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Candidates for Brookhaven District 1 City Council sound off on issues
by LaTria Garnigan
lgarnigan@neighbornewspapers.com
September 12, 2012 11:00 AM | 2582 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Editor’s note: Candidates Michelle Conlon and Kevin D. Fiztpatrick Jr. did not return answers by press time.

Below, District 1 City Council candidates for Brookhaven share their wishes for the new city.

Alan Cole, 64, retired, businessman and 39 years resident in Oak Forest Hills Subdivision

Top priorities:
 budget
 police
 city manager

Any hesitation about being on first city council, if elected:
Absolutely not.

Challenges:
The short time period to establish the foundation for the new city of Brookhaven to have the city fully operational by Dec. 17 [is a challenge]. There is a lot of work that must be done in a very short period of time.

Why did decide to run:
My commitment is to insure that successful groundwork is laid for the city of Brookhaven. I can devote full time to the city of Brookhaven. It is my desire to have a guiding hand to see the establishment of the city of Brookhaven to fruition.

Did initially support cityhood efforts:
Yes.

Experience:
 created and operated three businesses in Georgia (president and CEO)
 founding member of the Ashford Alliance Neighborhood Association
 former U.S. Army Captain

 president of Oak Forest Hills Neighborhood Association for 30 years
 fought hard against and negotiated with Georgia Power Company regarding high tension lines in the right-of-way of Ashford Dunwoody Road and substation installation at the intersection of Ashford Dunwoody Road and Perimeter Summit
 worked with Perimeter Community Improvement District to establish the new entrance into Oak Forest Hills Subdivision
 security lead on mission trip to Nicaragua
 involvement in zoning and regulatory interactions with DeKalb County in the Murphy Candler Park area for the past 30 years.

Prepared for pushback from DeKalb County in regards to services:
Absolutely. That is to be expected. The city council and mayor need to be prepared for this type of response from DeKalb County.

Will a runoff set the new city’s development back:
Yes it will.

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Kevin Meaders, 41, certified financial planner, business owner and attorney; 10-year resident of Brookhaven.

Priorities:
Fiscal responsibility and lower taxes. We split from DeKalb because of the mismanagement and inefficiency that bloated government brings. The last thing we need is to create another layer of bureaucracy and taxation. There will be many appeals to spend money on this and that project—some perhaps very warranted. I want nothing more than to improve our city with tangible projects, but we will serve ourselves and our posterity best if we can enter into these projects with caution and financial clarity, and that also means complete transparency. There is no need to spend massive amounts of your money on new pensions and fancy government buildings.

Any hesitation about being on first city council, if elected:
I know there will be a greater deal of work initially, especially with regard to signing Brookhaven’s name to financial contracts. I want someone who understands the economic ramifications to the average homeowner, business owner, and taxpayer. When the city council signs Brookhaven’s name to a bond offering or contract with DeKalb, they are in effect signing your name. This is exactly why we need someone on the council with financial planning expertise—to keep our balance sheet in the black. Working as a financial agent in a fiduciary capacity is what I do best. So no, I have no hesitation.

Challenges:
As in any entrepreneurial endeavor, we will be challenged to operate within our means. There are already calls to spend money on this or that. We are going to have to gently say “no, not until our budget allows.” Can you imagine if we had to come back to our homeowners and business owners and demand a tax increase? That would be utter failure.

Why did decide to run:
I have dedicated my life to helping retirees make sure they will have enough money to live out their lives with decency and pride — because they deserve no less. The market crashes of 2000, 2002, and 2008 have made that task difficult, and I have noticed that municipalities go through the same ups and downs as your retirement plan. In good economic times, there is a surplus of revenue. Instead of saving this money or lowering taxes, the city council decides to spend it on this pet project or that, thus swelling the budget, and the debt. When bad economic times inevitably hit, the city council, as if completely shocked and taken by surprise, has no option but to raise taxes. I don’t want this to happen to Brookhaven, and so I offer myself as the constant reminder of this tendency.

Did initially support cityhood efforts:
Honestly, I was skeptical initially. My free-market economics training from Oglethorpe has always taught me that another layer of government — more government — is not good, and generally I would agree. However, in the case of Brookhaven, I realized that it was really a zero-sum equation, and at least the city of Brookhaven allows more of our taxes to serve more of our citizens. Remember, the name of the game is “increased standard of living.” This comes from having assets, not debt — earning interest, not paying it. Having lower taxes, not higher. Less government, not more.

