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Lake City candidates campaigning

By Ed Brock

Two incumbent Lake City council members will face off next week against two challengers while Mayor Willie Oswalt prepares to defend the position he's held for more than three decades.

Running against incumbent council members Dwight Ginn and Bobby Williams will be 41-year-old Kenneth Betz Jr. and 59-year-old Raymond Johnson. The election will be on Nov. 4.

Betz says he's lived in the city for four years and he wants to put a stop to a bad trend he's noticed in his time here so far.

"The city's gone downhill since I moved here," Betz said. "Visually, things look bad, they're deteriorating."

Too many decisions are being made behind closed doors, Betz said, and he wants to change that.

"This government's supposed to be for the people and by the people, not for the elected officials' benefit," Betz said.

Betz is married and works as an elevator service technician.

Johnson, 59, has owned and operated a janitorial service in Lake City for 35 years and is married with two daughters. Johnson says he is not running against anybody but he is running for the citizens of Lake City.

He wants to encourage citizen involvement and pride in their homes and surroundings while discouraging the spread of crime in the city.

Williams, a 68-year-old, 18-year council veteran, is betting that residents will vote to keep his experience working for them. He also has some unfinished business with the city.

"Mainly I want to finish up the Gateway Village project," Williams said.

The Gateway Village development is a joint venture between the county, the city of Morrow and Lake City. It is supposed to include a hotel convention center, retail stores and other developments with the Georgia State Archives and the National Archives and Records facility for the southeast region as the project's anchor developments.

"This is the only place in the country that we know of that has the state and federal archives together," Williams said.

The state archives are already open while construction of the federal archives is still under way.

Williams is retired from Bell South, married and has three sons, nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Ginn, 68 and the owner of G&G Salvage in Forest Park is a relative newcomer to the council, having been elected in March to fill the seat vacated by the death of Councilman Joe Thames.

"I feel I've done a good job in these months that I've been here," Ginn said. "We've got a good little city, a good police department and a good mayor."

Ginn has three daughters and four grandchildren.

Oswalt said there's a lot going on in the city with the Gateway Village development and the issue of noise from Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. His advantage is experience.

"I'd rather have a third-year quarterback than a first-year quarterback," Oswalt said. "You can't beat experience."

Jim Defee, Oswalt's challenger, wants to restore affordable garbage pickup in the city, bring back quality businesses and improve the police department. He will have a "policy of inclusiveness."

"The mayor must be close to the citizens, open to hear their ideas and respect their grievances," Defee said in a statement. "My open door policy will include regular town hall meetings and newsletters."