Cobb Chamber of Commerce

Advocacy

Election Information

In preparation for the 2017 General and Special elections on Tuesday, November 7, the Cobb Chamber Government Affairs Committee conducted a questionnaire strictly for educational purposes as a service to the Chamber's membership. Responses have been compiled, and are posted unedited below.

Exercise your right to vote! Early voting opportunities can be found here.

For more information on Cobb County elections, candidates, dates and voter information, visit the Cobb County Board of Elections website.

 

Austell City Council

At Large, Post 1  
Ollie Clemons  
Melanie Elder  

Ward 1

Ward 3

Ikaika Anderson Trudie Causey
Marlin Lamar Randy Green


Kennesaw City Council

At Large, Post 3 At Large, Post 4
Pat Ferris Jimmy Dickens, Sr.
Antonio "Tony" Jones Chris Henderson
Jeffrey Oparnica James Sebastian, Jr.
   
At Large, Post 5  
David Blinkhorn  


Marietta City Council

Ward 1 Ward 2
Greg Bieger Grif Chalfant
Jay Davis  
Cheryl Richardson  
   
Ward 3 Ward 4
Johnny Walker Andy Morris
   
Ward 5 Ward 6
Reggie Copeland Michelle Kelly
Ruben Sands  
   
Ward 7  
Joseph Goldstein  


Marietta City School Board

Ward 1 Ward 2
Alan Levine Arthur Vaughn
  Jason Waters
   
Ward 3 Ward 4
Randy Weiner Allison Gruehn
  Camile Jones
   
Ward 5 Ward 6
Jeriene Grimes Kerry Minervini
Angela Orange  
   
Ward 7  
Irene Berens  


Marietta Mayor

Mayor
Steve "Thunder" Tumlin


Powder Springs City Council

Ward 1 Ward 3
Henry Lust Nancy Farmer
  Nancy Hudson


Smyrna City Council

Ward 3
Maryline Blackburn
Jeff Carter
Travis Lindley
Marshall Moon
Adam Taylor


Georgia State Senate

District 6
Leah Aldridge
Matt Bentley
Kathy Eichenblatt
Charlie Fiveash
Jaha Howard
Jen Jordan
Leo Smith
Taos Wynn


Georgia House

District 42
Terri Anulewicz

 


Austell City Council


Ollie Clemons (Austell City Council, At Large, Post 1)

What is your overall vision for the City of Austell?

My overall vision is for a good mix of development both commercial and residential that are the drivers for sustaining Austell for generations to come.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Austell and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

I would say our infrastructure, workforce development and increased revenue streams. I am already having our infrastructure concerns prioritized and beginning to identify sources of revenue to address them. I have met with Chattahoochee Tech who has an Austell campus and discussed partnering with them to assist with workforce development. We are having conversations now with key stakeholders on ways to leverage the city’s location to create the economic sustainability.

The three biggest opportunities are land cost, location and county development.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

What is the best use for land in the city. What is the best zoning for a particular area considering current density and potential impact.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Smyrna’s citizens and businesses?

I will be very intentional about sufficient public safety coverage for the present and the future.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

Austell already provides some services that are not provided in other jurisdictions. I would make sure as the city grows so does the workforce needed to provide the continued good quality service.

What will you do to ensure the City of Austell is/remains business friendly?

I would make sure our processes for doing business with our business community is streamlined and efficient.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

The Cobb Chamber of Commerce and the CMA are examples of good collaboration for our area. I also believe an ongoing relationship with our County Commissioners and our State Legislators is necessary to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

I believe our region is in need of major transportation connectivity offering premium transit service to remove some of the single passenger cars that crowd the interstates daily.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

I would like to see bike lanes and walk/run trails throughout the city and connectivity to the silver comet giving our citizens increased opportunity for physical fitness.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

Austell as a municipal community partner for our military and Dobbins can help provide those things that are important like quality housing and military related services.

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Melanie Elder (Austell City Council, At Large, Post 1)

Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Ikaika Anderson (Austell City Council, Ward 1)

Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Marlin Lamar (Austell City Council, Ward 1)

What is your overall vision for the City of Austell?

As a lifetime resident and businessman of Austell, I have seen the ups and downs of our city. My vision for the city is to promote responsible business growth to make Austell a shopping, dining, and entertainment destination for the area.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Austell and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

Three biggest challenges is 1. To ensure the citizens a great community to live in. 2. Clean up the city to create an welcome environment for developers, and 3. Offering competitive pay to police, fire, and city employees to keep these skilled and talented individuals from leaving Austell for a higher paying job elsewhere.

Biggest opportunities are 1. Developing a vibrant and thriving downtown area and business district. 2. To create a sense and feeling of community that has been lacking for the citizens, and to achieve that by having community involvement by sponsoring and promoting events, festivals, and having parades to showcase our community. 3. Maintaining the success the city has had for the last 20 years under the leadership and management of Mayor Joe Jerkins.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

Serving on the Planning and Zoning Board, I understand the essentials of smart, responsible growth.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Smyrna’s citizens and businesses?

The City of Austell is blessed to have strong Police and Fire Departments. Lead by the leadership of Police Chief Bob Starrett, Austell has a low crime rate when compared to other cities and areas of metro Atlanta. Throughout the city, one can always see the police patrols and presence.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

Austell has a great Public Works department that maintains the appearance and infrastructure very well. There is always room for improvement and I would like to see our city parks to be welcoming facilities that citizens can use and play.

What will you do to ensure the City of Austell is/remains business friendly?

Currently, the downtown area and central business district of Austell is growing with new businesses coming into a business friendly environment. The Community Affairs department, lead by Jim Graham and Darrell Weaver are the driving force behind the new growth within our city.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

We have to be aware of what resources are available to the city on the county, state, and federal levels. Taking advantage of grant money to fund projects to improve our city.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

Austell is currently served by LINC buses from the CCT, with several stops in the city and offering connecting service to larger hubs.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

The sense of small town community to return. A community where your neighbors know each other. Having festivals and events to involve all the citizens to create an environment for residents to know other residents.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

Protecting our national borders and enjoy the freedom of living in a great country starts with a strong military to fend off threats to these freedoms. We in Austell should be involved with our military partners. Invite them for displays and parades to make the citizens aware we have these facilities close by.

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Trudie Causey (Austell City Council, Ward 3)

Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Randy Green (Austell City Council, Ward 3)

Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Kennesaw City Council


Pat Ferris (Kennesaw City Council, At Large, Post 3)

What is your overall vision for the City of Kennesaw?

I have a positive vision for the future of Kennesaw. The building blocks are already in place to build a better City of our Citizens. Our basic building blocks include very good recreational facilities and an above average Police Department. Kennesaw is well positioned with good access to transportation resources including Cobb County Airport -McCollum Field, I-75 and I-575. Having Kennesaw State University next to our City is another great resource for Kennesaw. It will be up to the City of Kennesaw to find ways to effectively utilize these resources to build a community that will have a great future.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Kennesaw and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

The three biggest challenges are proper implementation of the SPLOST program, City finances and development. Regarding SPLOST, we need a complete review of all SPLOST programs and I believe that the City needs to hire a program manager to keep the program going forward. Regarding City finance, the City is annually borrowing money to provide cash flow through the end of the year. The City has already borrowed $3.6 million this year. This deficit needs to be reduced annually. I will work with the Mayor, Council and Staff to better examine the root causes of this shortage and will work to develop a long term plan to eradicate this financial short coming. Regarding development, Kennesaw is built out with very few areas around the City that are available for annexation. Going forward, the City will have to work with property owners to find the means to upgrade or redevelop their properties through consolidation and proper zoning procedures.

The three biggest opportunities are partnerships with Kennesaw State University on community programs, working with local businesses to afford more employment opportunities within the City and proper redevelopment of several underutilized land tracts.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

I am looking for balance in all areas of residential and commercial development. I want to take an in depth review of our current land uses and then develop goals for all zoning categories. As a City, our future land use plan is a valuable tool to ensure that the City offers the broadest spectrum of property uses.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Kennesaw’s citizens and businesses?

I am a big supporter of the Kennesaw Police Department. I will work to make sure that they have the resources needed to fulfill their mission in Kennesaw. I will also support community action groups such as Neighborhood Watch.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

On an immediate basis, I want to see changes in the sanitation department. Right now, the City has privatized the service. I am not convinced that the current supplier is the best provider for our Citizens. Even though I have heard the current elected officials say that it is impossible for the City to restart its own sanitation department, I am not convinced by their arguments. This needs to be explored in much more detail.

What will you do to ensure the City of Kennesaw is/remains business friendly?

We must be ever mindful about how our regulations affect businesses and how we tax businesses. It seems that business license fees are ever increasing and that the City gives very little back to the businesses. I want to have open communications with the Kennesaw Business Association. They will be the best source of information regarding how the City can most effectively help our local businesses to prosper.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

I have a good background in working with other governments. As a former President of the Cobb Municipal Association, I already am knowledgeable about the other Cities in Cobb. Regarding Cobb County Government, I believe that the City needs to have regular meetings with the County Commissioner representing the Kennesaw area. We certainly need to have regular communication with the Cobb Chairman. As far as State government, we need to have more frequent meetings with the Representatives and Senators directly representing Kennesaw. In addition, we need to have at least an annual meeting with the Cobb Delegation. Regarding our Representatives and Senators in Washington, DC, I have found that they are available to meet with City officials. One of our former representatives used to have regular Town Hall meetings hosted by the City of Kennesaw. I would like for the City to resume this type of meeting.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

Depending on the expense and who would pay for it, I support this concept in theory. There have been several light rail proposals over the years that have failed for one reason or another. I am always willing to review and study the proposals and would welcome one that would meet many of transportation needs in and around Cobb.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

Recreation is a integral part of a quality City and community. I want to see the City develop an outdoor entertainment venue either at Depot Park or Swift-Cantrell Park. With the proper type of well-designed facility, we can offer many innovative programs. I can easily see programs such as Shakespeare in the Park, various types of concerts including symphony performances, jazz bands, big band or any one of many different genres of music. A venue of this type could enable partnerships with Kennesaw State University and the Cobb County School System.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

The City of Kennesaw already has several employees that are involved in Reserves at Dobbins. I will support the needs of our employees that are involved in these vital activities. When I was on the Kennesaw City Council previously, I had the honor of participating in the Honorary Commanders group. This is a great program and I will support Citizens of Kennesaw that desire to become involved in this organization.

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Antonio "Tony" Jones (Kennesaw City Council, At Large, Post 3)

Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Jeffrey Oparnica (Kennesaw City Council, At Large, Post 3)

What is your overall vision for the City of Kennesaw?

I wish for the City of Kennesaw to be one of Georgia's "must-see" cities. We have many leaders of industry here, the state's second largest college, one of the busiest shopping districts in the county along Barrett Parkway, 3 breweries and a distillery. Despite all this, downtown Kennesaw remains a ghost town and we experience some of the highest rates of brain drain among our graduates from KSU. I want Kennesaw to be a city you come to visit and then stay to live rather than a pit stop on the way to somewhere "better".

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Kennesaw and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

Perhaps one of the largest challenges facing the city of Kennesaw is it's perceived image. For too long we have been viewed as a city of backwards ideals and prejudice. Kennesaw should be a welcoming city to all citizens and visitors alike. I intend to push a policy of inclusion for all peoples in Kennesaw.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

Land Use and Zoning are very important to maintaining a well functioning city. While I am free market idealist at heart, there are some issues that are better left to those who know what they're talking about. For example, the state of Texas has no zoning restrictions and what they wound up with is theme parks in residential areas and garbage dumps in business districts. Proper zoning and land use are necessary to better ensure the freedoms of all citizens to enjoy the city in which they live.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Smyrna’s citizens and businesses?

I do not have any plans for Smyrna, as the question states. Assuming that this should have been corrected to Kennesaw; Kennesaw is among the safest communities in Georgia and also the nation. I support the recent decision to merge Kennesaw's jail with Acworth and I would like to see more cost saving measures to our public safety system while maintaining our relatively high safety. One of the greatest problems facing the nation and our state currently is drug addiction and unfortunately Kennesaw is not spared from this plight. I would like to see the Kennesaw jail reformed into a drug addiction treatment center and perhaps a crisis intervention facility. Crime is not a big problem in our city, but our citizens struggling with addiction may always be a problem in America. I support proactive solutions rather than corrective ones. Let's help our citizen's overcome their problems and not further hinder them with legal struggles over mental health problem they already have.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

Kennesaw needs a restructuring of its sanitation services. Public outreach for those in Kennesaw living below the poverty line and community involvement/awareness needs to be increased through city sponsored programs. The city of Kennesaw Police should be required to wear body cameras during all interactions with the public to maintain complete transparency, both for the benefit of the citizen and the reputation of the Police Department.

What will you do to ensure the City of Kennesaw is/remains business friendly?

Kennesaw is already very business friendly, as we can tell by the large number of corporations who have made their North American or Southeast US home here. I intend to support any resolutions to continue to attract business the Kennesaw including subsidies and tax incentives to businesses that will bring money to our local economy and well paying jobs to our citizens.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

Local governments are synergistic and the departments within them need to work more diligently with each other to reach a common goal. Too many city services are compartmentalized and I think a broadening of authority among disciplines and an increase in communication among departments would create an environment where both city employees and citizens benefit from better transparency. Working with the State government and national government are always important as we rely on them for so much, but I believe that local municipalities should and do hold all the power and should focus on issues that affect themselves more than the rest of the world. Local governments should be focused on what is best for their cities and its citizens.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

Cobb County is severely behind the times in public transport and needs to get with this century. Public transportation is the mode of transport of the future. I fully support any viable public transportation options in the county and would push for a better connection with Marta, including rail.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

The downtown area of Kennesaw needs revamping. I would like to follow the model of our neighbors to the north, Woodstock. In their downtown business area, they have enacted policies that promote entertainment like a free summer concert series and ordinances that promote staying in the area like allowing open containers of alcohol within a specific area. I think Kennesaw should put pressure on developers building apartments and retirement homes and not bringing in any local business. One apartment complex in downtown has priced their retail spaces so high that no local business can afford to move in, all the while they line their pockets with the rent money of our citizens living in their complex, which goes out of our city even out of our county. Kennesaw has put a lot into helping develop this downtown area and the businesses who have taken advantage of this work should also be pulling their weight to help the city thrive.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

While I do support all of our service men and women, I do not feel the city of Kennesaw has any direct obligation the Dobbins ARB.

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Jimmy Dickens, Sr. (Kennesaw City Council, At Large, Post 4)

What is your overall vision for the City of Kennesaw?

My vision is to continue to develop Kennesaw as a signature city by offering an environment where it is the best place to live, learn, and work for our residents and business. Additionally, I feel it is very important for our city to foster a sense of community for all citizens and create a business climate that attracts top companies.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Kennesaw and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

Reflecting on my first term as serving on the City Council, the three biggest challenges that we should still focus on for the city of Kennesaw are as follows:

  • Transparency: We must be committed to financial transparency. Our city must continue to create a financial porter that provides stakeholders a transparent view of how funds are invested and used. Stakeholders should be able to access budget documents, financial reports, as well as interact with financial data through a financial portal on the City Of Kennesaw’s website.

  • Collaboration: We must continue to create a collaborative partnership between with the mayor and the City Council members to support all stakeholders in the city of Kennesaw. We must be open to hear viewpoints and issues from all constituents and make informed decisions and policies that will create a positive and inviting community for all citizens.
  • Financial Reserve: We must continue to make informed financial decisions. This will allow the creation of a strong financial reserve.

