The new mayor of Gillsville says he's not ready to sacrifice the small-town atmosphere in his hometown, but he would like to see some progress in the city of 303 residents.
Wade Dale, 61, will take his oath of office on Tuesday, Jan. 4, and although he's served on the city council in the past, he thinks he'll have some added influence as the city's mayor. It helps, he said, that there's new blood on the council with Jeff Perry and Kody Rylee, both of whom defeated incumbents in the Nov. 2020 municipal election. In fact, it was the first contested election in Gillsville in more than a decade. Dale said having competition at the polls created some tension in the close-knit city, but he hopes that's in the past.
He looks at the new make-up of the Gillsville City Council as a map to the city's future, especially as the population of Gillsville is becoming younger.
"You know, you don't become a manager of the Atlanta Braves and say 'I'll just take anybody you got'...you build a team. And, that's what I believe we have...a team we can work with," Dale said in a recent interview.
When Dale talks about progress, he said he's not talking about massive subdivisions or big industrial developments. He has three immediate goals that he believes will make Gillsville more attractive to current residents and to visitors, as well.
First, he would like to see the oldest building on Gillsville's Main Street, a general store that dates back to the 1850s, become an event venue. Not only would it be a great place for Gillsville gatherings, he said, but also it could generate some revenue for the city - which does not charge property taxes, by the way. The historic building needs to be renovated first, and Dale said there's money in the city coffers to make that happen.
In addition, he said it's time to make some upgrades to Gillsville City Park and the community building there.
"The city park building we already rent out, but it's so small, it's very limited to what it can be [used for], so we're going to build on to it," Dale said. "We can also make revenue off of that."
Dale said he doesn't want to neglect Gillsville's history - the city was chartered in 1901 - so he also wants some of the city streets to be renamed in honor of individuals or families that have been the foundation of Gillsville.
With that in mind, he said it's also time to get some new signage at the city limits, so drivers on Ga. 52 won't just cruise through town, but will maybe stop at the Gillsville Cafe or GrannaBee's Gift Box or any of the pottery shops along the corridor.
"Our Welcome to Gillsville signs are pretty much torn apart [because] of weather, so we are working on a logo for the Town of Gillsville with maybe some pottery on it and some bees on it," Dale said.
More than once during his interview, Dale said there's one phrase he does not want to hear as he moves into Gillsville's top elected post.
"'It is what it is.' To me, that's just like laying down in the middle of the road and saying 'just run over me because I've given up,'" Dale said. "If Henry Ford had said 'it is what it is' we'd still be driving A Models."
Dale said his ultimate goal is to preserve the history of his hometown, but also make sure it has a viable future.
"I want to take 'it is what it is' and make it better."