COVINGTON - Martha Ellwanger has lived in Newborn for nine years, and in that time, she said she's seen a decline in the involvement of residents in town government and functions.
She's running for Post 4 on the Newborn Town Council in hopes of changing that.
"I made the decision to run after attending council meetings the last few years and realizing that Newborn citizens don't have much of a voice in town government," Ellwanger said.
If elected, Ellwanger said her top priorities will be to keep the citizens informed and encourage them to participate in their own government.
One way she hopes to do that is by utilizing the town's Web site to post agendas and minutes from council meetings.
"I want to listen to the citizens' ideas and opinions and rebuild the volunteer base," she said.
Ellwanger said Newborn residents used to be enthusiastic about taking part in government business and in planning town functions and events, but that sense of community is dwindling.
She blames discouragement.
"During the last four years, people have tried to have a voice in several decisions but were ignored," she said.
For example, Ellwanger said Newborn residents were happy when the council approved a contract with Newton County and the city of Mansfield committing its annual insurance premium tax for maintenance and operations of a new fire station on Ga. Highway 213.
But council members later said they approved the contract under pressure from the county and Newborn residents and had instead decided to use the money for other purposes.
They then said the contract did not apply to the insurance premium tax disbursement the town received in 2007, which covered collections for the year 2006, which predated the contract, though the county disputed that claim.
Citizen outcry fell on deaf ears, according to Ellwanger.
"It's pretty sad when Newborn citizens felt they had to apologize on behalf of the mayor and council," she said, noting that some residents called or sent letters to their county commissioner expressing regret at the council's decision.
Some residents simply feel like there's no point to voicing their opinions and concerns because they won't be heard, she said.
"When I talk to folks in town, they do have a lot of good ideas and they need to be heard," she said.
Ellwanger's other top priority is the completion of the renovation of the historic schoolhouse, where the Newborn Opry is held, among other events.
"It's extremely important to the town. Not very many towns of our size have a precious building like that," she said.
Ellwanger grew up in Virginia and Georgia and attended Westhampton College in Richmond, Va.
She is a former school teacher and insurance agent.
Currently, she is a reporter for Newborn News, a town newsletter that is published several times a year. She is also a Sunday school teacher at Newborn United Methodist Church.
Ellwanger has been involved with numerous volunteer organizations, including Senior Olympics, Meals on Wheels and the Red Cross.
She has three sons and five grandchildren.
Ellwanger faces incumbent Wanda Cummings in the Nov. 3 Municipal Election.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.