published Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Summerville likely to get first black mayor

By Jimmy Espy

Next month, Harry Harvey is expected to become the first black mayor of Summerville, Ga.

Harvey, 61, was the only person to qualify for the March 15 election.

“It will be official then as far as I am concerned,” said Harvey, a retired educator who taught for more than 30 years in the Chattooga County school system.

“I am proud of the fact that I’m the first, but I ran for the position to represent all the people of Summerville, and I think they know that,” he said. “I hope people believe that I’ll do a good job. I will.”

Harvey was elected to the Summerville City Council in November 2009 before resigning in December 2010 to run for mayor.

Councilman Jimmy Bryant is serving as mayor pro-tem, filling the unexpired term of longtime Mayor Joe Frank Norton, who retired unexpectedly at the end of 2010.

“I am looking forward to working with the city manager and council for the people of Summerville,” Harvey said. “I want to be part of that.”

Improving the city’s infrastructure is one of his top priorities. The city collects no property tax and relies on its gas and water service to provide most of its revenue.

“There are some tough decisions that are going to have to be made in terms of finance,” Harvey said. “We have to look for new revenue sources, ones that aren’t as volatile as gas sales, which can vary widely depending on what time of year it is.

“Growth in the city and county is important, too,” he said. “We need to look at ways to revitalize downtown.”

Bryant, who had considered running for mayor, said he believed Harvey would do “a fine job.”

“He seems to love to dig into issues and make sure he is well informed before voting,” he said. “He’s a contemplative man, and he’ll be a good leader for the council.”

Bryant said race didn’t seem to be an issue with most city residents.

“If there was, someone probably would have come out and run against him,” Bryant said. “I think the white community feels about him the same as the black community.”

Harvey is a native of Buena Vista, Ga. He moved to Summerville in 1971 to teach math at Summerville Junior High School.

“After four or five years, I realized that I loved Summerville and would probably stay here to live,” he said.

Jimmy Espy is based in Dalton. E-mail him at hoodcsa@aol.com.

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