Outsider candidates win in close Chickamauga election

Contributed Photo/ Photographed on Tuesday evening, from left, outsider candidates Trey Deck, elected mayor of Chickamauga, and Matthew Nave, elected to the City Council, shake hands after their electoral victories.
Contributed Photo/ Photographed on Tuesday evening, from left, outsider candidates Trey Deck, elected mayor of Chickamauga, and Matthew Nave, elected to the City Council, shake hands after their electoral victories.

First-time candidate Trey Deck was elected mayor of Chickamauga in Tuesday's municipal election, while 19-year-old Matthew Nave was elected to the City Council.

Deck and Nave often campaigned together, promising more transparency in government as well as an end to an alleged good ol' boys network that favored some residents over others.

"I'm elated that I won," Deck said in a phone call. "I worked hard. I did everything I feel like I could have done. I did everything the right way. And I'm just elated."

Incumbent Lee Miller was also reelected to City Council.

Deck received 336 votes and beat incumbent Mayor Randal Dalton, who collected 320 votes.

(READ MORE: Outsider candidates win in Chickamauga and more Northwest Georgia election results)

All Chickamauga City Council seats are at-large, and the top two vote-getters Tuesday were declared winners of the two seats up for election. Nave won a seat with 364 votes, while Miller retained a seat with 363 votes. Incumbent Daymon Garrett collected 321 votes and lost his seat. James "Dale" Powell received 149 votes.

Since the election began, Deck and Nave did something every day to advance their campaign through voter outreach, the mayor-elect said. They knocked on nearly every door in the city, held signs near busy roads and attended multiple community events, Deck said.

The No. 1 thing Deck heard from voters was that no one has ever listened to their concerns, he said. Voters also had complaints about speeding, trash pickup and school taxes they view as high.

Deck's first priority is learning the duties and responsibilities of the mayor, he said. The redevelopment of Chickamauga's downtown is another priority, he said.

Deck has talked to some of the City Council members but hasn't spoken with Dalton, the mayor-elect said.

Dalton became mayor once former Mayor Ray Crowder stepped down. Crowder served more than 35 years as Chickamauga's mayor, according to Deck's campaign.

"My phone is full. I can't get to all the messages," Deck said. "People are elated, they wanted change. We saw that coming when early voting started, and we saw the sheer amount of cars going in to vote."

People want to see government work for them, Deck said.

"I want my town people to hold me accountable," Deck said. "I want to be held accountable. I want to know what they are unhappy about. I want to know what they need. I want to work for them, not for myself."

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In a phone call, Nave said he's been busy — especially since he won Tuesday.

"It's been exciting and fun," Nave said. "I'm very happy at the way things turned out ... in the election."

He said he feels good about the future of the city and thinks he and Deck will be able to work with incumbent elected officials as well as those outside the city to accomplish their goals for Chickamauga.

Fiscal responsibility and transparency are Nave's primary goals and what he said his campaign was about.

"Me and Trey both want to see our downtown do better than it's been," he said. "We've seen a steady decline over the past 20 years due to the losing of the mill."

The Crystal Springs Print Works closed about 10 years ago. The city lost a lot of jobs and revenue due to its closure, Nave said.

Nave said he didn't have any specific ideas for what he thinks should be done with the mill property, but once an Environmental Protection Agency brownfield study is complete, the city can take ownership of the property. From there, the property can be sold off or redeveloped, he said.

A lot of new people have moved to Chickamauga, Nave said, and they aren't committed to the candidates or ways of doing things from the past.

(READ MORE: Outsider candidates win in Chickamauga and more Northwest Georgia election results)

In a phone call, Miller said he thanked Dalton for the hard work he's contributed to Chickamauga through the decades he served on City Council — as well as his short time as mayor.

The election was a good race and had the best turnout of any of the three elections he's participated in, Miller said. Though mostly new to politics, he credited Deck and Nave for putting in the work to get elected.

"The wins don't speak to age or experience, but it does speak on how hard they worked," Miller said. "They rolled their sleeves up, spoke to folks and got the votes."

Miller said newly elected representatives like Deck and Nave will assume the role with fresh ideas and and new energy — and he said he is looking forward to working with them on how to serve the people of Chickamauga.

There are several projects upcoming that will require resident engagement, he said, like the redevelopment of the 71-acre site that housed the former print works.

"I'm excited about the future of our town," Miller said.

Contact Andrew Wilkins at awilkins@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

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