Three biggest opportunities: I believe the same opportunities that I communicated two years ago should are still our three biggest opportunities. They are as follows:

  • To continue to develop a partnership with Kennesaw State University.
  • To continue to focus on the revitalization of downtown Kennesaw
  • To continue to create a business friendly community which will attract top business to our community which will ultimately create a jobs for our citizens.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

I believe that it is essential to work with the planning committee and the zoning department to assess the needs of the city. Citizens must be consistently informed of future plans in forums where they can have a voice about upcoming plans. Committees must also work cohesively to support effective communication and implementation.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Kennesaw’s citizens and businesses?

I believe that we should continue to support our Chief of Police’s vision and plan for the safety and security of our citizens and businesses. We should continue to allocate funds through a defined budget to support salary increase and other resources necessary to effectively protect our officers, citizens and businesses.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

I am very pleased with the services provided to the citizens of Kennesaw. It is our duty to continually evaluate the age of our water systems, emergency preparedness services and any other operational services that may need enhancement or total transformation to support effective services for our citizens and businesses.

What will you do to ensure the City of Kennesaw is/remains business friendly?

I have been a business owner in Kennesaw for 11 years. The Kennesaw Business Association is one of the best tools to get local businesses involved in the city of Kennesaw. The KBA continually seeks local and state government officials to share forecast for our community. Additionally, supporting new entrepreneurship by walking them though the proper steps of establishing a business.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

Since we are so fortunate to have the city of Acworth and Marietta on our borders, it is very important to create a forum where we invite our legislators and senators to come and meet with our stakeholders, businesses, and our school board to discuss topics at hands and future support for our city.

What is your position on the possibility of building a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

I think a ( BRT) would be great as long as it is not a financial burden on the city. It would open up opportunities to provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

I support a late school start. Since our city is very conducive to hot summer days and the attractions that are here ( Six flags, White Water, etc. ) people come from other states bringing money to Georgia. Our local students in most cases are working these summer jobs. This may be their first job experience and assist them in having money to support their families and or school needs. If we shorten the summer, our economy is minimized, too. There are 111,460 students in Cobb County alone with 16,468 teachers if we shorten the summer where most families take vacations and spend family time everyone may not be able to take off in that short time frame for the summer. I would prefer to keep building family time, keep tourism high, keep our teenagers working gaining income and skills, and continue growing our economy during a longer summer.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

I would love the city to have a multi Quad center with multiple use in it such as an indoor swimming pool, basketball courts, games and entertainment for the family.

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Chris Henderson (Kennesaw City Council, At Large, Post 4)

What is your overall vision for the City of Kennesaw?

Maintain the history and character of Kennesaw while working to bring to fruition the live, work, play concepts of the City’s Comprehensive Plan while providing robust opportunities and proper infrastructure for local businesses to thrive in safe and accessible areas in which residents and visitors alike will enjoy for years to come.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Kennesaw and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

Challenges:

  • Accountability of public officials is required to instill trust in the people they serve. Kennesaw is lacking accountability in some areas and I would like to see changes made to ensure all officials are held to standards by which the voters entrusted them to act.
  • The City of Kennesaw currently has the highest tax rate in Cobb County; leading to a significant opportunity for improvement of fiscal responsibility with the goal of reducing the mileage rate and increase reserve fund. I hope to bring my 13 years of experience as a project director for Georgia Tech Research Institute to help analyze spending and operational trends while looking for ways to improve efficiency in operations without reducing services.
  • Transportation and infrastructure have proven to be challenge within the City. A concerted effort is currently being placed on significant updates to infrastructure and future plans for development. My goal is to enable the professional staff of the city to effectively execute on the plans to improve the infrastructure.

Opportunities:

  • The City of Kennesaw is on the verge of completing revitalization and redevelopment projects in downtown districts which once complete have the opportunity to reinvigorate interest from current and future residents while enabling business growth and retention.
  • Kennesaw State University currently provides many opportunities for the community to engage including festivals, sporting events and arts and cultural initiatives. These opportunities could provide place making initiatives within our community in such ways as collaborative art installations, incubation spaces and future efforts all of which will define areas for the students to remain a permanent resident after graduation.
  • There is a great opportunity for branding as well as continued product development for tourists and residents to enjoy for generations to come. These items include making sure that as a community we know who we want to be and therefore branding our future around that destiny as we communicate it publicly in the future.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

My philosophy for land use and zoning would be to provide growth opportunities for current and future businesses while keeping to structured design guidelines. I believe that as our city continues to revitalize that we will have to be flexible and know that one size does not fit all and to bring in future developments we must remain open and think outside the box.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Kennesaw’s citizens and businesses?

Kennesaw has maintained relatively low crime statistics and is served by exceptional police and fire departments. With the current leadership and caliber of these key organizations I believe that we are well served, however, I am always open to the opportunity for any future improvement as needed.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

Waste Management is the current hot button topic within Kennesaw. Costs have recently increased and residents deserve a close look into the current services provided to ensure that the City continues to be a good steward of their interests.

What will you do to ensure the City of Kennesaw is/remains business friendly?

In order for the City of Kennesaw to remain business friendly and welcome new investment into our community I believe we should make sure that all partners are at the table. These partners include such agencies as the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, Kennesaw Downtown Development Authority, Kennesaw Business Association, Kennesaw Development Authority as well as other interested groups. I believe that there should also be strategic collaborative plans to continuously communicate with and provide resources for current and future development with the opportunity for flexibility as our market grows and changes.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

As collaboration is the key for all prosperity, it is vital to build and foster relationships with other governmental and private officials and staff. These relationships need to be built on trust and communication with persons of all mindsets in order to provide the best solution and opportunities for our residents, visitors and employees.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

As our region is projected to experience exponential growth in the coming years I believe that transportation is a top priority for the greater Atlanta area as well as Cobb County. I am open to any initiative that could alleviate that burden. However, appropriate diligence should be taken to ensure the benefits of the system outweigh the costs.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

As a long term member of academia and a millennial I believe that it is important that as a community we embrace the desires and culture of our future workforce. I believe one way to do this would be to partner with Kennesaw State University to develop an incubator space where the students as well as residents have a collaborative space where they have the ability to develop their businesses through entrepreneurial efforts and partnerships within the community making capital investments and developing a future for themselves and their families.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

With over 13 years working as a researcher on Department of Defense contracts, I have a great deal of first-hand experience in the needs and challenges related to military communities. I will use this knowledge along with my professional connections within the military community to help guide my decisions.

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James Sebastian, Jr. (Kennesaw City Council, At Large, Post 4)

What is your overall vision for the City of Kennesaw?

Controlled growth with controlled costs in collaboration with citizens, businesses, Kennesaw State University and surrounding neighborhoods to create a center of opportunity in the Atlanta Region where the sense of community allows families and businesses to thrive.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Kennesaw and how will you address them?

Financial ~ Costs are growing faster than revenue. Retirement, OPEB and excessive venue costs all need to be reviewed and revamped along with lesser areas of concern.

Charter/Ordinances ~ Current laws on the books governing all aspects of how the City operates are either archaic or in conflict with one another. Lack of a unified vision does not help in developing updated uniform laws. Elected official need to set the example and support staff in development of fair streamlined laws.

Goals ~ Without a unified vision embraced by all (elected officials and staff), nothing will change. Quantifiable goals verses subjective opinions are absent and must be put in place.

What are the three biggest opportunities?

Controlled Growth ~ Provide opportunities for new businesses to open and current businesses to grow and thrive while respecting the rights of current residents. Developers are the agent of change and must blend in with the surroundings they are entering. Monitored growth will create a desirable community for residents.

Maintaining Services ~ Even though Federal, State and County funds have dwindled, it is still the responsibility of municipalities to serve their businesses and residents. A better plan to keep service levels high while controlling costs is necessary. Any outsourced service must be held accountable just as internal services. Quantifiable goals and deliverables are required and must be enforced.

Quality of Life ~ This encompasses a need to ensure the basics are addressed. Maintenance of roads, sanitation, police and fire require constant operational review and upgrading. Once basics are satisfactorily addressed and funds are available, parks, gardens, theaters, museums, trails and other venues can be introduced for public benefit.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

Limit Development while fostering growth ~ State government requires long-range plans for roads, traffic, parks, development and living. Approved plans allow municipalities to seek ever-shrinking grants and other Federal/State funding. These plans are just guidelines that carry no accountability and are subject to interpretation that may or may not meet the intended results.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Kennesaw’s citizens and businesses?

Our police force is one of a handful across the country that have the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) designation. The Law Enforcement Accreditation Program was the first credentialing program established by CALEA. It was originally developed to address a need to enhance law enforcement as a profession and improve law enforcement service delivery. Additionally, crime statistics for Kennesaw are one of the lowest in the State.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is a Federally sponsored program of volunteer emergency workers who have received specific training in basic disaster response skills and who agree to supplement existing emergency responders in the event of a major disaster. Kennesaw is now offering classes to train citizens and create plans for their implementation in future events as extra safety assisting in traffic and crowd control.

In summary, besides continued upgrading of equipment and personnel training, the Kennesaw police force is excellent.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

Unfortunately, there is no way to get services back that have either been sold (Water) or outsources (Sanitation). Opinions and views on what constitutes ‘quality of life’ vary by individual. Most residents moved to Kennesaw because of the quaint ‘Old Town’ feeling. Allowing uncontrolled, dense multi-story apartments everywhere, including areas not originally designated for such while disregarding the current surrounding land use takes away from the very thing that drew folks here in the first place.

Better planning, more tax payor input and constant communication are needed to successfully change any City.

What will you do to ensure the City of Kennesaw is/remains business friendly?

The City has a numerous mix of large developments either in design or construction. Rules and laws have been relaxed to accommodate this growth. We need to continue working with developers for the best fits within surrounding areas. There is a lack of needed small businesses in downtown for various reasons. Abatements or other specific incentives need to be developed to entice the small business owners to the central business district. Finally, additional changes to shorten the time from initial inquiry and final disposition are needed.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

All levels of government are facing revenue that are not increasing in line with costs. There is a trickle-down effect starting with Federal funds and grants to States that have diminished dramatically over the years. This has led to less State funds and grants available to Counties and Cities. As a City, Kennesaw is the last level and must start to rely on citizens for revenues that no longer come from other sectors of government.

There are Federal and State projects and programs that the City is having to address or face fines where previously other entities handled these. Kennesaw must identify all programs available from other levels of government to assure receipt of its fair shar of funds for the betterment of our businesses and citizens.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

All metro areas are both blessed and cursed with businesses and neighborhoods that are geographically inconsistent. Mass transit like subways and rail are cost prohibitive. Government has wasted millions on proposals and plans that have never been implemented. While joint Public/Private projects show some promise, costs to users is high with most not able to afford the luxury.

Initially, proper maintenance of roads and bridges, better timing of signals and usage of modern conveyances and equipment would go a long way to improving traffic and citizen acceptance. Any workable long-term solutions will require a large amount of unavailable funding. Like any other area of government, there is a need to cut non-infrastructure costs and apply those funds to what the real task of government ~ Provide protection and service.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

Until funds become available, provide the proper service and maintenance to those services provided and venues already owned by the City such as police, sanitation, public works, parks, gardens, trails and meeting facilities. Create a true future vision plan via a citizen vote with deliverables and accountability.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

Kennesaw honors our military each year sponsoring a presentation and lunch. Further, support is shown in participating in numerous military functions throughout the year. There are properties close to the Cobb International Airport previously used by the military. The City is open to considering support for any program that would benefit the military and surrounding residents.

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David Blinkhorn (Kennesaw City Council, At Large, Post 5)

What is your overall vision for the City of Kennesaw?

My overall vision for the City of Kennesaw is taken straight from the Kennesaw City Vision: “To cultivate a progressive, vibrant community fostering an environment of opportunity, inclusion, and security, striving to be a city inspired by innovation, guided by ethics, and enhanced by diversity.”

I will consider this statement every time I am tasked with considering an issue brought before the city council. My decisions will be based on these guiding principles.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Kennesaw and how will you address them?

Fiscally Responsible City Council: We need to consider the economic impact of all the decisions that are made on the council. And we need to be able to justify the costs to the citizens. Ultimately, as council members, we are representing the people of Kennesaw - - all of them - - and we need to make sure that we are not wasting the tax dollars of our citizens.

Citizen Engagement: I am meeting people every day who don’t seem to know what is going on in Kennesaw. They are very interested and want to be more involved, but our methods of communication are not reaching them. Our current approach is very passive. We have a city webpage, and news and events are there for you to find. But our citizens are much more technology savvy. They want their news sent to them rather than go find it. I propose a more robust means of communication through social media. Instead of just posting news to a traditional website we need to be communicating via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. If we want to engage our citizens we must adapt to current forms of communication.

Smart Growth Within the City: The city has taken the first step with the approval of a comprehensive plan for growth and development. Now it is up to the council to ensure that we are making good decisions based on those plans. Too often I am seeing business owners and developers seeking variances for little reason but their own personal agendas and goals. I am going to adhere to the plan and city’s vision when deciding what is best for Kennesaw. We have a plan and we have ordinances, and the residents of Kennesaw should not feel like they are fighting the developers and the city at the same time. I will be consistent and fair when it comes to growth and development within Kennesaw.

What are the three biggest opportunities?

Economic Growth through Small Business: Kennesaw welcomes the value that our national and international businesses add to the city’s economy. But it is the smaller locally owned businesses that truly shape and enhance our identity, prosperity and family friendly atmosphere as a city. I propose as part of our Economic and Development initiatives we partner with Kennesaw State University on developing our own small business incubator in the downtown area in conjunction with the university’s current small business projects in other parts of the county. Pulling together the expertise of the Coles College of Business and residents who desire to start their own business in Kennesaw is an easy endeavor to provide business downtown as well as local grown jobs.

Partnership with Kennesaw State University: I can’t emphasize enough the importance of our relationship with Kennesaw State University. Kennesaw State has grown from a small commuter school to a world recognized academic institution. And the city of Kennesaw has grown right along with the university. Multiple apartments and condominiums around the city of Kennesaw housing students and new families attending the university speak to that growth. I plan on continuing to work with Kennesaw State in establishing bus routes through downtown, a cultural or educational building within the city limits, and internships and job opportunities. There is no limit to the opportunities for KSU and the city of Kennesaw to partner.

Preserve and Showcase our Cultural Heritage: Kennesaw is blessed with a long history, historical landmarks, a world class civil war and locomotive museum, Swift-Cantrell Park, the Smith Gilbert Gardens, Big Shanty Festival and Pigs and Peaches to name a few events and places to enjoy within the city. Each provides value to the city by providing diverse opportunities for entertainment, education and just plain family fun.

How we promote these assets is important to the community both in preserving them for future generations and providing financial stability to these institutions. My plan is to work with our designated Art, Historical and Events committees to promote new events and continuing programs to drive attendance to these cultural venues. These initiatives by themselves will not be the sole solution for the growth and financial stability of these areas but it will be a first step in my bigger plan of a cultural and historical corridor between Marietta and Acworth with Kennesaw as the center piece.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

Property owners should be able to utilize their property for their own pleasure and profit. That being said, it is within the rights of the city to establish some guidelines for the overall city plan. The plan should be considerate to the overall needs of the community and may at times conflict with individual plans and purpose. I will weigh the concerns of all involved and seek to balance the needs of the city with the wants of the owners when making my decision. Regrettably there will be times where my decision will not be totally satisfactory to either side, but I will be fair and consistent in my appraisal and determination.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Kennesaw citizens and businesses?

