Public service is second
nature for Officer Dickie

In the fall of 1995, when it came time for the small town of Rutledge, 53 miles east of Emory to elect two new city council members, city officials hit a snag: no one in the town of 750 wanted to run.

Emory Police Officer Bill Dickie, a resident of Rutledge for about a year and a half at that time, couldn't understand why none of his neighbors was stepping up to the plate and offering to fulfill their civic duty.

To run or not to run
"I went up to City Hall and inquired as to why we didn't have any elections," said Dickie. "They said that nobody came down to qualify for city council. I asked them how many posts they had open. They said there were two posts open and that they would have to have a special election the next March to fill those seats. There were only two council members and the mayor running the city at the time, and there should have been four council members."

Dickie decided to speak with Rutledge Mayor Susan Herndon about the matter, and Herndon promptly encouraged Dickie to qualify for one of the seats himself. "I told her that I had no experience whatsoever in city government," Dickie recalled. "She told me that none of them had any experience until they were elected. They just came in and did it. So I told her I would consider it."

When it came time to qualify last March, Dickie talked it over with some of his neighbors before making a decision. "I like Rutledge," said Dickie. "It's a nice little town, and I decided wanted to be more a part of it. So I qualified and ran unopposed in the election."

Addressing city issues
The primary problem facing Dickie and the City Council, finding new sources of water, is a direct result of the city's recent growth. "We are a growing city," Dickie said, "and we only have two wells in operation right now. We contracted to have a new well dug, but it came in dry. So we're planning to fracture that well, put dynamite down in the dry well and fracture the rock in hopes that the crevices will get some water flowing. That's our biggest concern right now."

Another major issue for the city is providing medical insurance for Rutledge's four employees. Currently, the city provides no health insurance for its employees. Dickie said that providing such insurance probably will come down to whether the city can find an affordable program and whether enough employees will participate to make it cost-effective.

"I'm pushing for an insurance program for the city," Dickie said. "I think it's something we're going to have to have. My understanding is that just recently we had a very good employee quit and go to work for Morgan County, and one of the reasons was that we didn't have insurance."

Increasing the city's tax base is another crucial issue for Dickie and his fellow council members. "The city is mostly residential, and we have very little commercial-type property out there," he said. "The stores in the city are mostly little craft stores and things like that. We don't have many big business, and there's really no place for industry to grow in Rutledge without annexation. We're about four miles off Interstate 20 and we want to annex the property between the city and the expressway. If we can do that, we will have a chance to bring in some industry."

Balancing work, public service
The Rutledge City Council meets the first Monday of every month at 7:30 p.m., which means Dickie must leave work earlier than usual to make it on time. "We have long work schedules here," Dickie said. "I've talked to [Police Chief Craig Watson] about it, and he's working with me on that. He's very supportive of it. I come in and make up the time so I don't have to take vacation time to go to council meetings."

Dickie has been an Emory police officer for 14 years. Before that, he was a supervisor with a railroad bureau that closed after he had worked there for 16 years. "It was a big loss losing that job," he recalled. "Then somebody told me about Emory, and they gave me a chance to get started again in a different profession. And I'm glad about that. I've been very happy here."

Dickie says that he will probably run for city council again when his term expires at the end of 1999. He has particularly enjoyed serving on the council's budget committee and is working hard to learn as much as he can about city government. "The city is very nice, and I think it's worth the drive to work," Dickie said. "I can see a big future for Rutledge."

-Dan Treadaway

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