Editor's note: Andy Bauman, Patty Berokvitz, Jennifer Steele, John Stoj and Sonja Tonpea are facing off for the District 6 Sandy Springs City Council seat in the Nov. 5 nonpartisan election. Incumbent Karen Meinzen McEnerny is not seeking re-election. Below are profile articles on each candidate, listed alphabetically.
ANDY BAUMAN PROFILE:
Andy Bauman is seeking the Sandy Springs City Council District 6 seat, he said, to help steer the city in the right direction at a crucial time in its existence.
“I’m running because issues matter and because actions speak louder than words,” said Bauman.
Bauman and his wife, Debbie, have two children: Evan, 14, and Anna Rose, 10. He graduated from Emory University Law School after earning a bachelor’s degree in political science there.
Bauman, an attorney and real estate investor, founded the Sandy Springs Farmers Market in 2010. His previous political experience includes a stint as Emory University Student Government Association president from 1984 to 1985.
“I see Sandy Springs at an important crossroads — particularly with the planning of the new city center and City Hall [projects],” said Bauman, 49. “We need to make smart decisions about our future. This means building a 21st-century City Hall that meets our needs and fits our budget — not an oversized, extravagant and inefficient 19th-century monument to government. It also means prioritizing projects that will have the greatest impact on our daily lives.
Bauman said he is voters’ best option because of his track record.
“The best way to determine what a person will do is to look at what they have done,” said Bauman. “Leadership is more than just attending meetings or complaining about what’s wrong; it’s about action and accomplishment. As the founder and lead volunteer for the Sandy Springs Farmers Market, I am proud of having a record of bringing thousands of Sandy Springs residents together and building a sense of community.”
Bauman listed the top three issues on his campaign’s platform as follows:
“No. 1, infrastructure: I will prioritize and demand completion of the infrastructure projects that have the greatest impact on our daily lives. As my wife and I often tell our children, ‘Do what you have to do before you do what you want to do.’ The same is true for our city. It is unacceptable that the Lake Forrest Drive repair/reopening and dozens of essential stormwater projects languish while other city beautification projects seem to get done on time …”
“No. 2, responsible redevelopment and growth: I believe growth in our community should meet the high standards of our neighborhoods. Developers should be held to high standards as well. With neighborhood input, I will support revitalization of rundown areas and obsolete commercial properties [such as old apartments] so we can reduce the disproportionate demand on city services [i.e., fire/police] and expand our tax base …”
“No. 3, protection of our neighborhoods: We need to do everything we can to protect the quality of life we enjoy. This means creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment where we prioritize investment in sidewalks, street lights and, where appropriate, speed bumps. We [need to] do everything we can to encourage drivers to slow down and put safety first. Our families deserve that.”
PATTY BERKOVITZ PROFILE:
Patti Berkovitz is running for Sandy Springs City Council, she said, to help the city reach its full potential.
“I am a lifelong resident of Sandy Springs and have a vested interest in the success of the city as one of those who worked to make cityhood happen,” said Berkovitz. “[It’s about] community building — connecting all the dots, making sure we use all of our local talent and creativity.
“I want to help make this the city that the citizens of Sandy Springs want it to be.”
Berkovitz holds an associate’s degree in zookeeping, animal behavior and psychology from Santa Fe Community College as well as an associate’s in veterinary technology from Bel Rae Institute of Animal Technology. She and her late husband have one adult daughter.
Berkovitz, a neighborhood advocate, touted her 15 years of experience working with “all areas” of city services — including regulations, land planning and public works as well as citizen advocacy with Fulton County and the city of Sandy Springs.
“Sandy Springs has been my home for over 50 years,” said Berkovitz, 59. “I love it and want to preserve what is special about us as we move towards our future. I want to be at the table as decisions are made just as I have been involved since the beginning and before, including my work on the Task Force for Public Works, Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, the comprehensive land-use plan, green printing, [the] development advisory board and many others. I average 30 hours a week working on neighborhood issues meeting with all parties, neighbors, planners, developers and negotiating to achieve projects most compatible for all sides.”
Berkovitz listed the top three issues on her agenda as traffic, stormwater utilization and infrastructure.
“Traffic tops the list. Congestion threatens to strangle commerce, and streets intended for neighborhood access turn into thoroughfares. Funding for transportation infrastructure is unlikely to rebound anytime soon, so that puts a premium on managing the flow of cars through the streets and intersections we have. Twenty-first century management should be technology driven. Roundabouts have worked around the world and should be employed in appropriate locations. All options must be reviewed and applied as the situation warrants.
“[No. 2], we must do something about stormwater. It may seem mundane, but we’ve got gully washers, inadequate curbs and gutters, loss of trees, expanded flood zones and property devaluation. Homeowners bear the burden of failed pipes and conveyances. We should adopt regulations already in use in other jurisdictions that are cost effective to users and get the water into the ground before it can be destructive.
“Third, not all infrastructure is made of steel or concrete. How we organize civic life is human infrastructure, too. Governmental account-ability, transparency and accessibility matter. My plan: keep you informed of everything I do at City Hall, in real time, on the web.”
