“I’m not an advocate for change,” Watkinsville Post 2 candidate Jon Kirkpatrick told citizens last week at a forum hosted by retired journalism professor Lee Becker and citizens Sarah Bell and Penny Mills. “I am an advocate for managing the inevitable change that is coming to Watkinsville in a responsible and sustainable manner.”

Kirkpatrick, who lives off Christian Terrace, is challenging incumbent Connie Massey, a framer at Athens Art and Frame who has served on the council since 2013 and lives off of Second Street. 

Massey could not attend the forum last Thursday, as she is spending time with her 90-year-old mother in St. Louis, according to her son-in-law Mark Benson. 

Benson spoke on behalf of Massey and answered several questions from the audience. 

“She said she’s seen a lot of changes in our city over the last 34 years,” he said, emphasizing that Massey is a big proponent of enforcing speed limits and preserving the small-town character of Watkinsville. He described her as a “flag bearer” for citizens. 

As of deadline Tuesday, Massey could not be reached for additional comments. 

Kirkpatrick noted that Wisteria Ridge apartment complex and other new housing developments will increase the city’s population, which will pose some challenges to Watkinsville.

“I am particularly interested in finding solutions to the mounting congestion problems within Watkinsville, he said. “I want people to get together without getting into their cars … I will work to make the city more connected by seeking out grants for new sidewalks, greenway trails and neighborhood greenways.”

Kirkpatrick is a member of a citizen advisory committee on transportation and the vice-chair of a committee on long-range planning for Harris Shoals Park.  

Benson said Massey is a fiscally responsible candidate who will fight to have sidewalks “in proper places where they are necessary.” 

When asked about transparency in local governance, Benson stated, “Connie has an open door policy. She will meet with anybody anywhere at anytime.’

Kirkpatrick stated that he will find ways to inform citizens who don’t use the Internet about city matters and that it’s incumbent on city officials to make the budget process transparent. 

“As your future councilman, I am committed to listening to all of you, not just the people who are outspoken,” he said. “I will be responsive to you.”

Benson reiterated that Massey has an open-door policy. 

“I invite you to reach out to her to do that,” Benson said.

Watkinsville is the only municipality in Oconee County holding an election on Tuesday, Nov. 5.  City voters will also decide on the so-called “Brunch Bill,” which would allow restaurants in the city to serve alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays like the other six days of the week. 

The Oconee Elections Office has eliminated the county annex off Greensboro Highway as a precinct, leaving City Hall as the sole precinct for Election Day. However, there will be early voting at the Elections Office, 10 Court Street next to the Courthouse during weekdays from Oct. 14 through Nov. 1. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The same time limit applies to submitting absentee ballots. 

For more on this story, see the Oct. 10 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website. 

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