published Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Two vie for Fort Oglethorpe Council seat

Two candidates will go before voters for the chance to serve a nine-month stint on the Fort Oglethorpe City Council and finish the term of Eddie Stinnett, who died unexpectedly in November.

The two who qualified to run are Judd Burkhart, owner of Stylecrafters Upholstery and a former mayor and councilman, and Clay Kissner, a paving contractor and Fort Oglethorpe native.

Whoever wins will hold the seat until Dec. 31. He then will have to run again on Nov. 5 if he wants to serve a full, four-year term.

"If they want to run for the following four years, they have to requalify and pay fees for that," Election Superintendent Orma Luckey said.

Kissner, 38, said he's been following the council since about 2000 and he wants to offer voters a change from the same people who have been cycling through.

"I don't know any of them personally," Kissner said of the current council members. "I plan on making every decision ... 100 percent on my own."

"I love the town that I grew up in, and I would like to see it grow and prosper," he said.

One issue Kissner said he'd like to tackle is "lower taxes for the elderly," though he wasn't sure exactly how he'd achieve that.

"I'd just have to get in there and work on it," he said.

He considers the temporary seat a chance to get his feet wet in politics, to see how he likes it.

Kissner and his wife have a 4-year-old daughter who attends Battlefield Primary School.

Burkhart, 65, said his 16 years of experience -- eight as a councilman and eight as mayor -- are an asset.

"It won't be any learning curve for me," he said. "I'll be able to take off running."

He said he knows which legislators to talk to in Atlanta to help the city get grants. He wants to improve the city's infrastructure and try to attract new businesses.

"A lot of things were going on when I was mayor," Burkhart said. "Seems like it's at a standstill now."

Burkhart said he's friends with the current councilmen.

"I'm not enemies with anybody. I get along with everybody," he said.

Burkhart plans to run again on Nov. 5 for council; he doesn't want to serve as mayor, because the only time the mayor votes is to break tie votes.

Burkhart and his wife have three grown daughters.

Early voting will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at City Hall from Feb. 25 through March 15.

The last day to register to vote in the special election is Feb. 19. Absentee ballots will be available beginning Feb. 25. Carol Murray at 866-2544 ext. 1300 has absentee ballot applications.

Should a runoff be required, it will be on April 16.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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