I am proud that Kennesaw has such a skilled and professional police force. The safety and security of businesses and residents of Kennesaw can’t be overstated. I plan to continue to support the safety of our community through multiple ongoing programs such as safe transaction zones, zoning enforcement, community watch programs, and interagency cooperation just to name a few.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

The city recently approved a $3 Streetlight Fee to help fund the Quality of Life initiative that takes effect Jan. 2018. It is imperative that the city follows through on its commitment to improve the neighbor appearances as promised with this fee assessment. The fee was met with much public opposition, but I agree with its need. It is my personal commitment to the residents that I will follow through with the city’s commitment to this program and promote the successes neighborhood by neighborhood.

What will you do to ensure the City of Kennesaw is/remains business friendly?

A strong partnership with current business is important to the vibrancy and friendly environment of businesses in the City of Kennesaw. I will seek out feedback not just from our Economic Development Committee but also from businesses directly to ensure a positive economic environment. I will promote fair and consistent initiatives that will encourage growth but not at the expense of our current businesses.

Again, partnering with KSU, Cobb County Chamber of Commerce and businesses so that we know what types of workers are needed and what businesses are seeking to relocate in our community. We need to offer not just recreational programs to the community but job skills programs through our community center. We need to educate our students on the soft skills needed for them to be successful in careers here in Kennesaw. An educated and skilled workforce is the single biggest factor for businesses seeking to relocate or open new offices.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

I will respect the professionalism and knowledge of those holding other offices and jobs that relate to the governance of the city, and when necessary I will ask for their advice and counsel. All parts of the governing bodies need to be working together for the good of all our citizens.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

I am in favor of a premium transit system linking business centers in our community and region. The Atlanta metro area is well behind the other major metro areas in our country when it comes to mass transit. The population of Cobb county by itself has become so diverse of people, culture and business that it is unfathomable that we tolerate the traffic congestion that impacts our quality of life.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

I would like to see Acworth, Kennesaw and Marietta develop an historical and cultural corridor that follows Hwy 41. The plan would be to tie together historical and cultural landmarks interspersed with unique local shops and restaurants. Wide sidewalks, bike lanes and on street parking would be the goal. Instead of the mass market of Cobb Parkway you would have a truly unique shopping, cultural and educational experience similar to downtown Roswell but connecting three of the oldest and historical towns in Georgia “cultivating a progressive, vibrant community fostering an environment of opportunity.”

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

There is no greater honor than serving our country. Those who voluntarily make that choice to serve are to be commended and supported. Whether it is the simple act of standing during the national anthem or placing a flag on a veteran’s grave, no act is too small or too great when it comes to honoring those who have served or serve now. The best way that we as community leaders can support our military partners is to be educated on the political initiatives that threaten the strength of the military in our community. Speaking out in a unified voice in support of our military partners and Dobbins Air Base is important so that our leaders beyond our state lines don’t seek to diminish the military presence in Georgia.

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Marietta City Council


Greg Bieger (Marietta City Council, Ward 1)

What is your overall vision for the City of Marietta?

My vision is to continue building a future for Marietta where communities can work, live, play and thrive.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Marietta and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

The first major challenge facing the city is the lack of a long-term vision that supports the growth of all communities. From this comes the second challenge which is balancing the growth of new developments and lack of affordable housing which can push out residents who work for and own local businesses. I also see a challenge concerning the long-term care of our city streets. Caring for our infrastructure has immediate and long-term benefits including increased tourism, lower rates of auto accidents, and decreased costs to businesses, especially logistics companies.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

I believe that protecting personal property rights is of the utmost importance. However, no person is an island and we must work to ensure that the community also has an opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Marietta’s citizens and businesses?

The Marietta Police Department has done an outstanding job with Marietta’s safety and security. I will continue to support their efforts across the city and I look forward to the continue growth of their community outreach programs.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

I know that infrastructure is the bedrock of the city and maintaining our city streets is high on my list of priorities. I will also work on fixing the many neglected sidewalks and streetlights in Marietta neighborhoods. The safer we feel driving and walking in our city the better we will be as a community.

What will you do to ensure the City of Marietta is/remains business friendly?

I will have an open door policy for all citizens, including business owners. As the cofounder of Horizon Partners I know that city council needs an open line of communication with the businesses here in Marietta and I intend to be on the other end of that line listening.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

Communication is key in working responsibly with all levels of government. I will work diligently to keep an open line of communication with officials at the local, state and federal level to ensure Marietta’s continued prosperity.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

I fully support the development of a robust and effective transit system in Cobb and Marietta. Especially if the system will help ease the commutes of those residents who travel into Atlanta for work or fun. I would also like to see the transit system benefit the local universities we have here to help support our hard working students.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

I would first like to handle the parking issues in Marietta Square. I believe we can support visitors, locals, and employees with some innovative solutions as long as we think outside the box. I would also like to ensure that our city’s infrastructure is taken care of by doing the hard work of filling potholes, fixing sidewalks, and lighting streetlights.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

First I would like to thank our troops for their dedication and self sacrifice both home and abroad. I believe we have a duty to continue to support Dobbins Air Reserve Base with what it needs as well as continue to ask how we can support those who work and serve on base. I also believe that the city can play a more active role in working with the base in times of crisis like the recent evacuation of Puerto Rican patients by the Red Cross and Air Force.

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Jay Davis (Marietta City Council, Ward 1)

What is your overall vision for the City of Marietta?

Marietta is a prosperous and thriving place where people want to live, work and play. My vision is that future generations continue to grow based on this wonderful foundation.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Marietta and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

The three biggest challenges I see are interconnected. How to fund a growing population’s need for municipal services, insure that our City employees are assured of the compensation they deserve and not have to raise taxes every year. Zero based budgeting should be implemented when feasible. Long range planning with the interest of all segments of the community in mind should drive decisions.

The three biggest opportunities are:
Development along Franklin Gateway
The ability to provide housing and job opportunities for expanding population.
Continued economic development via cooperation with County and State ED agencies.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

The Future Land Use for the city has been developed with input from various community groups. Following this plan will allow controlled growth and the ability to increase the economic stability of the City.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Marietta’s citizens and businesses?

The Marietta Police Department does an outstanding job of providing security for our community. My plan is to support them in any way possible.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

The City of Marietta provides services that much larger cities are not able to offer. Having lived in multiple cities over the past 50 years, I think Marietta’s services are world class.

What will you do to ensure the City of Marietta is/remains business friendly?

My entire adult life has been focused on business. First my employers and then in later years, a series of startups. I understand how critical a business friendly government is to a startup or a company that needs to find a qualified work force. My role will be to provide encouragement and support in any way possible. Business is the underlying foundation of our continued success.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

As all levels of government cooperate, then companies that can have a regional impact will bring expansion to our area. Expanding the pie is the best way to obtain what is needed for our community.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

Data. It’s all about data. If we can show our citizens the economic benefit that a premium transit system brings then they will support it. My company worked on a project for one of the largest transit systems in the country. I’ve seen first hand how beneficial it can be.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

Marietta has projects year-round that bring community participation and quality of life enhancements. My role should be to encourage these projects and assist others.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

As a veteran, not only of active duty, but also as a reservist, I understand how important a support system is for military families. As a municipal partner, we can provide housing and job opportunities so that these families become part of the community and want to stay.

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Cheryl Richardson (Marietta City Council, Ward 1)

What is your overall vision for the City of Marietta?

I see the City of Marietta as a great place to live, work and raise a family. One of the reasons that I moved to Marietta is that my business was in the City, so I wanted to live in the City. Keeping Marietta, a city where the residents want to use local businesses, where the types of businesses available within the city are the type the residents want and there are a variety of businesses available is important to the future of Marietta. There has been a great deal of effort to vitalize the Square and to make it a place where everyone wants to go. Now we need to look away from the Square along the corridors that lead into the city, such as Fairground Street, North and South Marietta Parkway and Cobb Parkway.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Marietta and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

Biggest challenges:

  • Business Development: Over the last few years, the City has successfully rebounded from the housing crisis of the last decade. Along with that success, the City has fulfilled its promise to increase and improve the parks and recreational services throughout the City. This commitment to live and play, now requires a commitment to work. Business development needs to be as much of a priority for the city as housing and recreational development.

    Most of the commercial areas of Ward 1 in Marietta fall within one of the Tax incentive and Financing Zones for the city: the Marietta Opportunity Zone, the HUBZone, the Marietta Military Zone or the Less Developed Census Tract. The City must actively begin to attract businesses that are willing to hire local workers and locate their businesses in these areas.

  • Housing Development: In 2011, Marietta was number 22 out of 25 on CNN’s Top Places to Retire. At that time CNN stated that the cost of housing would not make you “swoon.” The article also said that Marietta’s cost of living index was 95; the higher the number the better. The Median Home Price, according to CNN, in 2011 for Marietta was $168,000. According to Zillow, today it is $259,800, which is 5.8% more than last year, and a little more than 150% over seven years. I do not want to go back to the time when Marietta had apartments and little pride of ownership, but the City must continue to care about and provide housing options for retirees, military, public servants, and teachers.

  • Infrastructure: Infrastructure will always be a challenge for any city. Public transportation, parking and road safety and traffic are issues that plague Marietta, as they do most cities. As the city continues to add additional housing, these issues will only be compounded.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

Having served on the Planning Commission, I believe that the City of Marietta has done a great job in both future land use planning and current land use and variance determinations. It is important to stick to the plan to protect the population and density of different areas. Also, the plan helps to allow the ordered expansion of the city’s infrastructure.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Marietta’s citizens and businesses?

I think Marietta is a safe city. I attribute this to the communication between the police department and the residents. MSTAR Zone briefings that provide updated information to residents regarding trends in criminal activities allow residents to stay informed and engaged in their community. The recent addition of the Public Safety Ambassador’s Unit is another dimension of the police force that promotes community engagement and extends the presence of the police force through the city.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

I would like an opportunity to ride along with Code Enforcement and see what they do and how they respond to complaints. I would like to follow a complaint through to enforcement. As I drive through Ward 1, I see several code violations and I am concerned that code violations not only devalue the neighborhood, but in some instances, contribute to crime and safety issue as well.

What will you do to ensure the City of Marietta is/remains business friendly?

Engagement and dialogue with current business owners is the only way to keep the city business friendly. As a Business Attorney, I work with new business start-up and existing businesses, and I believe that Marietta is a great location for small businesses. For businesses, small or large to survive, It is important for the city to understand the needs of the business and how the city can help businesses to be successful.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

This is a hard question to answer because I do know how the cities currently collaborate. I think small group collaboration is always better than big group sessions. I also think common area collaboration is better than just general collaboration. Some of the common issues would be business development, infrastructure and crime and safety.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

There is no evidence that even with the large number of cars on the road, the cost of gas and the time to travel from point A to point B, that an extended public transit system would be used by the masses. In June, there was an editorial in the MDJ that talked about the lack of riders on the CobbLinc buses. In June, there was hope that the ridership would improve, I do not think there has been much improvement, nor do I think there is a reason to think about expanding services now.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

I am very passionate about the development of businesses within the city. I believe that there are many opportunities for business to locate in Marietta and for those businesses to thrive here. In order for that to happen, the city must promote the tax benefits and incentives of locating business in certain areas of the city to attract businesses to those areas.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

As a 22-year veteran of the military, I believe that the municipal community partners should support the military in all ways possible. The primary challenges facing military retirees, former military and veterans are medical issues and housing. I do not think the city can do a lot to assist with medical issues. However, in the area of housing, I feel that appropriate housing availability – not apartments, extended stays or hotels, but appropriate and affordable within the city is a must.

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Grif Chalfant (Marietta City Council, Ward 2)

RUNNING UNOPPOSED - Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Johnny Walker (Marietta City Council, Ward 3)

RUNNING UNOPPOSED - Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Andy Morris (Marietta City Council, Ward 4)

RUNNING UNOPPOSED - Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Reggie Copeland (Marietta City Council, Ward 5)

Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Ruben Sands (Marietta City Council, Ward 5)

Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Michelle Kelly (Marietta City Council, Ward 6)

RUNNING UNOPPOSED - Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Joseph Goldstein (Marietta City Council, Ward 7)

RUNNING UNOPPOSED - Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Marietta City School Board


Alan Levine (Marietta City School Board, Ward 1)

What are your qualifications for School Board and what business experience do you have?

I was a math and science teacher for ten years. During that time, I taught every subject from middle school through high school, from beginning physical science through IB Chemistry, from introductory geometry through calculus. Today, I am an attorney with a solo practice. Not only do I run my own business, but I have litigated business disputes and drafted and negotiated business contracts.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both earlier and later starts. Later starts enable students to participate in additional travel and family vacations, sports and academic camps, or earn some more money working. But earlier starts mean we offer a week-long fall break that students and families appreciate. What the surrounding, larger school systems do can factor into our choice in Marietta. I am always willing to consider the input of our families, teachers and staff about our academic calendar, as well as that of local businesses and other interested members of the community.

What is your position on E-SPLOST for funding capital projects in the school district?

The E-SPLOST sales tax is voted on by the community. So, it is a fundamentally democratic decision of everyone to support our local public schools. When our public schools thrive, our community thrives. In Marietta, just some of the projects E-SPLOST will enable us to realize are the needed replacement of Park Street Elementary School, and the construction of a state-of-the-art College & Career Academy. It will help us revitalize education for our students in an increasingly competitive marketplace by allowing the redesign of learning environments and provide for more interactive learning, virtual reality, and implementation of other STEM technology devices.

Marietta cannot remain the wonderful city it is and continue attracting families and businesses if its school system stagnates, let alone regresses. Educated, empowered graduates contribute to our economy and social fabric as they grow into skilled employees, savvy business owners, innovators, researchers, artists, philanthropists, and so on, no matter the profession they choose. E-SPLOST is a wise investment in the future which our voters are periodically asked to re-affirm.

What is your position on charter schools and career academies?

For Marietta City Schools, being a charter system since 2008 has meant freedom to excel and a rejection of government mandated, standardized test-driven, mediocrity. It gives us flexibility to make adjustments in staffing, teaching methods, and management in exchange for higher accountability. At the elementary level we offer Choice Academies including, but not limited to, International Baccalaureate primary years programs, as well as a STEM magnet school at the Marietta Center for Advanced Academics.

Throughout Marietta City Schools, we use our flexibility to enable small learning communities, experiment with varied models of instruction and assessment including traditional classroom pedagogy, web-based learning and virtual reality, and laboratory and practical experiences. In fact, through our new College and Career Academy, we will partner with the local business community to provide real-world experiences (internships, externships, apprenticeships), and job and vocation related training for our students. So, whether a student wants to obtain a good job right out of high school, or attend a four-year university, we are enabling and empowering that student to realize their potential and dreams. This is in effect a continuation and expansion of our career pathways curriculum which is already providing more opportunities for real, practical learning. These examples are just some of what Marietta City Schools have done with our freedom to innovate and why we are the 2016 Charter System Innovator of the Year.

What suggestions would you make to further incorporate workforce development initiatives into the school district?

