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. Last week and throughout this week, we’re running stories based on the responses of each candidate who replies.
Next up is Susan Wilkinson, a retiree running for the Ward 5 (map available at this link) council seat. Wilkinson is the incumbent, seeking a third term against challengers JD Smith and Suz Kaprich. Our questions are below, followed by Wilkinson’s answers:
Cobb County Courier: What qualifies you to serve on the Smyrna city council?
Susan Wilkinson: I have been honored to serve the citizens of Ward 5 and Smyrna since 2011. During my time of service, I have chaired the Parks and Recreation, Transportation, and Library & Cemetery committees. I also serve on the Public Works, Environmental Services, Historical Review and Education committees, and previously I served on the Public Safety and Community Development committees.
As an active participant in the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), in June I was awarded the prestigious Certificate of Distinction from the Harold F. Holtz Municipal Training Institute, a joint effort of GMA and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. I was one of only eight city officials — out of 538 member cities — to achieve this distinction. To do so, I completed 204-plus credits in city governance and leadership, including 72 required credits in courses ranging from municipal law, finance, economic development and transportation to water management.
CCC: Tell us a little about your background and current activities.
SW: Currently retired, I’m able to devote myself full time to serving my community. During my career as a design consultant, I worked extensively with architects and engineers, gaining experience that deepened my understanding and interest in zoning and development.
As a service professional and good listener who meets regularly with local citizens, I strive to balance the needs and interests of private citizens and business owner/developers alike with the goal of strengthening our community as a whole.
Frequently, I’ve been able to use my skills while serving on the council. This includes serving on a committee tasked with finding the best use for a city-owned property located in Ward 5, resulting in a single-family residential development having a stabilizing, positive effect on the surrounding neighborhoods. Additionally, my vision to extend a road between two aging shopping centers from South Cobb Drive to Old Concord Road was embraced by the council.
CCC: What are your top priorities if elected?
SW: My priorities come directly from the citizens I represent. Safety, connectivity and preserving our quality of life are concerns I hear about most often. Advocating for traffic calming, I recently proposed and the council agreed to have the planning department look at the impact of reducing the speed limits in city neighborhoods.The connectivity of trails was the number one concern identified in the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
I support the redevelopment of the South Cobb Drive corridor and the continued connectivity of Smyrna’s multi-use trails and sidewalks throughout this corridor. As our city becomes more densely populated, allocating funds for the purchase of green space is a priority, including the addition of trees to replace the trees that are being removed. I support the tree board and the work they are doing on the new ordinance. I will make the adoption of this ordinance a priority.
CCC: If you are elected, how will Smyrna look different in 2023 than it does in 2019?
SW: I support the continued revitalization of Ward 5 — especially the redevelopment of the South Cobb Drive corridor.
After engaging in a 16-month study of this area with GDOT and partners, our city council adopted a study in 2017 called the 25-year Smyrna Comprehensive Plan. Redeveloping this high-traffic corridor would greatly improve the attractiveness, safety and functionality of this area for the surrounding neighborhoods and could spur economic growth as well.
Plans call for new landscaping and completely reconfigured streetscaping that would: improve traffic circulation and the safety of intersections, increase pedestrian safety with new crosswalk locations, signal lights, relocate and consolidate bus stops, make the curb cut-outs and walkways more pedestrian friendly, and add 12-foot-wide multi-use paths for walkers and cyclists on both sides of South Cobb Drive with green space dividing the paths from the road. If re-elected, I will push to make this a priority in the 2020 SPLOST referendum.