The Courier had a conversation with Ikaika Anderson, candidate for mayor of Austell, at Volkstuin, the downtown Austell business he co-owns with Andrew Lundstrom.
Anderson is one of four candidates running for the office. Ollie Clemons, formerly Mayor Pro Tem, has been the incumbent mayor since the recent retirement of long-time mayor Joe Jerkins.
Asked about his background, Anderson said, “I moved here about the age of four. My father’s originally from Austell. He was born and raised here.”
“I moved here from Hawaii, he said. “I went to Austell Elementary, Garrett (Middle School), South Cobb (High School), graduated from there, went on to Abraham Baldwin on a baseball scholarship, then transferred to Georgia College and State (University) where I continued my education, and played baseball. I graduated with a bachelor’s in Community Health.”
He said that upon returning to Austell, he decided he wanted to make a difference in the community.
“My mother was also a city council member for twelve years. So growing up I kind of got involved there at a young age,” said Anderson.
“I ran for city council two years ago. Lost that in a very close race. I’d already planned to run for mayor for this year,” he said. “So although I lost that race I still wanted to continue with my plan and my focus which was to run for mayor.”
He said, “I was raised here … I grew up as a child in Austell, and now as an adult I’m a business owner and father.”
He said that his top three issues are education, government transparency, and encouraging mixed-use development with strong businesses in the downtown.
“Right here in downtown Austell area, I think it’s a little more connected,” he said. “But as we get on the outskirts of our citizens of Austell within our city limits, there’s a large disconnect in the city as a whole. I just want to kind of bring all that together and really create a solid community. That’s a big reason why I’m running.
Describing Volkstuin, the business he co-owns, he said, “I partnered up with Andrew Lundstrom. We have a farm here onsite, and our shipping containers that we took out we have a produce market that that we grow all our stuff right out of our farm, we sell it up in our produce market.”
“On the other side we have a shaved ice shop, and on the back we have a craft beer bar,” said Anderson. He said all the beers are produced in Georgia.
“And it’s nice to be a part of it, in that it’s new, and it brings a lot of life here,” he said. “Austell is also a food desert in that we don’t necessarily have a lot of access to fresh produce. So that was a big part of our business plan and strategy was to bring in some fresh produce and give that access to people around here.”
Asked about his approach to land use and zoning issues, he said, “I think much of it would be like we’ve seen in other cities: Smyrna and Acworth and Kennesaw. And I’ve seen it in Powder Springs as well, where we have a solid mix between greenspace and parks and recreational areas, as well as local businesses that come in.”
“My vision there is keeping a solid balance there to where we have activities for our families … like parks that they can use, and also we have an area that allows you to work and live and play, all in the same area. A lot of mixed use.”
When asked if he favored annexations into the city, he said, “I think there are certain areas within Austell that we can annex in to kind of clean up some of the lines, because there some lines where this neighborhood isn’t and the neighborhood next door is part of the city. So I think I would love to see some of that cleaned up and we’d have a more defined are of what is the City of Austell.”
He said beyond those limited annexations, “That would just be a matter of looking at our budget. Can we afford to put in a new fire station, if we annex in that side of the town?”
He said it would also depend on whether an annexation would benefit the city.
Asked if he would change anything about the way the city government is structured, he said he had been thinking about it a great deal, but hadn’t come to any firm conclusions.
“I think a city manager would be a benefit, in that it would allow us to get some things done and have a clearer path on where we’re going with things. And then again it would also depend on how everyone else feels about that as well, within our different (committee) chairs,” he said.
“Some of the changes I’d personally like to see: maybe put some term limits on some of our things,” he said. “Maybe setting the term limit at 12 years or something like that because I know that after a while it’s good to have some new faces come in with different visions.”
Asked if he had anything further he would like to tell the voters, he said, “Be sure to come out and vote. I think in our last couple of elections we’ve had right around … it’s been less than 1,000 people who come out and vote, in total. And we have a voting population of well over 4,000. Get out and vote, be heard, and make your voice really count.”
The election for Austell mayor and city council with be held November 5, 2019.