Part of the answer to this question is provided above where I briefly mention our career pathways and College and Career Academy. Partnerships with the larger community are crucial to workforce development. This does not mean just the business community, though that is crucial, but the post-secondary academic community, the faith community, and everyone who cares about Marietta’s future are potential and needed partners. For instance, we now have a Graduate Student Success Center that not only provides much needed tutoring and academic support, but also provides food and clothing to our most socioeconomically vulnerable students. Many civic and volunteer organizations, as well as businesses and individuals, have partnered with Marietta to support the Center. In addition to tutoring, non-academic support helps us keep our students in school so they can finish their education and go on to become productive members of the workforce.
Thus, the crux of my suggestion is, if we are to keep doing what we’re already doing, and we should because we’re seeing positive results, we must engage those who are not yet involved to partner with Marietta City Schools. Of course, that means businesses and civic groups not yet partnered with us. But on an individual level, if you’re reading this and not involved, and care about the future of Marietta, join with Communities in Schools and come read with our elementary students, join Mentoring for Leadership and become a mentor to a student, or become a community coach for a school sports team or club. The connections formed between you and our students, even one, will have long-term, beneficial consequences not only for workforce development, but the overall happiness and well-being of you and all of Marietta.

What measures would you implement or support for continued improvement upon the Marietta City Schools 78.5% graduation rate?

The pre-Kindergarten learning program that we will launch next year will have long-term beneficial effects on our graduation rate. Presently, both our Graduate Student Success Center and Performance Learning Center are helping serve both the academic and non-academic needs of students. These two Centers are crucial to helping our struggling students stay in school, thrive, and graduate. Concerned community members are helping by giving their time to Mentoring for Leadership and making a one-on-one difference. When a struggling or disadvantaged student forms a mentoring relationship with an adult who can provide them advice and friendship, that student is more likely to stay in school and go on to further success. Our existing career pathways curriculum, and soon our new College and Career Academy, will inspire students not enthused by traditional book-learning and test-taking to remain in school and get the skills needed to enter the work force after graduation. Many will, after seeing potential in a vocation for success and fulfilment, not only graduate, but proceed to further study beyond high school.

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Arthur Vaughn (Marietta City School Board, Ward 2)

What are your qualifications for School Board and what business experience do you have?

I would bring the perspective of a parent with a longstanding history of service to the school system and the community to the board of education. I would bring the experience of someone with a doctorate in higher education management (UGA), dual masters degrees in Accounting and Public Administration coupled with education policy experience as Vice Chairman of the Georgia Postsecondary Education Commission. I would bring proven leadership and a 15+ year leader in the community to the office.

I currently serve and the Executive Director of Morehouse of Medicine and previously served as the Director of Fiscal Affairs and Controller at Southern Polytechnic State University.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

I believe the current start date of on or around August 1st with commencement being held Memorial Day weekend is appropriate. I support the current start date for the school year.

What is your position on E-SPLOST for funding capital projects in the school district?

The E-SPLOST is an excellent vehicle to share the fiscal responsibility for school facility costs without increasing long-term debt by the school system.

What is your position on charter schools and career academies?

I love the flexibility a charter system offers families within the Marietta School System. Supporting the neighborhoods school concept while embracing choice is something that I believe makes Marietta City Schools special.

I am not in favor of independent charters within the district.

After graduation students will elect to enter the workforce, continue onto postsecondary education, or military service. I believe career academies offer student a head start after the graduate from our school system. I fully support career academies.

What suggestions would you make to further incorporate workforce development initiatives into the school district?

Promoting student internships in a variety of fields is one way further incorporate workforce development in our school system. Students would be able to begin training and possible earn valuable certifications while in high school. Offering elective course that lead to certification and expanding the partnership with local vocational and technical schools would also be something that I would support.

What measures would you implement or support for continued improvement upon the Marietta City Schools 78.5% graduation rate?

All school systems have challenges. Marietta City Schools has its own set of challenges that seem to be less pervasive than the challenges many other school systems. If there is an addressable concern it would be around raising graduation rates at Marietta High School.

The Marietta Student Success Center, Graduate Marietta, the Marietta Mentoring for Leadership Program and the Marietta Performance Learning Center are all examples of viable wrap around services intended to enhance performance and increase graduation rate. I would ensure all of the programs have metrics around the increase in graduation rate.

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Jason Waters (Marietta City School Board, Ward 2)

What are your qualifications for School Board and what business experience do you have?

Having served one full term on the BOE and as Chair of the Board once and Vice Chair twice I feel I am the most qualified to continue our legacy of success. With a 20 year career in the private sector as a banker and financial planner I have seen personally what works and doesn’t work for companies to be successful. I use these skills every day in my board service.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

I support a balanced calendar that best helps kids. I do miss the days when school started near Labor Day but this is dynamic issue that is metro-wide. In any event, I don’t believe school should start in July.

What is your position on E-SPLOST for funding capital projects in the school district?

E-SPLOST has been a vital financing tool for our district. It has played a large part in funding necessary security enhancements and will play a large part of the College and Career Academy to be built at Marietta High School.

What is your position on charter schools and career academies?

I support charter schools and innovation in education. The Marietta Board of Education approved the dual language Franklin Road Charter School two years ago. This school didn’t materialize because the sponsor could obtain the necessary amount of private funding.

What suggestions would you make to further incorporate workforce development initiatives into the school district?

As a member of the Workforce Development Task Force I saw first-hand how secondary and post-secondary institutions along with the private sector need to work together. The best thing we can do as a district is to continue aligning our IB Career Pathways with the needs of industry and construct the Career Academy.

What measures would you implement or support for continued improvement upon the Marietta City Schools 78.5% graduation rate?

There are three key drivers to this issue:

  • A lot of kids drop out not due to academics but due to the lack of social and emotional support. We need to continue strengthening the Graduate Marietta Student Success Center to provide wrap-around services for children.

  • We need to increase our credit recovery options for 9th graders that are behind in core subjects. We have to look at innovative ways to teach the kids, particularly in Math so they don’t get behind to begin with.
  • The Career Academy will give kids hope that there is the right spot for them. Seeing successful industry partners and hearing the opportunities for them will motivate the kids and give them the hope they need that they can succeed in career and life.

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Randy Weiner (Marietta City School Board, Ward 3)

RUNNING UNOPPOSED - Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Allison Gruehn (Marietta City School Board, Ward 4)

What are your qualifications for School Board and what business experience do you have?

I began serving in September, 2015, fulfilling the unexpired term of Jill Mutimer. I ran to continue the good work done by Jill and the other members elected in 2013. Elementary school choice and hiring/retaining the best educators were my issues of interest. I graduated from Marietta High School and have two children attending Marietta Middle School. I have a vested interest in the success of Marietta City Schools. I have volunteered at every school my children have attended, both in the classroom and for the school at large via various PTA committees. My business experience includes working as a Commercial Banker with SunTrust Bank and serving as a bookkeeper for two local non-profits. The success of Marietta City Schools directly impacts property values, business relocations and our local economy. I am proud of our system and look forward to continuing to represent the voices of students, parents, educators and our community at large.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

I personally have no preference for the start date. I can see benefits of both. Our system allows for the School Governance Teams (comprised of parent, teacher and community representatives) to provide feedback regarding calendar options. I have always voted in favor of the calendar recommended by our SGTs.

What is your position on E-SPLOST for funding capital projects in the school district?

I firmly believe that E-SPLOST is an effective way to fund capital projects. It allows the citizens of Marietta to weigh in on the merits of the proposed projects. These capital projects are then paid for by funds received from travel, tourism and general spending within Cobb County.

What is your position on charter schools and career academies?

Marietta City Schools became one of Georgia’s first Charter systems in June, 2008 and was named Charter System Innovator of the Year in 2016. Our Graduate Marietta Student Success Center and its approach to aid our students led to the award. The Center has been renamed Student Life Center as it is accomplishing more than an increase in the high school’s graduation rate. It is meeting the various needs of students from clothing and food to substance abuse intervention and tutoring.

The most recent E-SPLOST will fund a College and Career Academy at Marietta High School. This exciting project will benefit all students. Those wishing to enter the workforce can be industry-certified in a particular field, while those wishing to enroll in college will be better prepared for the post-secondary landscape.

What suggestions would you make to further incorporate workforce development initiatives into the school district?

Marietta City Schools’ partnership with the Cobb Chamber under the direction of Rob Garcia III has allowed for many local firms to invest in the lives of our students and help prepare them for the workforce. Students gain a better understanding of what industries they might pursue and what would be required/expected by the leaders in those fields.

What measures would you implement or support for continued improvement upon the Marietta City Schools 78.5% graduation rate?

For some of our students, they will be the first high school graduate in their family. We must foster that sense of pride as early as elementary school. Sawyer Road Elementary encourages their teachers to wear college/university shirts to encourage the youngest of our students to reach for that goal of graduating and obtaining a post-secondary degree. Each year our seniors visit the elementary school they attended. They wear their cap and gown and explain to the students their journey to graduation. Our continued focus on meeting individual students’ needs through varied class offerings, correct class placement, and tutoring will enhance our graduation rate. We must be vigilant in the tracking of students who do not return to MHS as that is detrimental to our perceived success. At the recent Marietta Middle School Open House, students and parents learned the importance of staying on track to graduate and the various steps that will occur during the 8th grade year to prepare for a successful transition to high school. For students who may get off track due to a family crisis (an out of work parent, loss of their home) we offer the Performance Learning Center (a program under the guidance of Communities in Schools). This program is structured to allow the students to get back on track and graduate from Marietta High School alongside their peers. The unique structure of the program allows for students to attend classes Mondays-Thursdays for an extended day. If the student has a job they may work Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Some families do not realize the exponentially greater earning potential for staying in school and obtaining that high school diploma. The earlier we can reach students and their families, the more likely they are to graduate on time.

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Camile Jones (Marietta City School Board, Ward 4)

What are your qualifications for School Board and what business experience do you have?

I am an educator. After teaching high school science in the Metro Atlanta area I transitioned to the early learning arena. I currently am the Assistant Director at a pair of early learning facilities in Marietta that are owned and operated by my family. In addition to the day to day operations and instructional support, I work with my family to implement business strategies to recruit new clientele and maintain positive relationships and customer service with our current clients. Growing up in the business I have developed an acumen for understanding the local climate and how policies, housing, and schools affect our business over time.

In addition to my work as an educator and a local business professional, I am an education and children advocate. Spending most of my volunteerism leading and working with community organizations to improve the education landscape of the most vulnerable students and families.

I have a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and have participated in fellowships and professional development pertaining to college and career readiness, STEM and STEAM integration, education policy and community organizing.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

I support what is best for students. Since standardized testing in Georgia has requirements (set by the state) on when they can be implemented I support students having more time on the front end to prepare for the Georgia Milestone, as opposed to more days after state testing. Therefore, I support an earlier start date for students.

What is your position on E-SPLOST for funding capital projects in the school district?

I support the E-SPLOST for funding projects in Marietta City Schools. The revenue generated from the ESPLOST can be utilized to upgrade facilities to address capacity issues as well as develop contemporary learning environments, upgrade technological infrastructure and technology, and provided teachers, administrators and district officials with the necessary resources to support improved operations. Getting voters to support E-SPLOST is a win for students and the community at large.

What is your position on charter schools and career academies?

My position on charter schools and career academies depends on if there is local support and if the growth in student learning and achievement is observable and measureable. From my experiences, connections, and research I know that these institutions have the capacity to develop scholars and leaders through dynamic instruction, local autonomy, increased flexibility and innovation. Though I have also seen the latent effects of charter schools such as strains on shared resources and increased opportunity for corruption.

In Marietta, it is imperative that we are doing what is best for all students. If that means developing career academies based on student interests or opening charter schools to allow for more choice and inspire innovation district wide then I am in support. Though, I do believe institutions like these need to be watched carefully and that they must be developed with community support and participation.

What suggestions would you make to further incorporate workforce development initiatives into the school district?

I believe high school students should be able to develop skills and job training while simultaneously earning their high school diploma. For this to be possible, it is critical that students are exposed to potential professions throughout their K-12 matriculation. I suggest collaborating with companies, firms, entrepreneurs and local industry in Marietta, Cobb and the Metro-Atlanta area to work with our students for internships, externships, field trips, and apprenticeships. Marietta City Schools is a charter district so we may have the opportunity to create class credit for high school students obtaining job training during school hours. Additionally, with Kennesaw State, Chattahoochee Technical College and Life University in our backyards, I would strengthen these relationships to increase the number of dual-enrollment students.

From cosmetology to film, computer coding to HVAC, there are a multitude of profitable industries right in our community. I think we would greatly empower our students if they were able to graduate from Marietta High School with a high school diploma and a skill that would land them a job (or enable them to start their own business) the day after graduation.

What measures would you implement or support for continued improvement upon the Marietta City Schools 78.5% graduation rate?

The school district has made considerable gains in their graduation rate. In addition to the work that is already being done to move students, I would like to assess and potentially expand the services of the Marietta Success Center to provide opportunities and resources that are differentiated based on the needs (social-emotional, academic, etc.) of each student.

Additionally, I believe work still needs to be done around the school climate. How do all kids feel in their schools? How do the teachers feel about their work, their students and their students’ families? Looking at the Georgia Department of Education’s School Climate Star rating, we are below state averages. Working on these perceptions through dialogue, policy and direct actions can prove to help boost the school culture so that it is on of all kids have the tools and the support necessary to graduate and succeed.

Finally, I would implement increased resources for interventions and professional development for elementary and middle school students and teachers, respectively. Graduation does not start in 9th grade but in Kindergarten. There are students being promoted without mastering grade level content. It is important we reach these students and their families early on so that they have the foundational skills needed to matriculate successfully through high school.

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Jeriene Grimes (Marietta City School Board, Ward 5)

What are your qualifications for School Board and what business experience do you have?

Actively involved Mother of 4 children that I raised and educated through the MCS

Experienced board member with a clear vision for the district.

I believe in practicing complete transparency and communication of the board's actions to the community.

I have enjoyed working as a team with my fellow board members and superintendent

My focus is centered on what is best for all students

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

I support a later start date for students and families to enjoy the summer months

What is your position on E-SPLOST for funding capital projects in the school district?

I support use of E-SPLOST because it's purpose is to construct, renovate, and revitalize aging school facilities district wide to ensuring a well-maintained and secure learning environment for students and staff at all campuses; and, keep pace with rapidly changing technology for student learning.

What is your position on charter schools and career academies?

There are pros and cons of Charter schools which are independent entities that have received a charter, which is a set of self-written rules (and promises) about how the school will be structured and run.

Results have shown that charter schools haven't boosted test scores or led to significant innovations or cost savings for taxpayers. Although there are some excellent charter schools, there isn't evidence that charters, on the whole, can produce better results for less money.

They risk fiscal inefficiency, They sometimes have an unfair playing field, They provide less money for the classroom, They observe less transparency They have less local accountability and control They are less diverse.

I am in favor of career academies, that are designed to prepare students for both college and careers. They are schools within schools that link students with peers, teachers, and community partners in a structured environment that fosters academic success.

What suggestions would you make to further incorporate workforce development initiatives into the school district?

Engage students in work experiences by internships, summer job programs, career shadowing, service projects, part time employment, youth run businesses

We must make sure our school programs are more responsive to the labor market by enlisting the employer community as a lead partner.

We must continue to raise the threshold for quality career pathways in secondary schools. We must develop and make available to all students an array of high quality career pathways spanning secondary and post secondary levels that combine rigorous academics with an applied curriculum and work-based learning opportunities, supported by focused career planning and guidance.

We ensure that career preparation matters to schools and all students

What measures would you implement or support for continued improvement upon the Marietta City Schools 78.5% graduation rate?

Make use of proven early-warning indicators.

Focus on attendance data. Attendance is the precursor to engagement, learning, academic success, and, yes, graduation.

