The city of Ringgold has two seats up for grabs on its City Council this election season, with four candidates vying for the two at-large positions to be decided Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The candidates are incumbents Jake Haynes and Randall Franks, along with challengers Kelly Bomar and Rhonda Swaney. The top two vote-getters will be elected.
The Catoosa County News sent a questionnaire to each of the four candidates.
Early voting is currently underway Monday through Friday at Ringgold City Hall and will close on Friday, Nov. 3. Early voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. On election day polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
City Hall is located at 150 Tennessee Street, and voters will need to have a valid photo ID present when casting their ballots.
Anyone with additional questions about the election can contact Ringgold City Hall at 706-935-3061, the Catoosa County Elections & Voter Registration Office at 706-935-3990, or visit the Catoosa County Elections & Voter Registration Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/catoosaelections.
Q&A with Rhonda Swaney
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I am a speech-language pathologist who works with students with autism, down syndrome, and various other communication disorders.
Q: What type of local government/if any experience do you have?
A: The only local government experience I have is that I have been a taxpayer for over 20 years
Q: What made you decide to run for/seek re-election in this year's Ringgold City Council race?
A: The reason I am running for office is that as a citizen of this city, I have seen several things happen that appeared to be questionable. The way that Mayor Joe Barger was treated his last few months of office where some on the council sought to take away his office space was disrespectful to a man who dedicate his life to being a public servant. The city charter change that happened where it was changed from a majority of 3 out of 5 votes to remove a city manager to as it reads now a unanimous 5 out of 5 vote to remove a city manager, in my mind gave way too much power to a non-elected official. Politicians who do not live in this city should not determine how this city manages its personnel or the charter. The main reason that I am running is because this city looks exactly as it did or worse than before the tornadoes that came through here years ago. We have struggling businesses, empty buildings, and are not known as a business friendly town. I want to change that.
Q: What types of ideas, plans, or adjustments would you like to present for the future of the city if elected?
A: I want to attract new businesses to this city in the form of shopping, nice eating establishments, and some businesses that will attract more foot traffic to our downtown area. Having successful businesses and a thriving downtown area will benefit every person in this city. I want to see us establish a committee of strong "go-getters" that will go out and attract these businesses to our city. We need to change people's perception all around this area that our city is difficult to deal with when it comes to having a business in the city limits of Ringgold. I would like to see us host events that attract a demographic of people that will spend their money in our local businesses. Outdoor concerts, special events, and festivals that include a broader demographic of people than what we currently offer. Why? The idea is to attract people to our city so they can experience what we have to offer. A place for people to come and spend their money rather than having them drive to neighboring cities and towns within an hours drive from us.
Q: What do you feel are the biggest issues that exist within the city now, and how would you address them?
A: One of the biggest issues we have facing our community is one of a lack of communication. There is a general distrust when communication is not open and invited. We have to do more than just tell citizens to "come to a council meeting and comment during the public comments section of the meeting" where they are given a microphone and a timer to get all their thoughts out. We need to be sitting at a local restaurant over a cup of coffee and really listening to people. There are a lot of people with some amazing ideas and the fortitude to help see things done. There is no communication. Rather than calling other council members and asking them how they feel about something that is coming up in a meeting for a vote, why would I not be having community meetings or discussions about how the CITIZENS feel about an issue or a vote that is coming up? The more communication, the less speculation. The more citizens feel involved in the process, the more pride they feel in their community. The team should NOT be the council. The team should be the CITIZENS and the people they elected to be their voice.
Q: What would you like to say to voters about the importance of the election to encourage them to get out and vote?
A: This vote is a critical turning point in our city. I truly believe that this particular vote will determine if our city continues to be consumed by all the growth in cities around us, or if we become the city that so many of our citizens long to see. A city with a thriving downtown area, special events for all demographics of people, more businesses to shop in so we can keep our money in our local economy, and a city where our children grow up and want to raise their family in Ringgold. All of these things are determined by getting all ages of voters out to case their vote. Let your voice be heard. Let everyone around our city know that we are determined to be better than we have ever been before! It all starts with your voice; your vote.