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Former PTC Police captain to run for spot on council

Another political hopeful is entering the fray for one of three Peachtree City Council seats that will be up for grabs this November, and he has a familiar name.

Terry Ernst, who spent 19 years with the Peachtree City Police Department, said Friday he plans to run for the Post 4 seat currently held by Vanessa Fleisch, who is running for mayor.

Ernst, 62, is hoping he can change some of the culture at council meetings, which have been notorious lately for several heated disputes that left citizens dumbfounded and city staff doing their best to not squirm in their seats.

“I just want to take our city back and I want things to be a team effort on city council, and there are some things I think need to be changed or improved and not just argued about. Hopefully I can be a piece of that,” Ernst said. “I can’t change the world, I know that, but hopefully we can bring a council together as a team and do things better for the city.”

Living in Peachtree City since 1989, Ernst retired from the Army before signing up with the police department, where he rose to the rank of captain. Ernst was one of three police captains downsized in a reorganization of the police department that added two patrol officers and was projected to save the city $206,000 a year.

The reorganization left just one captain in the department along with a newly-hired assistant police chief who came from outside the agency to replace the three long-term veteran captains including Ernst, Rosanna Dove and Michael Claman.

As for changes he would like to see, Ernst said he thinks some golf cart rules could stand to be changed. Ernst also credited council and city staff for the handling of the budget this year, but said he thought “there can be some fixes that I have insight on that council either doesn’t care about or hasn’t gotten down in the alley to figure out what’s going on.”

Ernst is the second person to announce candidacy for a city council seat, joining resident Josh Bloom, who served as a volunteer on the city’s needs assessment committee which studied the city’s budget in detail and used a citizen survey to present a recommendation that the millage rate be increased by half a mill to accommodate more city services sought by residents.

City residents will also be electing a mayor this November, and they have a field of five candidates so far including incumbent Don Haddix, council members George Dienhart and Fleisch, former mayor Harold Logsdon and businessman Ryan Jolly.

Ernst had planned to make his campaign debut in the July 4 parade before it was washed out by the rain. He and his wife Joan and their granddaughter had tied business cards to about 1,000 pieces of candy, and that left Ernst wondering if there was a way to take all the excess candy that would have been distributed by the parade into a meaningful effort, such as collecting it so it can be donated to troops overseas.

If that idea wasn’t acceptable, it might be a fun idea to run a city-wide contest to come up with another way of making good use of the candy, Ernst said.

Ernst has a track record of attending council meetings on a semi-regular basis, even well before his position was eliminated, to keep tabs on the goings-on at city hall. Still, Joan couldn’t help but question why he would consider running for office.

“My wife says, ‘Are you crazy? Ninety-nine percent of the people in this down love you. Why would you want to do that?’” Ernst said.

Ernst said he plans to seek the Post 4 seat being vacated by Fleisch though he may change his mind as qualifying week nears.

CORRECTION: The story above in its original version misidentified Terry Ernst’s final rank with the Peachtree City Police Department. Ernst was a captain.

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