Embrace collective responsibility for academic success. Attendance improves when teachers take collective responsibility for the success of the whole school, not just their individual students. A school culture that stresses collective responsibility for absences and academic success might include team meetings around real-time attendance reports or shared outreach when students do not show up to class

Raise the bar to "Bs or better."

Foster supportive relationships to ease transitions. The transition from the middle grades to high school can lead even good students to struggle—a dramatic drop in grades, attendance, and academic behavior is a common warning sign of this strain. In high school, it’s easier to skip class and harder to figure out how to get help with coursework. But high school doesn’t have to be impersonal. Teachers, counselors, coaches, mentors, and friends can make a concerted effort to reach out to students when they show signs of falling behind or disengaging, find out why they are struggling, and get them the academic or emotional support they need.

Assess and refine disciplinary practices.

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Angela Orange (Marietta City School Board, Ward 5)

What are your qualifications for School Board and what business experience do you have?

Education is my passion and career experience. I’ve worked in education for the past 15 years. I’m a product of Georgia schools beginning as salutatorian at my southern Georgia high school-Early County High School- followed by a B.A. at Emory University, a Master’s of Theological Studies at Emory University, and a Master’s of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

I taught for two years in New Orleans at a low-income middle school. I currently serve as Managing Director in Teach for America-Metro Atlanta wherein I collaborate with multiple school districts (small and large) and a diversity of educators to advocate for the best practices and policies to uplift all students. I’ve worked in entrepreneurial, fast-paced environments with a focus on achieving results. I’ve developed programs from the ground up, established and monitored partnerships, lead a team toward measureable results and impact I’m also adept at vision setting, strategic planning, generating ideas and finding synergies, giving presentations, fundraising, financial reporting, and developing community partnerships with business interests.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

I support a later start date provided that 180 days of instruction are maintained and good teaching and learning are happening. A later start date supports the local travel and tourism economy given that families spend a greater proportion of their travel and tourism budget in the summer months. In tandem with this support, I would also advocate for high quality summer programs so that students can continue to hone the knowledge and skills learned during the school year.

What is your position on E-SPLOST for funding capital projects in the school district?

Taxes fund public education. The hard reality is that passing property tax for needed facility improvements and technology is a much heavier lift than passing E-SPLOST. In either case, the primary concern is identifying specific needs and getting the biggest bang for the buck for taxpayers. E-SPLOST is a more equitable means of spreading the cost of education, and the quality of the public school system directly impacts the reputation and value of the whole Marietta community. Everyone in the community benefits.

What is your position on charter schools and career academies?

Charter schools and career academies have a place in the spectrum of public school options. The success of charter schools and career academies ultimately depends on the vision, accountability structure, and leadership of the school leaders and the teachers. They are school models but do not produce success on their own. The people who lead them and teach in them are the most impactful levers of success. I’ve seen bad charter schools and career academies and I’ve seen good ones.
It’s important that Career Academies not become dumping grounds for less academically prepared students; that the basic expectations not be less rigorous. Given the increased need of flexibility and likelihood of the job changes in the modern economy, it’s important that all students be prepared for post-secondary opportunities with strong basic skills in reading and math.
As for charter schools, the Marietta system of choice is tantamount to a system of charter schools in which the family can choose crossing neighborhood boundaries for a more personally tailored student-school experience. The success in this case depends on the vision, accountability structure and leadership of the school board. In a diverse community such as MCS, it’s important to maintain equal access to schools of choice.

What suggestions would you make to further incorporate workforce development initiatives into the school district?

Career-track programs must align with the probability of employment in our general community in specific career fields. That is likely to be best addressed through internships in local businesses supplemented with on-point classroom activities. We can work to expand internships in more local businesses, providing hands on experience for developing students. And, of course, expanding guest speakers and visits to the local workplaces are a good starting point to expand the vision of career opportunities for our students.

What measures would you implement or support for continued improvement upon the Marietta City Schools 78.5% graduation rate?

First, a diploma should be an indicator that the student is prepared to move on to higher education or a career. Too often, graduation rates are disconnected from adequate preparation.

Higher meaningful graduation rates begin with early learning opportunities. A child who begins the K-12 experience on the right track is more likely to be there at the finish line; for example, third grade reading and math scores are a strong indicator of ultimate academic success and derivative lifetime opportunities. Greater transparency and increased validity of assessment of progress in the early grades ensure early and accurate intervention for positive later outcomes. Higher expectations and concomitant support are essential at each step along the path toward graduation.

There is a graduation gap in the school system. White and Asian students graduate at a higher rate than black and Hispanic students. Common sense indicates a need to focus on black and Hispanic students to raise the overall graduation rate. In a positive direction, the Marietta School Board this year has mandated that the new Superintendent work toward closing this gap.

The above is an idealized approach for the student domiciled in Marietta throughout his/her K-12 experience. There is a separate issue regarding transient students. More effective programs need be developed to transition new transfer students into MCS. Transfers arrive at all grade levels. A definite need: Rather than merely relying on a transcript, the child must be assessed and placed in an MCS classroom that matches the child’s skills. Misplacement---which is often the case---is a prelude to academic failure and greases the path toward dropping out.

The old saw that the “issue is complex” certainly applies to graduation rates. There are many factors in addition to the above, but like any business, the details must be addressed to build a superior product. In the case of the school system, the product is the lifelong stability and prosperity of each student.

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Kerry Minervini (Marietta City School Board, Ward 6)

What are your qualifications for School Board and what business experience do you have?

I am currently serving as the Ward 6 Representative for the Marietta City School Board and have done so for the past six months. Prior to being elected, I have served as President and Vice President on PTSA Executive Boards at both Marietta Center for Advanced Academics and Sawyer Road Elementary. In addition, I represented MSGA at the PAC Title 1 Council last year as well as served on the Exemplary School Board Council with former MCS Superintendent, Dr. Emily Lembeck and MCS District PTA President, Lisa Mays. I continue to volunteer in the MMS school store as well as at various school functions. I also have two sons in Marietta City Schools so I have a vested interest in seeing our school system progress.

I have a degree in Finance and worked at Merrill Lynch for 13 years as a Project Manager which exposed me to various levels of budgeting and planning. I currently hold a real estate license and work as a Realtor for Harry Norman, Realtors which lends insight as to how school performance can effect property values of homes.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

I support a school calendar that is similar to the one that Marietta City Schools is currently utilizing. By instituting a calendar that starts in August and has multiple breaks throughout the school year, families get that much needed time together whether they decide to travel or stay in our community and take advantage of all it has to offer. In addition, our teachers get the time to recharge and plan properly for their school year.

What is your position on E-SPLOST for funding capital projects in the school district?

E-SPLOST has allowed our district to approve capital projects that may not have otherwise been funded. For example, the most recent passage of E-SPLOST is allowing MCS to build a new Park Street Elementary School and move forward with the College and Career Academy at Marietta High School. As long as the public continues to vote to support E-SPLOST, I will welcome the opportunity for the school board to utilize those funds to further capital projects within our school district.

What is your position on charter schools and career academies?

Our school district is a charter system and it affords our teachers and administrators the flexibility to meet the needs of all students while still adhering to state requirements. Teaching cannot be a “one size fits all” type of profession. Different student have different needs and the flexibility of a charter system allows our teachers to tend to our students as individuals rather than groups.

I support career academies as well. We cannot assume that all children will attend college after graduating high school. Career academies give students the options to develop those skills necessary to enter a technical school or the workforce right after high school. It is in our best interest and our responsibility as a community to prepare our students fully for whatever path they decide to follow post graduation.

What suggestions would you make to further incorporate workforce development initiatives into the school district?

It is crucial to continue to engage our community and business partners in determining what the needs are for our local workforce. By partnering with these leaders, we can determine what skills sets and occupations are needed to further our local economy. We can utilize that information to develop the classes and training at the College and Career Academy to help fill those needs.

What measures would you implement or support for continued improvement upon the Marietta City Schools 78.5% graduation rate?

I feel that the district has done a good job of laying the foundation for continued growth in our graduation rate. Between offering the ACT/SAT prep class at the high school this fall for the first time, moving forward with plans to construct the College and Career Academy, continuing to support and grow the Student Life Center at the high school and hiring the most qualified teachers for our district, I am certain we will continue to see not only growth in our graduation rate but also in our standardized test scores.

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Irene Berens (Marietta City School Board, Ward 7)

What are your qualifications for School Board and what business experience do you have?

I have served since 2001 as a School Board Member. Beyond that, I have taught dance and worked as an office manager. I bring all that experience to the School Board.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

Our School Governance Teams vote on different school calendars and we approve the one most supported. For some of our students, a long break means they lose the progress they have made during the school year.

What is your position on E-SPLOST for funding capital projects in the school district?

E-Splost has proven to be a great way to fund capital projects. Our constituents have supported that mechanism for funding needed improvements.

What is your position on charter schools and career academies?

We are in the process of building a career academy on our high school campus and I feel it will be highly successful in providing our students with skills for the workplace. We need to be sure to provide training that actually interests our students. Charter Schools must actually provide an educational environment that truly serves our students in a unique way before I can support formation. If that is done, I can consider a Charter School. We are a Charter System and the innovation has been great for Marietta City Schools.

What suggestions would you make to further incorporate workforce development initiatives into the school district?

We are heavily invested in starting our Career Academy at this time. We are always open to any partnerships that benefit our students.

What measures would you implement or support for continued improvement upon the Marietta City Schools 78.5% graduation rate?

Our Student Success Center continues to help move the needle on our graduation rate. I feel that our SAT/ACT Prep Courses and our move to stress academic achievement and College/Career readiness all the way down to elementary level will also help us make progress.

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Marietta Mayor


Steve "Thunder" Tumlin (Marietta Mayor)

RUNNING UNOPPOSED - Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Powder Springs City Council


Henry Lust (Powder Springs City Council, Ward 1)

What is your overall vision for the City of Powder Springs?

I want Powder Springs to be a safe and inviting place for our children to grow up, get a quality education and return to raise their families. I want visitors to envy the quality of life of those that live here. I would like to see more businesses that meet the needs of our residents and increase the opportunities for education, jobs and entertainment. I want the city to grow with balance.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Powder Springs and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

The 3 biggest challenges are:

  • The paving of city roads
  • The maintenance of city facilities
  • Attracting quality police officers
I. Money must be set aside from SPLOST funds, General funds, Grants, etc. to provide for a certain number of miles per year to be repaved so that we can catch up on those we were not able to pave during the recession. We need to allow in the budget for unexpected maintenance issues and ongoing facility needs.

II. We must continue to be competitive in trying to attract a well-qualified, diverse and creative police force that strives to communicate well with the public.

III. Our assets are: an interesting history, parks and recreation for our residents/visitors, a reasonable cost of living and a “small town community feel” in Powder Springs.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

Parts of the city need to be set aside for various types of businesses and residential areas. In order to provide for quality housing, strict restrictions need to be placed on builders to insure that neighborhoods do not deteriorate over a period of time. Downtown areas need to be a mix of businesses and residential areas so that the citizens can walk to restaurants, services and recreational activities.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Powder Springs’ citizens and businesses?

Neighborhood Watch Groups need to be formed all over the city. The Citizen’s Academy and Junior Patrol need to be enhanced. Officers need to periodically be involved in school activities and visible at community gatherings. I want to encourage our officers to be members of and participants in our local business associations and community organizations like the Powder Springs Community Task force and the Kiwanis Club of Greater South Cobb.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

  • Continue to improve trust and safety with improved communication with the City Police.
  • Continue to improve communications between our city: its elected leaders and city management and our citizens using multiple channels of communications.
  • Continue to expand efforts to attract quality businesses that serve our citizens.
  • Attract developers that will build quality homes.

What will you do to ensure the City of Powder Springs is/remains business friendly?

Constantly review and make recommendations on ordinance changes.
Survey those that do business in and with our city to measure their satisfaction.
Cut the red tape for getting permits and licenses.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

I plan to spend time with the County Commissioners/department heads, State Representatives/Senators, and others that help make decisions for our City. Attend meetings with other elected City officials to collaborate and get ideas for improving our city.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

If the county can get funds to do this without over taxing its citizens or cities, I would be in favor of it. Our cities cannot afford to fund this by themselves and our citizens should not have another added tax to do this.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

We need to survey our citizens to find out what projects and programs that they would like us to work on. I feel like Off-campus College and technical school courses could be offered at our High Schools and at our Ford Center facilities. Continuing education courses and career enhancement courses could also be offered. We should make better use of the Patricia C. Vaughn Cultural Arts Center for plays, concerts, art festivals and other entertainment of interest to our citizens.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

I would support efforts to ensure these facilities stay and grow in Cobb County providing jobs and other services to our community. I would support an actual presence in the City of Powder Springs.

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Nancy Farmer (Powder Springs City Council, Ward 3)

What is your overall vision for the City of Powder Springs?

My vision for Powder Springs is to bring in more businesses that bring jobs and opportunities for our citizens to shop in our city. We want to be a work, live and play community but most of our citizens have to go out of our city to find jobs. We also need more entertainment and attractions to get tourist to visit our community.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Powder Springs and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

What are our three biggest opportunities? The biggest challenges are: attracting restaurants and retail to our city, living within our budget while encouraging new business growth and keeping taxes low for our citizens. We can accomplish theswe by designating some of the upcoming SPLOST funds for renovations and the purchase of property that can be sold or leased to business that agree to open an establishment here.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

Our land use and zoning policies should ensure that residential and business are in areas where the use of land does not infringe on the rights of the adjoining neighbors. Mixed use zoning should be used where business and residential properties are compatible. When opportunities present themselves, our zoning regulations should be flexible.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Powder Springs’ citizens and businesses?

Neighborhood Watchers, police/citizens collaborations, Citizen Police Academies, Explorers Club for teens, etc. help bridge the gap for successful community relations. Advertising safety tips for citizens also helps. I would also advocate that we encourage the "See something--Say something philosophy."

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

I would like for the citizens to have more input into choosing new services and future projects that the city wants to implement. Sometimes large amounts of money are spent on events and activities that are poorly attended because the citizens are not interested in the ones the city chooses to offer. Communication is also a problem and we need to find a better ways of advertising our events.

What will you do to ensure the City of Powder Springs is/remains business friendly?

Sometimes our strict adherence on our policies and regulations prevent us from getting businesses that the citizens might want. We need to be more flexible and reevaluate the ordinances when the rules don't fix all business.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

Relationships need to be formed with the county, state and national decision makers. It is important for the city officials to know who to call on for help when the city needs it. This can be done by attending meetings and giving input on collaborative ideas, projects and budgets.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

I am in favor of enhancing the transit system and improving the connectivity between the cities in the region but we must not put all the burden on the cities to provide all the funds for these improvements. The taxpayers are overburdened right now from past projects.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

We have a water park,recreation center and parks with physical activities. We need more activities centers for younger people, especially teenagers. We also need more unique attractions to encourage tourist and the businesses they will support.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

We must honor our service men at Memorial Services and Prades. We need to advertise and contribute to the events in the county that help to honor Dobbins.

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Nancy Hudson (Powder Springs City Council, Ward 3)

Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Smyrna City Council


Maryline Blackburn (Smyrna City Council, Ward 3)

Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Jeff Carter (Smyrna City Council, Ward 3)

What is your overall vision for the City of Smyrna?

