) the middle of nowhere. As we turned on to South Johnson Street from Ga. Highway 142 I remember looking into the building that now houses Newborn City Hall, and I recall there was trees and grass taller than me growing from within -- a large mysterious place that wanted investigate.
"Starting around 10 years of age my mother began working on the weekends, and my father and myself would go on bike rides from our home on Pitts Chapel Road to the old grocery store in Newborn and back. The route began on Guy Jones Road and then down 142 past an old house that had a vicious rose bush hanging out over the side walk that would grab my shirt and cut my arms every time I would pass as if it had a malicious war plan to send me careening into the ditch in a ball of fire. We would set out on this bike ride almost every Saturday and stop at the Red and White grocery and get a Coke and sometimes a bag of potato chips. Best of all I would always get my Tootsie Roll from Mr. Doug before leaving the store. We would sit on the porch and take our break while my dad asked me about my week at school or what I would like to be when I got older. I recall one time telling him I wanted to join the military unless of course I had found the woman of my dreams.
"I never joined the military because I found the woman of my dreams during my 9th grade year at Jasper County Comprehensive High School. Newborn has been my home for 24 years now, and also my wife's home for 28 years. After moving around for a few years, we finally purchased our current home on South Johnson Street. With a child came new responsibilities and the vision of bringing him up in the same environment that I was brought up in. I could think of no better place than the subtle town of Newborn GA. We have a rich past here and we know everyone in town, but when we purchased our home we also came up with a five-year plan. The plan stated that in five years we would sell our home and with the money made we were going to invest in a new home and then repeat the process with the ultimate goal of having our dream home built and paid for. The American Dream right? That was until I became politically involved in June of 2012. Our plan immediately changed and we deferred till further notice.
"A few months ago we referred to a friend, whom is a licensed real estate agent, on how we could improve our home for when we would put it on the market. She gave us her advice and we made notes of the few changes that she advised would help sell it. We never imagined that she would be back. On Friday, Jan. 10 2014 there was a knock at the door and when my wife answered she was here and said she had a really important question for us. 'Would y'all be interested in showing your home because I have a client that I think would love it.'
"I was caught off guard, speechless to be exact. It was so sudden that I didn't know what to say. Immediately I began to worry about where we would go and could we even get a loan. After some extensive thinking she came by the following day and we agreed to show the home. We gave the potential buyers a number of what we would like to acquire and, of course, after ma little negotiation we settled on a price and the following Monday had a contract.
"I have always had a plan for what I want and how I want to achieve it; goals set and goals altered is usually what happens and usually in the turn of a dime. We had no intentions of altering our plan, our delayed plan, but the ultimate goal is family and its well being. I will do all I can to fulfill my term as acting mayor and in the event that we find a home in Newborn I still have all intentions of running for mayor in the special elections. I mean no harm to the town or council but life has a weird way of turning life around.
"Newborn has always been my place of refuge and will always be where I call home no matter where I go or travel. I have left several times always to find myself right back here. I am truly honored that a body of individuals looks at me as someone to help govern a municipality such as Newborn. During all those bike rides I would have never imagined that I would have the opportunity to be the mayor and I thank everyone who has got me to this place in my life and hope that everyone knows how much I care for home."
Newborn got a new mayor Monday, but the city might need another one sooner than expected.
Mark Vandervoet was sworn in as acting mayor of Newborn Monday to replace Roger Sheridan, who died in December, but Vandervoet informed the council he had reached an agreement to sell his Newborn house earlier Monday.
Vandervoet said he didn’t have plans to sell his home at this time, but a buyer reached out to the Vandervoets and matched the asking price.
“I will do all I can to fulfill my term as acting mayor, and in the event that we find a home in Newborn I still have all intentions of running for mayor in the special election,” Vandervoet said in an email to The News, who noted he is also strongly considering homes in Jasper County.
Former mayor Sheridan died in early December, just a month after being reelected to a second four-year term.
Newborn is set to have a special election March 18, though an actual election will only be held if the city has multiple candidates.
Town Clerk Lisa Rowe said the town can’t afford to pay for an election and has no trained staff.
“I am not certified to be an election superintendent or absentee ballot clerk, and I have no time to become certified.
Classes are online, and there is no possible way, being the only one in the office, and interrupted too many times during the day to count, that I could focus on and take online classes,” Rowe said in an email.
Newborn officials wanted to pay the Newton County Board of Elections to handle the town’s elections, but the county has declined to date because of its own concerns over internal costs and manpower requirements.
Qualifying for the mayor’s seat will start 8:30 a.m. Feb. 3 and last until 4:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at Newborn Town Hall. The qualifying fee is $30.
Vandervoet’s news came as a surprise to the council, but the acting mayor said he had to do what was best for his family.
Vandervoet, who grew up in Newborn, first purchased his home on S. Johnston Street in 2009 after the home had gone into foreclosure. He told the council he used all his savings to buy and renovate the house with the goal of selling it in five years and moving to a new home.
“Newborn has been my home for 24 years now and also my wife's home for 28 years. After moving around for a few years we finally purchased our current home on S. Johnson Street,” Vandervoet said in an email. “With a child came new responsibilities and the vision of bringing him up in the same environment that I was brought up in. I could think of no better place than the subtle town of Newborn. We have a rich past here, and we know everyone in town, but when we purchased our home we also came up with a five year plan.”
The plan changed when he got involved in politics in the summer of 2012, as he figured he would stay longer, but when a buyer unexpectedly showed interest a few months ago, the plan eventually reverted to its original form.
“I have always had a plan for what I want and how I want to achieve it; (however,) goals set and goals altered is usually what happens and usually on the turn of a dime,” he said. “We had no intentions of altering our plan, our delayed plan, but the ultimate goal is family and its wellbeing.
“I mean no harm to the town or council but life has a weird way of turning life around. Newborn has always been my place of refuge and will always be where I call home no matter where I go or travel.
“During all those bike rides (as a child) I would have never imagined that I would have the opportunity to be the mayor and I thank everyone who has got me to this place in my life and hope that everyone knows how much I care for home.”