Walnut Grove mayoral candidates disagree at forum on direction their city is taking

By Chris Bridges - the Walton Tribune

Three of four City Council candidates participate in forum

Interested voters listen during last Tuesday’s candidate forum in Walnut Grove. By Deborah Stewart photo | Special to the Walton Tribune

The incumbent and challenger in the mayor’s race in Walnut Grove had disagreements on the direction the city is taking. Mayor Mark Moore said Walnut Grove has a plan and is implementing it while challenger Stephanie Moncrief, a former city council member, said, “there is no plan.”

The two are battling for mayor at a critical time for Walnut Grove with more expected growth coming to the city.

“We have a lack of a plan,” Moncrief said during the Walton County Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum on Tuesday. “You don’t go about building a house without a plan. If we don’t have a plan we will have uncontrolled growth and traffic issues. It will be chaos.”

Moore, who is nearly at the completion of his first term as mayor, didn’t agree with his challenger’s assessment.

“We do have a plan,” Moore said. “To say we don’t is inaccurate.”

Moore, who is also a one-time Walnut Grove City Council member, said improving the city’s infrastructure and expanding the sewer system are issues he has been working on. Moore said in order to draw more business to the city the sewer system has to be improved.

“We are at capacity right now,” the mayor said.

At one point when Moore was talking about openness of his administration, he saw one audience member shaking their head in a negative motion. He stressed again his accomplishments during his first term and talked about where the city is moving.

“The mayor said we have a plan but that was his plan,” Moncrief said. “There has been no input from the citizens or anyone else. This is a process where we have to bring citizens in and consider what they want.”

Moore said dating back to the time he was the council he has always stressed transparency.

“We post our agendas early and our council is fully informed of what is going on,” he said.


Three of the four candidates running for two open seats on the Walnut Grove City Council were at Tuesday’s forum, sponsored by the Walton County Chamber of Commerce.

Maxine McClanahan took part of her time to address comments sent to her questioning the military service of fellow candidate Rachel Davis. McClanahan did not say who sent the information but the day after the forum she sent a text message screenshot to The Walton Tribune of comments made by candidate Ty Arnold.

“Has Rachel provided proof that she’s actually a retired veteran? Did she retire after 20+ years of service or was she medically retired?”

McClanahan said the post was very offensive to her and all veterans. Davis thanked McClanahan for her comments at the forum. Arnold did not reply to McClanahan’s comments Tuesday. He later said it was a private message and was surprised it was brought up. When contacted by the Tribune on Thursday, Arnold said he did not respond at the forum because he felt it had been a private conversation.

Arnold said his law enforcement career was also questioned with implications saying his job in the jail was not as important as a regular deputy.

“Maxine allowed one of her supporters, who happens to be familiar with me, to question me about my law enforcement background on her Walnut Grove GA Citizens Input Page,” Arnold said. “Maxine was well aware that the person was asking a rhetorical question in efforts to make sure that I publicly stated that I was a ‘detention officer’ who worked in the jail and not a ‘mandated deputy sheriff.’ Apparently, they felt that I needed to be specific about my position in law enforcement so that I would not receive undue honor as a ‘detention officer.’ A few weeks later, it was brought to my attention that Rachel Hillenbrand (Davis), who is also seeking a seat on the council publicly mentioned that she was a retired veteran on Maxine’s WGCI page. So I asked Maxine privately, if Rachel had shown proof of retirement? Then I followed up with another question, ‘Did she retire after 20+ years of service or did she medically retire?’ My reason for asking this question is because I was given an extensive amount of public records on Rachel’s history, which did not coincide with her claim that she served in the military for the majority of her life. This concerned me because it could be a potential act of Stolen Valor.”

Arnold, Davis and McClanahan expressed their thoughts on various issues which might face the council. Candidate Dominic DiGrado was not able to attend due to a family emergency.

Arnold spoke of his strong faith and family beliefs. He and his wife have eight children. He said his main goal in running is to be a God-fearing man who “puts others second and himself third.”

“There is no other desire I have,” he said. “I want to represent Jesus Christ as a council member. That will cause the City of Walnut Grove to prosper.”

Davis moved to Walnut Grove four years ago with her husband and twins.

“I care so deeply about the future of our children, their children and our legacy,” she said.

McClanahan is known as the “Watchdog” for Walnut Grove. She said she claims that title proudly.

“I have no problem getting to the meat of the matter,” McClanahan said. “Every city needs a watchdog.”

Arnold said one of his strengths is getting along with all people, regardless of age or race.

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