To continue to cultivate the involvement between local government and our residents to ensure we have a community that attracts businesses to support the local economy and provides an even better quality of life; ultimately putting people in control of the place they call home.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Smyrna and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

Smyrna biggest challenges are education, traffic congestion and redevelopment. I want to see the city have bigger involvement in the schools that shape the minds of tomorrow. Many of the schools within the city limits are outdated and overcrowded and many amazing people have left Smyrna so their kids can attend higher rated schools in East and West Cobb. By having more city involvement, we can bring statewide attention to the problem and get the issue in front of state leaders who can help make a change. Traffic congestion impacts all our lives on a daily basis. It’s a city’s biggest complement, and biggest complaint. Focusing efforts on infrastructure improvements and thoughtful redevelopment that would encourage a more “walkable” community helping reduce the cars on our roads and provide residents with a better quality of life. I would also like to see more pocket parks within the city so that residents have places to gather within their community to spend time with their friends and pets.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

I feel property owners and community interests within the city should both have equal weight in terms of redevelopment. My goal on Council will be to remain proactive, and not reactive, to development. I will encourage Smyrna’s Community Development staff to collaborate with the community ensuring they understand what our residents want and can seek out ready and willing landowners that can fulfill those needs. This will support the idea of redeveloping as a community instead of redeveloping in a community. Staying in front of these improvement efforts will allow both residents and land owners to achieve their goals resulting in a happier and healthier city.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Smyrna’s citizens and businesses?

I plan to provide full support to the men and women who protect the citizens in our community by guaranteeing them with the best training and compensation. This will allow the city to attract and retain top talent in the field of public safety. I also feel it is the duty of all of our citizens to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity and ensure they feel comfortable calling local law enforcement, even if it seems minor.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

My highest priority would be to support the staff that provide the services within the city. These individuals are the first contact many of our residents have when dealing with local government issues or concerns. Their interactions greatly affect the public’s perception of our wonderful city. Creating and maintaining a fun and productive work environment is essential to any business or community, and we need to ensure the same for Smyrna.

What will you do to ensure the City of Smyrna is/remains business friendly?

I believe this starts with ensuring you have an open line of communication with your local business owners. Building and maintaining relationships in the business community will foster a more collaborative and supportive environment for these companies. I will also work with business owners to offer any applicable city resources that will help both the business be successful, and help our city grow. I recognize that small businesses are the backbone of any local economy.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

Positive change starts at the bottom and streams its way to the top. I plan to work with other government officials/entities to help them achieve their goals while ensuring that the goals and best interests of Smyrna residents are the number one priority.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

Convenient public transportation is a must in any healthy community. When most people think of public transportation they think of buses and rail. I feel there are other alternatives that should also be explored such as using already proven platforms like Uber and Lyft. I feel this would reduce the number of buses on our streets and transport people faster and more efficiently than conventional methods. I will work with Cobb County Transit to encourage the exploration of these type alternative options to traditional transportation.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

I would like to see more bike and pedestrian paths in our city that would connect neighborhoods and provide safe, easy to use trails to parks and local businesses. With many residents working from home today, I think it would be great to see outdoor offices in our parks, a place with dependable wireless internet that is quiet and shady. I would also like to see more public art in Smyrna. These pieces can become landmarks within our city and create a sense of community.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

I feel the best way to support the people who work at Dobbins ARB is to provide them with a productive and clean city, one where they will choose to live. This will reduce their commute and give them a better quality of life. Working and living in the same area will also help grow small business and reduce traffic congestion. If not already in place, it would be very beneficial to have quarterly meetings with all of Smyrna’s top employers, not just Dobbins, to determine how our city can continue to meet the needs of their ever changing business.

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Travis Lindley (Smyrna City Council, Ward 3)

What is your overall vision for the City of Smyrna?

Smyrna has come a long way in 25 years and projections suggest it’s on track to become the county’s largest city – with that comes bigger responsibilities and problems. Smyrna must control its destiny. We must step up and show the metro area what a great place to live and work our community is today. We must have controlled and managed growth to keep our city a place people continue to want to live in. I have the experience to help the council balance it so we do not fall into the rapid growth and failure we see in many communities today. Smyrna is in this for the long haul, and so am I.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Smyrna? What are the three biggest opportunities?

Three biggest opportunities:
Growth
Transportation
Economic Development

Three biggest challenges:
Growth
Traffic
Quality of life issues

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

Smyrna is growing and change is all around us; I want to ensure our growth is responsible. We have much opportunity on the horizon and I believe it’s critical to weigh all development carefully and thoughtfully. As our city, county and region continue to grow I support proactive economic development, now is the time to seek what our residents want in our community. I have the experience and connections to help lead the way.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Smyrna’s citizens and businesses?

I fully support local law enforcement, our fire fighters, and first responders. They do a great job protecting us and I want to make sure they have the continued support of our city government. I want to ensure they have the resources they need to do what they do best, and that their compensation and benefits are competitive so we achieve greater retention of quality people.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

Smyrna has a long history of providing a high level of quality services and as our city changes so does the demand for those services and how we deliver them. I want us to keep a watchful eye on opportunities to continue to keep quality services affordable while also delivering the best services possible via the most efficient methods possible.

What will you do to ensure the City of Smyrna is/remains business friendly?

As our community continues to grow we must stand ready to assist businesses looking to come to our community, as well as supporting those businesses already in our community with high levels of city services. As our region continues to grow at a rapid speed, I’d like to see Smyrna be proactive in seeking businesses that our residents want in our community. I co-founded three businesses in the area and understand the need for well-balanced economic development which reflects our citizens in both small and large businesses.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

It is critical Smyrna have open lines of communication with the county, regional, state, and Federal governments to achieve our full potential. I work with all of these entities every day and will use those connections to ensure Smyrna’s voice and position at the table is well represented.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

Clearly transportation is one of our city’s and region’s top issues. Our city and its residents must be part of the dialog and it’s time to start thinking outside the box. As a gateway community to our county and those bordering Cobb, we must look at all options. I do believe we must be open and transparent with our community; we need to better understand the changing needs of our city.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

Supporting Smyrna Schools – While the day-to-day operations of our schools falls to Cobb County and the school board, I believe we can continue to do things as a community to support our schools: from working collaboratively with educational foundations and civic groups, to looking at ways our city can better assist our Smyrna schools.

Economic Development – I want to ensure that our future growth is responsible. I would like to see Smyrna look at ways of attracting businesses to our community that our residents want in Smyrna; as I meet the residents of Smyrna I often hear about high end grocery stores, as an example.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

Certainly our community and our county have a longstanding relationship with Dobbins, and I support the base and our men and women in uniform. As Smyrna has done in the past, we must maintain a working relationship with Base officials. We must continue to work with our Congressional leaders as decisions are made about our military bases.

Dobbins AFB is a critical economic engine for Smyrna and anything that impacts Dobbins will impact Smyrna. I have the lines of communications to help Smyrna showcase and protect its relations with the base.

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Marshall Moon (Smyrna City Council, Ward 3)

What is your overall vision for the City of Smyrna?

More Retail Business
Green space
Better communication between tax payers and the city government.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Smyrna and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

Have more citizen involvement.
City staying out of secret enterprise.
Term limits

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

Have a strict code RD 15 only.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Smyrna’s citizens and businesses?

More lighting
Looking at reports on crime to see if we need more police officers.
Talk to our police to get their input and ideas.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

Frequent town hall meetings.
Asking the citizens for their input on what improvements they would like to see.

What will you do to ensure the City of Smyrna is/remains business friendly?

Visit the businesses in my ward.
Have a strong conversation and build a strong relationship.
Assure them that when they have problems they can come to me.

What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our area?

Get to know the people that are on the committee.
Develop a strong relationship.
Have an exchange of ideas.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

At this time I would have to see surveys and cost factors.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

I do not have an opinion on this question at this time.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

I do support our Military; however, I would need to know the efforts in order to offer a helping hand.

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Adam Taylor (Smyrna City Council, Ward 3)

What is your overall vision for the City of Smyrna?

A close knit community where people can settle down and raise a family with safe streets, good schools and fun activities for everyone.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the city of Smyrna and how will you address them? What are the three biggest opportunities?

Education. I have a young daughter who will be attending Smyrna's schools very soon. I have a vested interest in seeing our schools succeed. In the past several years, Smyrna has made a tremendous investment in the schools within the city, and just this past March, over 90% of Ward 3 voted in favor of the ESPLOST making their own financial investment in the schools. We are now beginning to realize the results of that investment. As a council member, I will monitor the advancement of our education investments like a hawk. We must make sure that our schools continue to meet the performance standards that represent the quality of the children who attend those schools.

Equally important is communicating these advancements in education results to our community. Smyrna has a noticeable gap in its population. Smyrna is losing families with school-age children. This is a key demographic to the success of a community. One of the main reasons for the loss of families with school-age children is the negative perception of the public schools in Smyrna. By communicating the positive data and increase in performance of our schools to the families with young children, many families in this demographic will remain in our community making it stronger.

Data has recently come out showing Campbell’s drop-out rate is decreasing, a teacher at King Springs received an Educator of the Year Award and many other achievements are being made. We need to ensure the citizens of Smyrna get this information so we can change this perception. We all get water quality reports in the mail, why can’t we get school quality reports that highlight these achievements and accomplishments?

Transit. Smyrna, like all of its Metro Atlanta neighbors, faces a multitude of transportation issues. I believe building bigger roads is not the only solution. Smyrna needs a mass transit plan. A unified regional transit plan can connect our city like many of the other metropolitan areas in the US. This will not only stimulate our local economy, but make us economically competitive with other large cities. Whether light rail, or rapid bus transit (RBT), improving our citizen's access to transit options will better prepare our community for the future. I support the Atlanta Regional Commission's "Concept 3" Transit Vision. If elected, I will focus my efforts on ensuring that this vision becomes a reality.

Development. Smyrna is not urban Atlanta. Smyrna is a close-knit community bound together by a common identity. Recently, developers have been packing as many housing units as possible into small tracts of land and damaging the small town identity we all cherish. I will work to balance such projects so that they don’t put so much stress on our schools, roads, public safety and city services.

What is your philosophy on Land Use and Zoning within the city limits?

See #3 above.

Ensuring safety for its citizens and businesses is a key to success for any community. Do you have any specific plans related to the safety and security of Smyrna’s citizens and businesses?

I will oppose any cuts to the city's Public Safety departments in any shape or form. Period. Smyrna is well known for its safe streets and level of government services. I vow to keep it that way.

What changes or improvements to City services would you see as the highest priority to improve the overall quality of life for its citizens?

I want to put together a strategy on how to combat climate change at the local level. Many members of my community feel obligated to leave our children and their children a clean planet. There are ways for local communities to act and do their part. I want to create a sustainability committee consisting of council members, planning and zoning members, engineers and scientists to report to the Council on how future development projects are going to impact our environment. This committee will be charged with making recommendations on how we can build in a way that lowers Smyrna's carbon footprint. The committee will also be charged with looking into sustainable infrastructure alternatives when new public works projects are being proposed.

What will you do to ensure the City of Smyrna is/remains business friendly?

Maintain Smyrna’s current practices.

What is your position on the possibility of developing a premium transit system in Cobb County, to enhance transit services and provide greater connectivity between key business centers in our community and region?

Smyrna needs a mass transit plan. A unified regional transit plan can connect our city like many of the other metropolitan areas in the US. This will not only stimulate our local economy, but make us economically competitive with other large cities. Whether light rail, or rapid bus transit (RBT), improving our citizen's access to transit options will better prepare our community for the future. I support the Atlanta Regional Commission's "Concept 3" Transit Vision. If elected, I will focus my efforts on ensuring that this vision becomes a reality.

What innovative projects would you like to bring to your City that would enhance life for its citizens?

I want to work to connect the Silver Comet Trail to the Atlanta Beltline. There is currently 6.5 miles of inactive CSX rail that is no longer used by trains. These inactive rail lines could connect the silver comet trail in Smyrna to the Atlanta Beltline. There is a petition delivered to the Governor with over 4000 signatures on it to persuade the governor to support this plan. I will be an advocate for this project with the General assembly to secure that rail line to connect the Silver Comet Trail to the Atlanta Beltline. Such an improvement project will promote tourism, spawn investment and supplement recreational activities in and around Smyrna.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How do you feel you can best support those efforts as a municipal community partner?

Veterans, especially disabled veterans, should not have to pay to use the city’s facilities. I have heard from several former members of our armed services about this problem. I think we can show our appreciation by letting them utilize facilities like Community Center and the Wolfe Recreation Center free of charge.

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Georgia State Senate


Leah Aldridge (Georgia Senate, District 6)

What do you believe is the most critical issue facing our State and what is your plan to address it?

The overreach of our government is my biggest concern. As Senator, my first priority is tax relief—both state income taxes and property taxes for the Fulton portion of my district. To keep Georgia competitive in attracting businesses and creating jobs, we need to tackle our state income tax. Under Governor Deal’s leadership Georgia is ranked first for business. Yet Georgia’s unemployment rate remains higher than the national average and higher than ALL of our neighboring states. What do most of our neighboring states do that Georgia does not? North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida all have a lower state income tax than we do—with both Florida and Tennessee having eliminated their income tax completely. Georgia must stay competitive to attract industry and jobs. I will work to initially decrease Georgia’s income tax by 10% to a flat 5.5%--then continue seeking incremental decreases until the personal tax is eliminated. Fulton property owners need a fair and fixed tax metric to plan budgets and stabilize our neighborhoods. My plan is to cap property assessments at 3% per year (like Cobb!) for our Fulton homeowners. I also support an increase in our homestead exemption for Fulton seniors over the age of 65 equal to the school tax portion of their property tax bill (similar to Cobb).

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How will you support those efforts at the State Capitol?

Protecting our citizens through a strong and well-funded military is a primary role of government. Dobbins ARB is one of the greatest assets in the Sixth District and has proven itself to be a vital component of our national security. Dobbins is not only the home base of the 94th Airlift Wing, the 22nd Air Force Headquarters, the Clay National Guard, Navy, Army and Marine units, it is also the home of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics (a manufacturer of defense assets) and is a tactical base for state and federal emergency management operations---including emergency operations for the CDC. As the State Senator for District Six, supporting the people who are protecting and sacrificing their lives for the freedoms we enjoy is a priority for me. But separately, the economic impact of this base, estimated to be 20,000 jobs and approximately $1 billion annually, is an added reason for this base to be a priority of the General Assembly.

Supporting Dobbins requires interaction at the federal level. Networks and lines of communications with our national Republican leaders are essential to ensuring adequate federal funding and continued recognition that Dobbins ARB is a critical and necessary base within the Department of Defense. As a Republican with legal and advocacy experience and as the daughter of a veteran, I have those lines of communications as well as the expertise to be able to decipher relevant federal regulations and effectively advocate for Dobbins.

Georgia, in some sectors, still lags behind other states in overall education achievement. What measures will you, as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, support to ensure Georgia closes the achievement gap?

The national high school graduation rate is at 83.2%, Georgia is at 79.2% and Cobb County is at 83.8%. Philosophically, I believe that parents, not the government, know best how and where their children will succeed educationally. As Senator, I will support state funds following children to whatever school gives them the best opportunity for success—whether that is a public school, charter school, parochial or other private school, a home school setting, or Georgia’s hybrid Virtual School. In addition, I believe an excellent way to close the achievement gap and to foster high school graduation lies in the promotion and expansion of Georgia’s “Move On When Ready” program.