JENNIFER STEELE PROFILE:
Jennifer Steele says she is running for the Sandy Springs City Council District 6 seat to fill the leadership void.
“I am passionate about providing the leadership necessary to ensure the continued success in Sandy Springs,” said Steele. “We need a leader on council who will take a balanced approach to ensure continued success in Sandy Springs. Most of all, we need a leader we can trust to work hard and deliver results.”
Steele, a small business owner, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Oglethorpe University. She has been married to husband, Gregory, for 18 years and has no children.
Steele touted her seven years of neighborhood leadership experience.
“I have worked hard to preserve neighborhood quality of life,” she said. “During my tenure as president of the Cherokee Park Civic Association, I negotiated a parcel land transfer and traffic-mitigating infrastructure. I have also worked with other leaders to develop the ‘Main Street’ concept for the Roswell Road Corridor [Livable Communities Initiative].
“As secretary-treasurer of our development authority, I have partnered on approximately $16 million in economic growth projects — including the Hammond [Drive] Half-Diamond, the refinancing for Davis Academy and the [Real Estate and Busines Agents Supervisory Board] that attracted CBS Corporation.”
Steele, 51, added that her candidacy for the District 6 office stands out in a crowded field.
“Many candidates talk about the things they want to do,” she said. “I have proven record of leadership, and I have been a consensus builder who has solved problems and delivered results.”
Steele listed the top three issues on her agenda as follows: “My goals are simple: Partner to insure fiscal accountability and government transparency. Preserve our residential neighborhoods, greenspaces and transitional buffers between commercial and residential properties. Grow Sandy Sandy Springs by improving infrastructure and attracting quality businesses of all sizes.”
JOHN STOJ PROFILE:
John Stoj’s candidacy for Sandy Springs City Council is a means of performing his civic duty.
“Civic involvement has always been an important part of my family’s life, with both of my parents having held elected offices when I was a child,” said Stoj. “They passed on to me the responsibility to give back to the community we call home.
“I’ve lived in Sandy Springs since 2002 and when my wife and I decided to start a family, we knew that Sandy Springs was where we wanted to raise our children.”
Stoj, a small business owner, holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. He also earned a master’s degree in business administration, with concentrations in finance and real estate from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
He and wife Kimberley have a 5-week-old son, John Ford.
The elder Stoj, a political newcomer, referenced his professional background as a strength of his campaign.
“My entrepreneurial spirit, combined with two decades of financial experience, gives me the opportunity to make a unique and effective contribution to not only District 6, but Sandy Springs as a whole,” said Stoj, 43.
Stoj listed his campaign’s top three issues as follows:
“No. 1: Preservation and improvement of our existing neighborhoods — with a focus on safety issues such as sidewalks, street lights, and stormwater. We need to continue the job our first mayor and councils have done recovering from the pre-city of Sandy Springs neglect.
“No. 2: Encouragement of economic development within our community — with an eye toward both the short- and long-term stability of our neighborhoods and city. We have fantastic community demographics, and should all benefit from increased business within Sandy Springs.
“No. 3: Creation of a strategic vision for development within Sandy Springs, especially along the Roswell Road corridor. We are already a model for city government — there’s no reason we can’t be the same for commercial and residential development.
SONJA TONPEA PROFILE:
Sonja Tonpea is running for the Sandy Springs City County District 6 seat, she said, to bring change to the governing board’s current practices.
“Voters need to know that their elected officials are in service to them,” said Tonpea. “If elected, I will work to include our residents in the governmental process and also respect and seek out citizen input. A city cannot survive without the support of its citizens — we must never forget our mission and purpose.”
Tonpea and late husband, G. Arnold, have three adult children. The founder and owner of an in-home healthcare enterprise, Tonpea received a nursing degree from Samford University.
Tonpea, a newcomer to the political arena, said her candidacy is largely fueled by a desire to promote an “open and transparent” government.
“‘Behind closed doors’ is not a phrase that should be part of the political lexicon,” said Tonpea, 60. “Part of that transparency should be stricter financial management. I believe that Sandy Springs City Council can and should control costs through a more economical utilization of personnel, materials and time than is currently in place.”
Her campaign’s top three issues are alleviating traffic woes, the city’s budgeting process and the bureaucracy related to permits and zoning.
“Traffic is an issue that it is an indicator of a great deal of success in the number of consumers in our neighborhood businesses, but also one of poor management of roads, particularly lights. Much like the weather, everyone talks about fixing it, but no one does. We have reached a critical point now where it has to be done … with the input of all the stake holders in Sandy Springs roads.
“Two, budgets: Budgeting is a task that should be entered into with a good deal of transparency and openness. The Department of Procurement and the City Council need to work alongside a citizen review board to construct a budget that is fair, friendly to the citizenry and appropriate. Difficult economic times stretch across the spectrum from citizen to business to government. … We can work as a team to present a budget that proves the Council to be good stewards of the tax dollars.
“Although part of progress and growth is the building process and is another indicator of success, we have allowed our permitting process and zoning regulations to become a tangled web of red tape. A streamlined, functional, easy-to-understand process needs to be instituted in order to make growth sensitive to established residents and businesses yet very doable for those that need permitting.”
She said her campaign website is under construction.