Sneaking in under the election radar earlier this month was the fact that Renee McDowell beat out David W. Payne and Eric Blair in a special election to win the seat on the Grovetown city council opened up by the death of Dale Stoddard.
Measured against the governor’s race or even the 12th District victory of Republican Rick Allen over long-time Democratic Congressman John Barrow, the victory is kind of small potatoes, but for the people of Grovetown, it represents history and, according to one official, should excite everyone who loves the city’s Christmas decorations.
McDowell, who is joining two other women serving on the council, is the wife of former councilman Sonny McDowell, who resigned from the job in April 2013 when he was convicted by a federal jury of two counts of bribery. He was accused of offering a kickback to an Alabama Department of Safety employee, and though he could have faced 10 years in prison, he was sentenced to 60 months and 500 hours of community service.
Though McDowell’s election might strike some as a new way of looking at things, change has been a major part of the menu in Grovetown recently.
Almost two years ago the city hired Frank Neal to serve as its first city planner, and he has come out firing, updating a zoning ordinance that hadn’t been updated since the 1970s. A couple hundred mobile homes have been removed over the last 12 months or so and several new housing developments are popping up, including a senior living center. Recently, John Deere received permission to rezone a large tract of land along Horizon South Parkway in order build a 500,000-square-foot warehouse.
Not only is he working with business owners to make new and existing commercial structures more visually appealing, he’s also overseeing two major road construction projects — the widening of Robinson Avenue and Wrightsboro Road.
Earlier this month, Grovetown hired Harlem Public Safety Chief Gary Jones to replace Gary Owens, who resigned as Grovetown’s chief on Aug. 22.
With the new senior living center, an updated shopping area and all those new housing developments going up to keep pace with the growth explosion, Grovetown is a city on the move, and the addition of McDowell on the city council would seem to reinforce the city’s progressive credentials because McDowell tips the scales, joining council members Sylvia Martin and Vickie Cook in making the majority of the five member body female.
But however progressive-minded voters might be, council member Dennis Trudeau has been a touch old school in his reaction to the change. Joking that he was sucking up to the women who now outnumber him (Mayor George James makes the only other male on the board), he gave the women each a red rose at the last council meeting.
And let’s not forget last year’s official Christmas tree lighting, when Trudeau boasted to the crowd that the impressive display of lights was the result of years of work and dedication from the council, then told them to expect even better things now that two women were serving on the council.
Women, you know, have a knack for decoration.
Can you just imagine how good the decorations will get now that there are three women on the council?