This state sponsored program allows high school students, beginning in 9th grade, to jointly enroll in participating University or Technical College System schools. Such enrolled students can take college classes earning college credit for courses that also meet high school graduation requirements. This program is not just for academically outstanding students—it is for the majority of students. It is equally attractive for students interested in certification (vocation) careers or bachelor degrees. In addition to usual “core” courses, subjects available to our high school students include aircraft technology, automotive technology, construction, cosmetology, health care sciences, hospitality and tourism, IT, video production and welding. With this dual enrollment opportunity, the state covers the cost of the college tuition, mandatory fees and any required books. Notably, there is no funding deduction to the high school if the student is on the college campus—and the state’s tuition payments do not count against the student for the HOPE scholarship.

While Georgia has more than 500,000 high school students, only about 27,000 of them took advantage of this program last year. This program is great for high achieving students as well as the students who are “at-risk” for dropping out. Directing such “ at-risk” students to career paths where their talents can immediately be utilized will give them purpose and pride and will go a long way toward keeping them in school and graduating. More than 70 Georgia colleges and universities are participating in this program. “Move On When Ready” is available to students who are in public, private and home school settings. This program has proven to increase graduation rates and could be life changing for many of our teens.

Workforce development is a critical issue for our community and state. What efforts will you support or champion, on the state level, to address the current and future workforce needs of our business community?

As State Senator, I would encourage and facilitate frequent dialogue between Georgia’s educational systems and our business community so that our businesses can convey their immediate and projected future needs to our educators. I would also work with the educational systems to support flexibility and malleability within their structures so that they are able to redirect efforts and student education based on the stated needs of our businesses. At the high school level, I believe the “Move On When Ready” program (discussed in the response above) is a state jewel in this regard, and is ideally suited for fostering a workforce that has the skills requested of our business community. I also support funding for our Technical College System of Georgia and the Hope Scholarship. The public/private partnerships in which Georgia Tech is engaging are beacons for our future workforce development through projects such as the North Avenue Smart Corridor Project (for alleviating traffic), the Enterprise Innovation Institute in which the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership assists Georgia manufacturers and Tech Square!

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

As Senator, I would be happy to be a facilitator of meeting and collaboration for the multiple school systems in the sixth district to assess if there is common interest in having simultaneous school start dates or later start dates. But, ultimately start dates are within the purview of each school system, and public schools have to meet for 180 days. Thus, those days have to cut into the summer either on the front end or the back end.

We have taken large steps towards addressing transportation issues in this state, but admittedly, there is still a long way to go. What innovative ideas would you recommend for ensuring we are working for solutions to those issues now and for the future?

We do need a solution to traffic. I am a pro-business conservative. In order to grow small businesses – the backbone of our economy –people and goods must move. In order to grow healthy families, they need more time together and less time in gridlock.

We are an “in-town” district, and we don’t have much space to “build roads,” so we need to make better use of the ones we have. But I know that we can’t solve our transportation problems by growing government. The last transportation bill started at 1.3 billion dollars. We have to be smart, and we have to be good stewards of the dollars about to be invested in solving this very real problem.

With those goals in mind, I would support a number of traffic alleviating options if, upon closer inspection, I was convinced the return on investment was justified: tackling the top 30 intersections in the district with technology to synchronize lights, solving the “left turn lane” problem, learning from our new dynamic toll lanes along I-75 and determining whether more lanes like these would be useful. I will not trap Georgia into decades-long projects that will soon be obsolete due to self-driving cars and other technologies. Cobb citizens value mobility east and north as much, if not more than, they value quick access to downtown! Put simply, empty transit buses, bike lanes and empty rhetoric do not equate to good transportation policy. Before I sign onto any transportation bill, I plan to hold a town hall in both Cobb and Fulton counties because one size does not fit all for this district.

What three proposals would you take up in The General Assembly in order to help Cobb business owners?

My top three issues are lowering taxes, increasing healthcare access and improving Georgia’s environment for business growth. I am the candidate best positioned to deliver on these priorities because these are the areas in which my private sector experience lies. With regard to taxes, I would lead with legislation that lowers our state income tax—initially a 10% decrease—with periodic decreases until complete elimination. I would increase our homestead exemption for the many seniors in Fulton who do not have it, and I would seek a Fulton property assessment cap. I will offer conservative, market driven solutions to our current healthcare crisis and promote term limits for our Senate. These measures will make Georgia more attractive for business startups, business relocation to Georgia and expansion of businesses already here.

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Matt Bentley (Georgia Senate, District 6)

What do you believe is the most critical issue facing our State and what is your plan to address it?

The most critical issue facing our State is our failure to address ever-increasing taxes. Hunter Hill has set out on a quest to eliminate our state income tax. I will take up the mantle and be a champion for tax reform by eliminating our state income tax. This will drive our economy, encourage personal accountability through saving, increase revenue from out-of-state sources, deter tax evasion, and put money back in our pockets. Tennessee, Florida, and Texas have all successfully accomplished this, and we need more legislators advocating this sound position, which will lower taxes for ALL residents in the 6th District.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How will you support those efforts at the State Capitol?

Supporting our military and our partners is a top priority of mine. Our community has benefited immensely from having Dobbins and affiliated partners flourishing in our backyard. Those groups are responsible for thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in economic development each year. I will work hand in glove with the Cobb Chamber, business and civic leaders as well as the military leadership to protect and advocate for metro Atlanta’s only major military installation.

Georgia, in some sectors, still lags behind other states in overall education achievement. What measures will you, as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, support to ensure Georgia closes the achievement gap?

Education is the cornerstone of our economy and we must do more to provide quality education to all of students in Georgia. I support moving away from top-down regulation and micro-management of schools to accountability based on choice and competition. We must provide personalized and customized education to meet students’ diverse needs, and implement more 21st century technology to provide higher quality education at a lower cost.

Workforce development is a critical issue for our community and state. What efforts will you support or champion, on the state level, to address the current and future workforce needs of our business community.

In today’s economy, workforce development must keep up with job market demand or the jobs will go elsewhere. I firmly support trade schools, technology schools, and high school programs that address the workforce needs without the requirement of attending four full years of college. I will also eliminate the state income tax, which will encourage economic growth and increase the demand for workforce to come to this state.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

I personally have researched and drafted a white paper on school start dates. The research suggests that only a fraction of the students experience any issues with the summer break. If the system is not broken, we shouldn’t be trying to fix it. However, I would be in favor of allowing certain Title I schools to test slightly earlier start dates as the current data needs additional testing.

We have taken large steps towards addressing transportation issues in this state but admittedly, there is still a long way to go. What innovative ideas would you recommend for ensuring we are working for solutions to those issues now and for the future?

Lets start focusing our efforts and tax dollars on common sense 21st century technology to eliminate traffic congestion. There is no doubt that Georgia needs real solutions to our traffic congestion, but we are not to going to achieve success with the same old, tired offering we get from career politicians. Our transportation policy needs to be forward thinking by focusing on innovative 21st century technology like autonomous vehicles, intelligent traffic patterns/lights, and reversible lanes, while also doubling down on checks and balances on overbuilding.

What three proposals would you take up in The General Assembly in order to help Cobb business owners?

Eliminate State Income Tax;
Decrease burdensome regulations on small business; and
Strategically invest in Transportation/Infrastructure

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Kathy Eichenblatt (Georgia Senate, District 6)

What do you believe is the most critical issue facing our State and what is your plan to address it?

Transportation reform, healthcare, and pushing needed reforms to continue making our state a leader in economic development and high-paying jobs.

Transportation: I will lead the way to tackle the gridlock plaguing our communities by creating a partnership with all local communities to find workable solutions, focusing more resources on transportation improvements without raising taxes, and partnering with the local tech community to harness the technology of tomorrow, today.

Healthcare: I will lead the way to end the negative impacts of Obamacare on our families and business through reforms that are Georgia-focused, not D.C. manipulated.

Cut Government Down to Size: I will apply the lessons learned from the private sector to make government smaller and more accountable to the people it serves. I will incorporate commonsense, business solutions and new, innovative technologies into governing, helping to cut waste, fraud, and redundancy in public programs. Most importantly, I will ensure that every tax dollar spent is done so efficiently and within a balanced budget.

With my experience as a successful business executive, I can get the job done because I have the unmatched ability to lead the way.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How will you support those efforts at the State Capitol?

I will be a strong partner in protecting our military installations like Dobbins. I understand the economic impact it has on Cobb County and the entire region. I will work with local and state leaders to influence Congress to protect Dobbins from becoming a victim of BRAC and remains open right here Cobb County. I will be a willing partner to do anything on the state level that helps in this goal.

Georgia, in some sectors, still lags behind other states in overall education achievement. What measures will you, as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, support to ensure Georgia closes the achievement gap?

As a former Senior Vice President of Ulta Beauty and Vice President of Stores for Motherhood Maternity, I have a in-depth knowledge of what corporations look before relocating to a state, and education outcomes are vital. I will lead the way on efforts to improve education in Georgia by:

  • Support education reform that focuses on the needs of every individual child.Promote greater use of technology and innovation in schools and classrooms.
  • Support school choice. Parents know best how to educate their children and should be empowered to make those decisions.
  • Ensure we are teaching skills needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow to grow a strong workforce that is attractive to employers and corporations looking to relocate.
  • Remove mandates and bureaucracy to allow for more local control and flexibility for teachers to teach.

Workforce development is a critical issue for our community and state. What efforts will you support or champion, on the state level, to address the current and future workforce needs of our business community.

We need to ensure our K-12 schools as well as higher education institutions are teaching skills our students will need for the jobs of tomorrow and incentive students to pursue those skills. We need to continue to promote partnerships between our high schools and tech schools with the understanding that all students may not want a traditional 4-year degree but instead a technical degree that is in demand with readily available jobs and opportunities.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

I support allowing local communities, teachers, parents, and education leaders to make this decision based on what is best for their community and students.

We have taken large steps towards addressing transportation issues in this state but admittedly, there is still a long way to go. What innovative ideas would you recommend for ensuring we are working for solutions to those issues now and for the future?

Traffic gridlock is out of control. We are late to work, late to home, and always stressed out. It’s time to MOVE IT! We need to join together as a region to find workable solutions to our traffic problems. Additionally, the General Assembly needs to: continue to work for and petition for federal funds, review revenue streams from all existing commuter taxes to ensure that the appropriate amount of proceeds are being committed to transit, ensure that all business that attract and count on commuters are contributing their fair share and lastly, let’s be innovative by partnering with the local tech community to harness the technologies of tomorrow like autonomous vehicles. We need to pursue workable solutions, using the technology of tomorrow for solutions today—not in 20 years and not with tax increases. We can also better utilize current revenue and redirect revenue as I mentioned. What is being funded that isn’t Constitutionally mandated that we could redirect to transportation solutions? That is the question we should be asking to help find the resources we need to move solutions and projects forward.

What three proposals would you take up in The General Assembly in order to help Cobb business owners?

  • Once and for all lead the way to transportation solutions to tackle gridlock and improve mobility.
  • Push for healthcare reform that is Georgia-focused and not D.C. manipulated to end the devastating impacts of Obamacare on our businesses and families.
  • Cut government down to size by reviewing our tax code and regulatory climate to make reforms that cut regulations and lowers the tax burden to promote business expansion and growth.

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Charlie Fiveash (Georgia Senate, District 6)

What do you believe is the most critical issue facing our State and what is your plan to address it?

Charlie is a firm believer that while government doesn’t create jobs, it does create an environment where job creation can flourish or stall. Unfortunately, during his 30 years in commercial real estate he has seen firsthand how government oversight and regulations can stunt economic growth. That’s why he will fight to eliminate burdensome regulations, cut taxes for individuals and job creators, and make government a partner for small businesses, as opposed to an obstacle.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How will you support those efforts at the State Capitol?

Charlie knows the enormous economic impact Dobbins has on the region. With the next round of BRAC always looming, Charlie will partner with our local, state, and federal allies to make sure those decision makers know the strategic value of Dobbins and the long-term support the base has from the community.

Georgia, in some sectors, still lags behind other states in overall education achievement. What measures will you, as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, support to ensure Georgia closes the achievement gap?

As the husband of an elementary school teacher, Charlie knows firsthand the path to attracting high-paying jobs to our area begins with excellent schools for our children. We must prepare them to compete in a global marketplace. In order to set the bar high for all of our schools in the district to prepare our children for the high-tech, new industry jobs of tomorrow we must ensure the teachers have the training and resources they need.

Workforce development is a critical issue for our community and state. What efforts will you support or champion, on the state level, to address the current and future workforce needs of our business community?

When our children graduate from college, Charlie wants to make sure they come back to Atlanta. In order to do that we must work to create a business environment that helps create good paying jobs and a high quality of life. Likewise, the first step in attracting high-paying jobs is to have a qualified workforce throughout the region. Charlie will work to make sure we continue to connect the ways we educate our children with the workforce needs of their future employers.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

The debate with regards to the school year calendar is one that deserves careful consideration. Yet, before that debate can happen Charlie believes we must ensure that the current school year is being maximized, and that our educators have the flexibility and support they need to succeed.

We have taken large steps towards addressing transportation issues in this state but admittedly, there is still a long way to go. What innovative ideas would you recommend for ensuring we are working for solutions to those issues now and for the future?

The congestion throughout Atlanta’s major roadways and side streets affects recruitment for the next Fortune 500 headquarters not only because of the direct impact on moving goods and services throughout the region but also quality of life for employees. Charlie will fight in the General Assembly to make sure the transportation dollars we pay come back to our district to address congestion needs.

What three proposals would you take up in The General Assembly in order to help Cobb business owners?

Charlie will have a singular focus of positioning this district to compete on the global stage for high quality jobs. In order to compete for these jobs over the next 15 years, we need to identify and address the shortcomings in the Atlanta region today. If we can improve our education system to qualify our children for 21st century jobs, address the transportation and congestion issues of the region, and implement sound tax policy and good governance our communities will be well positioned.

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Jaha Howard (Georgia Senate, District 6)

What do you believe is the most critical issue facing our State and what is your plan to address it?

I believe that Georgia’s flawed formula for funding public schools is the most critical issue facing our state. Ensuring that every Georgia student has equitable access to a quality education both directly and indirectly contribute to our state’s ability to sustain a qualified, homegrown workforce to compliment our tremendous economic growth.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How will you support those efforts at the State Capitol?

I believe that the Dobbins Air Reserve Base is a key asset to our county and region alike. As a legislator, I would be committed to supporting legislative efforts to not only provide the support that Georgia bases need ahead of the Base Realignment and Closure process but also supports our veterans by fully exempting military retirement income from state income taxes.

Georgia, in some sectors, still lags behind other states in overall education achievement. What measures will you, as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, support to ensure Georgia closes the achievement gap?

Investing in the future of Georgia’s children is the way forward for our state. As a matter of principle, all families should have access to quality schools for their children. The only way to ensure true school choice is to have a strong, viable public education option, but Georgia’s lawmakers have underfunded the state’s public schools by over $10 billion since 2003. State Lawmakers have not only cut funding, but they've also placed more of the costs on the school districts themselves. The Legislature must address this by fully restoring education funding and updating the 36 year old education funding formula. The way we fund public education in Georgia should reflect the current reality facing our students and schools.

Workforce development is a critical issue for our community and state. What efforts will you support or champion, on the state level, to address the current and future workforce needs of our business community.

I would be proud to support or champion legislative efforts to:
Increase state funding of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act.
Work to strengthen Georgia’s Career, Technical and Agriculture Education programs.
Support the Governor’s High Career Demand Initiative.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

I would be open to supporting a uniform school start and end date to accommodate the county and state’s travel and tourism industry so long as such proposal would allow for 180 full-days of student contact and instruction.

We have taken large steps towards addressing transportation issues in this state but admittedly, there is still a long way to go. What innovative ideas would you recommend for ensuring we are working for solutions to those issues now and for the future?

