Gil McDougal became Villa Rica’s 32nd mayor on Jan. 9, as the City Council began its first meeting of 2020.

Judge Anna Perry swore McDougal into office in a brief ceremony before the meeting began. He replaces former Mayor Jeff Reese, whose term of office ended in December.

Judge Aubrey Duffey administered oaths to Ward 1 Council Member Shirley Marchman and Ward 2 Council Member Matthew Momtahan, both of whom are starting new terms on the council. Also during the meeting, Ward 5 Council Member Danny Carter was chosen as mayor pro tem.

During the meeting, the new council approved applying for a grant that could help with some of the city’s transportation issues.

The Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) grant is funded through the Atlanta Regional Commission. Last year, the city applied for but was turned down for the grant, which would have provided $200,000 in funding for community projects designed to make city areas “vibrant, walkable places.”

That goal is very close to that of a “master plan” for downtown that was unveiled in June 2016, the result of a months-long survey of Villa Rica residents. The plan envisions a downtown space that is friendly to pedestrians, luring residents and visitors alike to shops, dining and entertainment venues.

The LCI program is for transportation-related projects, including streetscapes, sidewalks and pedestrian enhancements to make visions of livable downtown environments a reality.

If awarded the grant, the city would have to pay $20,000 in matching funds.

In other action, the council re-approved a $5,400 agreement with a subcontractor for the Georgia Municipal Association that has greatly improved its collection of hotel-motel tax revenue.

In August 2017, the council approved raising the hotel-motel tax to 8% from 5%. At that point, the revenues collected were $179,000, according to city data. But in the nine months after contracting with the GMA service, those collections jumped to $252,000 and stood at over $330,000 at the end of 2019.

Revenue from the tax pays for the city’s tourism efforts.