City council election brings change to Ringgold

City council election brings change to Ringgold

November 12th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

Earl Henderson, Ringgold Council

Earl Henderson, Ringgold Council

Nick Millwood, Ringgold Council

Nick Millwood, Ringgold Council

The two new city councilmen elected in Ringgold, Ga., say it's time for a change.

And based on the city's history, the changes started with their election on Tuesday.

Earl Henderson is believed to be the first black elected to the council, and Nick Millwood is one of the youngest.

"The incumbents that were in there had been in there for a while," said Henderson, 52. "It was time for the seasons to change."

Millwood, who turned 32 on Wednesday, said the odds were against the two newcomers in the election.

"I'm just really proud to have been part of that," Millwood said. "So many people doubted that we'd be able to get in."

Before the election, only two of 121 mayoral, commissioner, school board and council member seats in seven Northwest Georgia counties were held by blacks.

Councilman Larry Black, 65, said he knows both of the newcomers and expects to work well with them on the council. He has a nearly complete list of councilmen dating back to the 1910s and is fairly certain Henderson is the first black councilman. He also believes Millwood is one of the youngest, if not the youngest.

"Some new blood, some fresh ideas might not be a bad thing," he said.

Incumbent Councilman Terry Crawford, 65, was re-elected with 171 votes. But in a race where the top three vote-getters take office, Millwood and Henderson surprised many by getting 135 and 132 votes and beating Bill McMillon, 74, and O.C. Adcock, 83, who have served on the council for 16 and 10 years, respectively.

"They had been in there for a long, long time," said Millwood, who was born four years after Mayor Joe Barger was first elected to the City Council. "Everybody in the town seems to know them."

But voters apparently wanted change.

Henderson, whose stepfather, Jethro Greene, ran unsuccessfully for council decades ago, said his election is "so much not about color" but acknowledged "it opens the doors."

Allen Smith, a deacon at Mount Peria Baptist Church, a predominantly black church in Ringgold, said he was "very elated" at Henderson's win.

"I think it was just time for it," he said. "The community's changing."

According to 2010 U.S. census numbers, 5.1 percent, or 184, of Ringgold's 3,580 residents are black.

Though he didn't know of any race problems in Ringgold, Smith said everyone within the black community is talking about the newly elected councilman.

"Sometimes that's what it takes is for one person to get going and encourage our young people," said Smith, who has lived in Ringgold for 30 years.