RINGGOLD, Ga. - Two candidates for Ringgold mayor sparred at a hearing Wednesday to determine whether one of them is eligible to run.
Professional wrestler Paul Lee, whose stage name is Real Nature Boy Paul Lee, was under attack from incumbent Vice Mayor Nick Millwood. Millwood said Lee does not meet the 12-month residency requirement to run.
Millwood looked staid in a gray suit, and Lee wore a red Atlanta Falcons polo and Ray-Bans that he never took off during the hearing at Ringgold City Hall. They argued Lee's eligibility before Ringgold City Attorney Jim Bisson and Elections Superintendent Nicki Lundeen.
The vice mayor read from the city charter, which states eligible candidates for the Nov. 3 mayoral race must have lived in Ringgold since at least Nov. 3, 2014.
"This is not ambiguous," Millwood said before the panel. "There is no gray area in this code."
He told the panel he pulled a public record and discovered Lee claimed a homestead tax exemption for a residence outside Ringgold city limits. He also discovered on Aug. 11 that Lee changed the address on his driver's license to a residence within city limits.
"Please find Mr. Lee ineligible to run for the office of mayor, thank you," Millwood said, concluding his testimony.
Lee called Millwood's claim a "witch hunt" and explained that he has two residences. He said he bought the house in the city for his mother-in-law in 2009, and when she had knee surgery in December 2013, his wife moved in. He was in Africa at the time, and said when he came back he also began living in the house.
He attacked Millwood because he believes the vice mayor went behind his back.
"That's not how I do business," Lee said. "I come to a man if I got a problem with him up front. He's a middle school teacher but I don't play middle school. I'm a grown man."
Lee also said the city charter doesn't clearly define what residence is, and it shouldn't matter where he claims his homestead exemption. Regardless, he said, he stays at the house outside of city limits for two or three days a week because he's doing renovations to sell it, but lives in the city the rest of the time.
"If anybody wants to come over to my house, I'll be happy to show you my closet," Lee said. "Show you my clothes, pull my underwear drawer out and everything I got. I'd be happy to show you I live there."
The panel said a decision will be made sometime today.
After the hearing, Millwood told the Times Free Press that several concerned citizens told him to look into Lee's public records on the residency issue.
He said Lee's candidacy is an example of why he wants to be Ringgold mayor.
"To protect the citizens from," Millwood paused, choosing his words carefully. "You know, being taken advantage of."
After the hearing, Lee let loose with some wrestling-style trash talk. He told the Times Free Press Millwood is a "clown competitor" who's just worried Lee is going to win. Lee claimed that when he registered for the mayoral race, he told the city he had two residences and asked if there was a problem. He was told no, and has since spent thousands of dollars campaigning.
He contends he's being targeted because he's not in the local governmental "clique."
"I'm a pro wrestler, and my character is a bad guy," Lee said. "Maybe they think my character is real. I don't know."
Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at email@example.com or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.