Brett North, the outpatient clinic manager at Life University, and Kevin Wigington, who runs the Brookwood Christian School off Wood Street with his wife, edged out a third candidate — Patrick D. Cooney — in the May 20 primary.
“We’ve run a gentleman’s race,” North said in a debate sponsored by the Cobb Chamber and Acworth Business Association this week. “Kevin is not my enemy.”
Wigington also refrained from taking swipes at his opponent during the forum held Tuesday evening at NorthStar Church in Kennesaw.
“I’ve gotten to know my opponent during this campaign,” Wigington said. “I believe that he’s a good man.”
The Acworth alderman race is among several runoffs to be decided July 22.
Wigington, who serves on the media team at the same church in which the forum took place, said “accessibility and availability” is what separates him most from North as a candidate.
North cited his nine years of experience on the city’s planning and zoning board as the biggest differentiator.
The board is a recommending body that reviews applications — such as for land development plans or annexations — and makes recommendations to the aldermen.
North touted his eight years of service as president of the Blue Springs home owner’s association, 30 years of small business experience and role on his church’s board of directors as experience that “uniquely qualifies” him for the city Board of Aldermen.
“The HOA is really the smallest form of government,” North said.
Wigington highlighted his position as secretary-treasurer on the Acworth Historic Preservation Commission at the debate.
“We have to remember our past before we can move forward into the future,” he said of the lessons he has learned on the historic commission.
Wigington’s school, Brookwood Christian, provides educational assistance to children with social and learning disabilities such as Asperger’s syndrome or dyslexia, he said.
Both candidates listed growth as one of the biggest challenges facing the city.
“We have grown at a rate of 400 percent in the last five years,” Wigington said at the debate.
“Growth is inevitable, but it has to be balanced with a plan.”
North also expressed concerns about Acworth’s rapid growth.
“We have to make sure that that growth is quality growth and managed growth,” he said.
North also said one way of keeping such expansion in check is to maintain the pace of the city’s growth so infrastructure improvements can keep up.
Wigington highlighted a lack of affordable housing for new professional families in the vision for the city he laid out during the debate.
He asked the audience to consider if Acworth had too many senior living communities, and whether they would affect the city’s tax rates.
North said he would be opposed to raising the city’s taxes “if there was any alternative whatsoever to it.”
“I’ve never met a tax increase that I’ve liked, I can tell you that,” he said. “They are a necessary evil from time to time, but I’d have to know we’d been good stewards of the money citizens had already entrusted us with.”
If elected, Wigington indicated during the debate he would vote independently despite the “really great relationships” he shares with Acworth’s mayor and aldermen.
“I don’t intend to be a vote-checker,” he said. “I do have certain things that I want to see, and I will stick up for those things.”
North said he would require “minimal, if any, on-the-job training” if he won the race.
“When I’m elected and when I sit down in that seat, I already understand how that works,” North said, adding his experience on the planning and zoning board has helped him gain insight into how the city government operates.
“I have no interest in being a politician,” North said of the campaign, during which he said he’s “tried to paint an honest and accurate picture” of himself.
“I want to be a servant leader,” he said.
Wigington said his skills as a “consensus builder” have been important to his success in life and would give him strength as a government leader.
“I believe it is a most critical ability, because nothing gets done efficiently and effectively at any government service level if its leaders can’t communicate and build consensus,” he said.
Wigington has emphasized his personal investment in the Acworth community throughout his campaign.
“We eat, play, worship and work in this city,” he said of himself, his wife and their two daughters. “We fell in love with this community when we moved here over 10 years ago, and no matter what happens in this race, we will continue to be here and serve a town as great as ours.”