Transportation is an issue that must be addressed by the Georgia legislature to support Georgia’s workforce. We must build bipartisan support to expand and diversify Georgia’s transportation infrastructure in a responsible way that lays the groundwork for Georgia’s future economic growth.

Georgia needs a comprehensive approach on this issue—no one solution will be a quick fix. Expanding Georgia’s highways are certainly one way to address the transportation problem. But with the metro Atlanta area likely to grow by one million people in the next 10-20 years, Georgians will need more options than cars. All options need to be on the table for increasing connectivity in Georgia, including ideas like linking bike trails and rail, commuter buses, and ridesharing programs. Working in partnership with the private sector, let’s explore ways to connect the Silver Comet, the Beltline, MARTA and regional public transit options like CCT to create more efficient transportation options for Georgians.

What three proposals would you take up in The General Assembly in order to help Cobb business owners?

Supporting legislation to strengthen Georgia’s workforce to meet the growing demands of our state/county’s economic growth. Opposing discriminatory legislation like RFRA that both negatively impact our state/county’s business climate. Supporting legislation aimed at reducing the red tape that hinders small business growth. We should also create more flexibility and freedom for entrepreneurs to create jobs and to grow Georgia’s economy.

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Jen Jordan (Georgia Senate, District 6)

What do you believe is the most critical issue facing our State and what is your plan to address it?

The lack of funding for public schools is the biggest problem for the education system in Georgia right now. The budget needs to be realigned to match our priorities and the funding formula needs to be adjusted to address the high impact of poverty in our public-school systems. According to the state constitution, Georgia students are entitled to an “adequate public education” funded by taxpayers.

If public schools are appropriately funded, we can decrease class size and elevate the profession of teaching so great teachers are recruited, retained, and rewarded.

Cuts have also impacted college affordability - college tuition has skyrocketed because our colleges and universities have had to make up the shortfalls in state funding. We have to prioritize college affordability. Every student should have the option to graduate from a public college or university in Georgia without taking on student debt that is impossible to manage and pay off.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How will you support those efforts at the State Capitol?

As the daughter of a career Marine, I know the economic importance of military bases to surrounding communities. I will do everything in my power to support Dobbins. We all know that If Dobbins falls victim to a BRAC closing, we will lose Lockheed. That absolutely cannot happen. And in addition to Dobbins’ 20,000 employees and $1 billion-dollar impact, it is critical to regional disaster response (used 24/7 for hurricane relief) and CDC response.

Georgia, in some sectors, still lags behind other states in overall education achievement. What measures will you, as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, support to ensure Georgia closes the achievement gap?

In 1985, the Georgia Legislature enacted the Quality Basic Education Act to ensure the state was fulfilling its constitutional obligation to educate our students. But the Legislature’s adoption of “austerity cuts” allowed it to fund education at levels below the requirements contained in the QBE Act. At a minimum, our schools should be funded at the QBE level established in 1985. Further, the funding formula needs to be revisited to address the impact that poverty has on our public schools around the state. This is a critical first step is starting to close the achievement gap.

Workforce development is a critical issue for our community and state. What efforts will you support or champion, on the state level, to address the current and future workforce needs of our business community.

Again, fully funding our public education system is a necessary first step. But there is so much more we can do to address workforce needs in the business community. Tuition free technical school education should be available to all high school graduates that want a technical school education, especially in areas that are in need of highly skilled workers. We should look for partners in terms of apprenticeships and on the job training opportunities that benefit workers and businesses.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

I support whatever is recommended by education professionals in terms of what benefits our children. At the end of the day, if children do better in school, then the economy of Cobb ultimately benefits. Why? Businesses will relocate here. People will move here, spend money here, and pay taxes here. Being a good place to raise children is the strongest economic engine that a community can have.

We have taken large steps towards addressing transportation issues in this state but admittedly, there is still a long way to go. What innovative ideas would you recommend for ensuring we are working for solutions to those issues now and for the future?

When companies like Amazon consider where they will locate, transportation for employees and products is a key consideration. To be competitive, as metro-Atlanta’s population continues to grow, I know that we must develop a statewide transportation policy that links Atlanta with Georgia’s other population centers. Creative, forward-thinking solutions like considering whether existing commercial rail lines could also be used for commuter/passenger lines. For example, CSX commercial lines run through Smyrna. As the State re-negotiates rail leases, the flexibility to use the tracks for passenger rail should be a consideration. This would reduce the initial expense while providing a first and necessary step toward a more comprehensive mass transportation plan that opens the opportunities of the Metro-Atlanta area to more Georgians.

Apart from leadership, funding is essential. I would support a Constitutional Amendment to expand the use of the motor fuel tax to support mass transit as well as roads and bridges. Constitutional expansion would ensure that mass transit would be financially supported no matter which way the political winds blow and provide a funding mechanism that does not just burden one region of the State.

What three proposals would you take up in The General Assembly in order to help Cobb business owners?

As a small business owner, the single most important thing to me and my partners is access to affordable and adequate healthcare for us and our employees. I will fight to ensure that healthcare plans in this state going forward do not exclude preexisting conditions and won’t put a lifetime cap on benefits. The only reason that I was able to start my own business is because of the availability of insurance on the exchange, while not perfect, it enabled me to grow a successful small business. We have to make sure that others have the same opportunities for economic growth and stability.

I will fight any effort to pass the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA), it’s demeaning to individual Georgians and hurts all of us by making it less likely that job-creating businesses will move to Georgia.

And finally, I will fight to fully fund our public schools, create universal pre-K so that every child can attend their neighborhood school and expand deductions for 529 college savings accounts to make college more affordable for families. A good education system is good for business. Healthy communities are what will bring the next generation of job creating businesses to this state.

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Leo Smith (Georgia Senate, District 6)

Did not submit answers to the questionnaire.

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Taos Wynn (Georgia Senate, District 6)

What do you believe is the most critical issue facing our State and what is your plan to address it?

Education in Georgia is a critical issue facing our State. Greater emphasis and value must be placed on our education system and we must ensure that a quality education is made both affordable and accessible to all Georgia students. As a Senator, initial readiness and greater emphasis on early learning will be a priority to ensure that our young students are adequately equipped for grade school and are not beginning their early learning years at a disadvantage, which ultimately could yield to a pattern and continuance of not performing successfully at grade level. Additionally, assessing the allocation of funding to ensure that resources are actually reaching the teachers and the classrooms is important. Coupled with everyday challenges and inadequate pay, as a state we must show our value for teachers and increase training and wages for educators. Teachers are responsible for one of the most important tasks which is to educate our children, and they deserve to be valued. Furthermore, where higher learning is concerned, as a state we must fully fund the Hope Scholarship or successfully find an innovative alternative that comparably alleviates the burden of rising tuition costs.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How will you support those efforts at the State Capitol?


The efforts of our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base must absolutely be supported. Coming from a military family in which my Grandfathers, Father and brother all served active duty, I can personally attest to the impact, contributions, as well as the needs of military families. In fact, growing up in Cobb County, Dobbins Air Reserve Base granted my brother and I a safe place to participate in recreational activity after school and on the weekends. Every member and veteran of our military is important and I proudly salute all individuals who have chosen to serve and protect our country. Accordingly, as Senator, I will place emphasis on not only supporting the overall partners and military installation itself, but also looking at ways to further assist military families, especially in times of deployment. Also, as Senator, I will make veterans a priority and ensure they have the support they deserve and the healthcare they need.

Georgia, in some sectors, still lags behind other states in overall education achievement. What measures will you, as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, support to ensure Georgia closes the achievement gap?

Closing the achievement gap in Georgia is vital, as we must ensure that students are prepared and equipped to advance in a competitive world. In fact, failing to eradicate the achievement gap would be a great disservice to our students. As a Senator, I will target the allocation of adequate resources and funding to public schools, deepen teacher professional development and cultural competency programs, further extended learning opportunities and Pre-K and Kindergarten Readiness programs. Also, I believe community and family play a huge role in this dynamic as well. Accordingly, as Senator, I will support greater engagement between schools, local businesses and most importantly parents/guardians. An emphasis on such a comprehensive strategy could yield a greater supporting infrastructure to achieve higher levels of success in the classroom.

Workforce development is a critical issue for our community and state. What efforts will you support or champion, on the state level, to address the current and future workforce needs of our business community?

Workforce development is imperative and as a critical issue it must be faced head on with a collaborative strategy. To address current and future workforce needs I will support efforts to further identify the needs of the business community through aggregate data resulting from direct conversations and data analysis with our public, private and non-profit businesses. Once the needs are identified, I will support developing network infrastructures consisting of businesses, secondary institutions and higher learning environments to target the needs through awareness, education, and potential incentives to foster and formulate innovative solutions. Additionally, to maintain an accurate picture of the evolving needs of our business community and to also take into account the introduction of new technologies, our data assessments and indicators will need to be routine and adaptive.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

School start dates have been a hot topic in Cobb County and the decisions for an earlier or later start date do not rest on the state level, but rather on the school system. With that said however, prior to making a decision that will impact the lives of so many families, parents should be engaged in the conversation, as they are critical stakeholders in the matter. Creating forums for teachers and parents to discuss the options at hand and gathering more of a concrete consensus would be important prior to supporting either position. Important stakeholders need to be brought to the table and given ample opportunity to be heard.

We have taken large steps towards addressing transportation issues in this state but admittedly, there is still a long way to go. What innovative ideas would you recommend for ensuring we are working for solutions to those issues now and for the future?

Addressing the state’s traffic issues is no quick resolve and the answer does not always consist of building and expanding more roads. Technology and innovative thinking are indeed the path forward. Innovations in expanding mass transit options, bike sharing, and reversible lanes are all viable options to assist in alleviating traffic. The use of emerging smart technologies with traffic lights and signage could also be beneficial, if proven to also be cost effective. As Senator, I would also encourage forums and conversations with our growing technology communities in the state in order to partner in forming additional strategies for future solutions.

What three proposals would you take up in The General Assembly in order to help Cobb business owners?

Cobb business owners deserve every opportunity to be successful and to assist their endeavors I would focus on ensuring that: 1) our tax levels stay competitive; 2) our workforce is equipped to compete and support business efforts; and 3) that unnecessary red-tape is minimized. The business community is the heartbeat of our economy and as a state we must do our part in making good business easy to do and efficient in Georgia.

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Georgia House


Terri Anulewicz (Georgia House, District 42)

What do you believe is the most critical issue facing our State and what is your plan to address it?

We must ensure that Georgia remains the most economically competitive state in the southeastern United States. HD 42 is a diverse and vibrant district that is home to people from across the economic and cultural spectrum, and to businesses that range from the Atlanta Braves to family-owned small businesses, restaurants, and retailers. HD 42 is home to the fastest-growing parts of Cobb County – which means that HD 42 is one of the fastest-growing parts of Georgia. We must continue to provide a climate that creates job opportunities for all residents, and a culture that allows businesses – whatever their size – to thrive.

To achieve this goal, we must address metro Atlanta’s transit needs. Just as metro Atlanta’s economy benefits from the deepening and expansion of the Port of Savannah, the rest of Georgia will absolutely benefit from the positive economic repercussions that will result from comprehensive, thoughtful, and innovative solutions to metro Atlanta’s traffic and transit shortcomings.

Supporting our Military partners and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, is one of the Cobb Chamber’s top priorities. How will you support those efforts at the State Capitol?

Dobbins Air Reserve Base is home to the Air Force, the National Guard, and Lockheed Martin’s Marietta operations. Dobbins supports an estimated 20,000 jobs and has a $1 billion annual economic impact. Dobbins is critical to disaster response in the southeastern United States, and the base supports the CDC’s incident command unit. In terms of both geography and economic impact, Dobbins is central to HD 42, and I will fully support the Cobb Chamber’s efforts to ensure that Dobbins remains an active partner in Cobb.

Georgia, in some sectors, still lags behind other states in overall education achievement. What measures will you, as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, support to ensure Georgia closes the achievement gap?

Families in HD42 deserve the best K-12 schools, as well as access to free, universal pre-K at every neighborhood school. We must fight for HOPE to ensure that all Georgians have access to the best college and technical training opportunities. Our families will succeed when the quality of our schools continues to improve, and businesses will continue to grow and relocate here if we have a well-educated workforce.

Workforce development is a critical issue for our community and state. What efforts will you support or champion, on the state level, to address the current and future workforce needs of our business community.

Affordable access to quality technical and post-secondary education and training is essential to ensure that Cobb has a workforce that is ready to support our current economy, and attract new employers and industries to Cobb. True workforce development extends beyond the classroom, and the state must work to ensure that workers in Georgia have access to opportunities for continuing education, career pathway development, and the training that is necessary to ensure that our workforce can keep up with the pace of modern technology.

Travel and Tourism during all months but especially the summer months, are very large components of the overall economy in our County. With that in mind, do you support an earlier or later school start date?

We need to revisit our approach to school start dates in Georgia. A later start date benefits businesses in Cobb that rely on summer visitors and high-school aged employees, and summer job opportunities are an important way for high school students to learn the soft skills that are necessary for success in college and in the workforce. Additionally, the additional child care costs that result from the current calendar’s multiple weeklong breaks are a burden for many working families in Cobb.

It is critical that any discussion about uniform school start dates includes information relevant to how school calendars impact academic outcomes, as it is not in Cobb’s long-term economic interest to support a calendar that benefits our businesses in the short-term at the expense of educational achievement.

We have taken large steps towards addressing transportation issues in this state but admittedly, there is still a long way to go. What innovative ideas would you recommend for ensuring we are working for solutions to those issues now and for the future?

House District 42 includes the fastest-growing parts of Cobb, and access to transit is the missing link to ensure our continued growth and success. Without traffic solutions, our quality of life and economic competitiveness is hindered.

A robust, efficient, and comprehensive regional transit network means shorter and less-expensive commutes, gives residents access to a greater variety of jobs and greater economic stability, and connects skilled workers from across metro Atlanta with Cobb’s employment base. We need to consider a range of options, including BRT, utilization of the existing Western & Atlantic rail infrastructure, expanding MARTA and GRTA, more express lanes, and micro-transit.

It is encouraging that elected leaders from across Cobb and Georgia are ready to tackle this issue. A truly regional transit system requires state-level funding and assistance, and I look forward to the recommendations from the House Commission on Transit Governance & Funding.

What three proposals would you take up in The General Assembly in order to help Cobb business owners?

First, transit. A comprehensive approach to transit in Cobb County will help business owners attract a broader pool of employees and bolster our area’s attractiveness to potential businesses. Traffic is the leading concern I heard from residents and stakeholders in my decade on the Smyrna City Council, and addressing congestion is critical to sustaining our economic growth. If we are going to remain competitive and avoid the post-mortem conversations other metro Atlanta counties have had following losses of major employers to employment centers that offer easy access to both roads and rail, we must bring better transit to Cobb.

Second, education. Specifically, post-secondary college and technical training opportunities that are necessary to ensure that we have skilled workforce that is ready to work for our existing employers, and will attract new businesses to Cobb, as well as access to Pre-K that will ensure that children in Cobb start kindergarten with a strong learning foundation. It is as important for our high school graduates to be college and workforce ready as it is for our five-year-olds to be kindergarten ready.

Third, healthcare. Rising healthcare costs and access to quality healthcare are foremost in the minds of every employer – and employee – in Cobb County. We must have a substantive, thoughtful, and thorough conversation at the state level that addresses the healthcare concerns of families, business owners, and providers.

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