As part of our ongoing election coverage, the Cobb County Courier has sent a four-part Q&A to each Smyrna city council candidate in a contested race. Beginning last week and continuing this week, we’re running stories based on the responses of each candidate who replies.
[Correction: we identified Wagner’s position as “lobbyist” based on his statement below that he “worked at the Georgia State Capitol for the prior two legislative sessions advising members on policy.” We incorrectly assumed he was working for outside clients. He was working for members of the legislature. We regret the error — Larry Felton Johnson]
Next up is Austin Wagner, a political consultant running for the Ward 2 (map available at this link) council seat against incumbent Andrea Blustein. Our questions are below, followed by Wagner’s answers:
Cobb County Courier: What qualifies you to serve on the Smyrna city council?
Austin Wagner: I want to bring a fresh, new perspective and a responsive voice to Smyrna City Council. After graduating from Georgetown University Law Center, my family and I moved to Smyrna to find a place to call home. I’ve gotten involved in politics and policy around Georgia, and I’ve too often seen the present victory put ahead of the necessary long-term solution.
We need people in government who fight for the future generation. I have the unique perspective of a millennial parent reckoning with the society we live in but with the desire to make the world a better place for my children. I’ve always been one to search out answers to problems and to never accept that things need to stay the same just because it has always been that way. We need fresh ideas, and that’s what I plan to bring to the council.
CCC: Tell us a little about your background and current activities.
AW: I have worked at the Georgia State Capitol for the prior two legislative sessions advising members on policy. In addition, I have worked as a consultant advising a variety of political campaigns. I have a law degree from Georgetown University and a BSBA in Economics from Appalachian State University. Outside of work, I spend my free time with my wife and kids playing board games, going to soccer practices and enjoying family movie nights.
CCC: What are your top priorities if elected?
AW: People-centered growth: Smyrna is facing massive development and growth across the city. Growth on its own can be good so long as we ensure that the people living in Smyrna are not forgotten in the midst of this growth. We cannot let this growth only benefit the developers and businesses while the people of Smyrna get priced out of their home community.
A Sustainable Smyrna: Cities are laboratories for innovative solutions. Smyrna should embrace sustainable development throughout the city. A shift toward green energy and sustainable development must start at the local level, and Smyrna should be at the center of this shift.
Traffic to Transit: Traffic practically defines much of the Atlanta metro area, and Smyrna has not escaped that fate. Smyrna alone cannot expand rail access, but a concerted and coordinated effort should be made to encourage Cobb County to expand transit access.
CCC: If you are elected, how will Smyrna look different in 2023 than it does in 2019?
AW: First, Smyrna will be moving forward with a comprehensive housing plan that puts a priority on a diversity of housing options around the city. Our growth needs to be for the benefit of the whole community, and that must include housing options for people in all walks of life.
Second, Smyrna will have passed a comprehensive sustainability plan for the city. This plan would move us toward 100 % clean energy usage and require all new developments to adhere to the latest sustainable development standards.
Third, after making Smyrna a strong advocate for transit, Cobb County will have passed a full-penny referendum for transit funding and would be starting on the path to bring mass transit options to Smyrna and the rest of the county.
Haisten Willis is a freelance writer who lives in Smyrna with his wife, daughter and dog. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from California State University, Fresno, serves on the board of SPJ Georgia and even rides a bike when time allows.