Experience:
I have 18 years of financial planning experience. I earned my certified financial planning designation in 1999 while running an investment advisory practice during the day and attending law school at Georgia State University at night. In 2000, I opened Magellan Planning Group in Brookhaven (District 1) which specializes in multi-generational, tri-disciplinary planning. We have just signed another 10-year lease and my wife and I plan on having children soon. I’m not so much into politics, but in addition to having the expertise and experience, with kids coming, you better believe I have the motivation to make Brookhaven the best it can be.

Prepared for pushback from DeKalb County in regards to services:
Of course. DeKalb has lost a great deal of revenue and a good bit of pride. We need someone that’s friendly, with a level head and the financial expertise to strike the best deal for us Brookhaveners with regard to the parks and many other services, like school services, school busses, police SWAT, 911 coordination, and the list goes on.

Will a runoff set the new city’s development back:
Well, clearly it will delay the certainty of who is to do what, but in the grand scheme of things, another month or two to get the council right will serve us all in the long run, and represents a minor delay in that regard. Again, we don’t need to rush into any new contracts or expensive obligations until we have had a chance to establish a viable budget, and I truly hope the fervor of rushed spending doesn’t overtake cooler, deal-seeking, tax-cutting measures.

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Rebecca Chase Williams, 62, journalist, small business owner (Dunwoody Crier Newspaper, with husband Dick Williams), former owner of health club for 20 years, retired ABC News Network correspondent for 20 years; 27-year resident of Brookhaven

Priorities:
Hiring the best key city officials such as city manager and police chief. Successfully negotiating the public-private partnerships that will deliver the best services, at the best value with performance measures built in. Then begins the work of fulfilling the goals of creating a strong, highly visible police force, parks that we can be proud of, decent roads and sidewalks and zoning that protects our quality of life.

Any hesitation about being on first city council, if elected:
Not at all. I’m running because we only have one chance to launch a city and I want to make sure we get it right.

Challenges:
Starting a new city is like starting a $20 million business from scratch. We need to make the best decisions on which private-partnerships will perform many of our city services. We need to hire the best city manager, police chief and other key personnel. We need to pass the right ordinances and adopt county codes to protect and allow us to operate immediately. All of this is done in a spirit of cooperation, common purpose, openness and accountability.

Why did decide to run:
I have been reporting on the new cities of Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and the creation of Brookhaven. I’m well-versed in the needs and challenges of forming a new city. I’ve been active in my community for decades and believe that I bring a knowledge of the issues and a better understanding of the issues than anyone else. I’m dedicated to keeping taxes low, being a good steward of our tax dollars, building consensus and creating a government that is open and accountable to all citizens. I want to build on the success of Brookhaven, protect our property values, and attract businesses that create jobs and enhance our community. I have a vision of a city united by common values and high standards, enriched by its diversity and successful beyond all measure.

Did initially support cityhood efforts:
As a reporter, I remained neutral, writing extensively about the “Road to Brookhaven,” covering not only the legislative battle, but also in-depth reports on how the new cities have faced the issues of taxes, roads, zoning, police, etc. I served on the board of Citizens for North DeKalb, the group that funded the feasibility study. As a reporter and a citizen, I wanted hard facts to inform the discussion of cityhood. After examining the facts and as a 27-year resident and taxpayer, I decided that forming the city of Brookhaven made sense. I personally voted “yes”.

Experience:
As a journalist, I have a reputation for integrity, fairness and listening to all sides. I know how to gather the best information, find the top experts, and weigh all the evidence. In my 25 years of community involvement I bring a deep understanding of the community’s needs and desires. I have a proven ability to be a leader, work as a team, and build consensus.

Prepared for pushback from DeKalb County in regards to services:
I have many years of reporting on DeKalb County which has given me a personal understanding of its leaders and how the county works. For the last two years, I have been Commissioner Elaine Boyer’s appointee to the DeKalb Board of Zoning Appeals, which has given me extensive experience with the planning department and the hard decisions involved in zoning. There will be tough negotiations with the county, but I’ve done battle with the county in many ways, demanding open records and accountability. I’m certainly not intimidated but am looking forward to a productive relationship with the county. After all, we are still DeKalb citizens and will continue to pay for and receive numerous services from our county.

Will a runoff set the new city’s development back:
Runoffs are likely with so many candidates running. But I see that as a healthy sign that citizens want to be involved in the creation of a new city. Task forces have been working for months and the Governor’s Commission will soon begin its work to lay some of the groundwork for the new city. The good thing is we have a roadmap from the creation of Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Dunwoody and all of their city leaders have offered their assistance. We will be just fine.
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