Early voting starts this Monday for the runoffs for the inaugural mayor and city council team that will guide the brand new City of Mableton in its formative years, and the Austell Community Task Force (ACT) and the Mableton Improvement Coalition (MIC) held an online forum Wednesday to showcase the candidates.
The moderators of the event were Donte Philpot of ACT and Joel Cope of MIC.
Janine Eveler, Cobb County’s Elections Director gave a brief overview of the election, and said that any resident of Mableton who was registered by the deadline can vote, whether or not they voted in the Mableton special election.
“The polling places are exactly the same,” Elever said. “There are 15 polling places that are open.”
She said that Districts 1 and 6 will only have the mayoral race on the ballot, since the city council seats were decided in the special election.
[Editor’s note: Minor edits were done to the candidate’s answers for length and clarity. We also rearranged two sections out of chronological order for better flow (moving District 2 to the front, moving the opening statement in District 3 to the top of that section).
City Council District 2: Monica DeLancy and Dami Oladapo
Cope asked the candidates for opening remarks:
Oladapo: “Good afternoon, everybody. My name is Dami Oladapo and I’m a candidate for District 2. Very thankful to MIT for this opportunity once again and thankful for all the residents who are on the call today.
“Again, my name is Dami and I live right off of Six Flags Drive with my husband in our son and just like so many of you on this call. I’m just invested in making Mableton a better place with this new government.
“And to fully achieve this goal. It is so crucial that we get the right people in the office.
“And with my decade of experience as a strategy and operations executive I believe that I’m the right choice for our district.
“I have managed multimillion-dollar projects and implemented policies and programs for large companies like the CDC, Georgia Department of Health formulating policies around Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, WIC, all of which have benefited everyone that I know.
“I’m able to think critically and fiscally as possible, and I believe I have the skill set, the passion, integrity, and the business acumen to drive us to great success.
“I honestly just want to serve you, bottom line, and I hope you give me the opportunity to. I promise to make you proud. Thank you so much.””
DeLancy: “My name is Monica Evette DeLancy.
“I had a call from someone that resides in the hotel that needed food, so I had to go and deliver food to them. That’s why I’m a little late today.
Well, I’ve been living in the Riverside community for the past 16 years, with my two children. Brianne, who is a Pebblebrook graduate, and my son Ernest, who will be graduating this year.
“My daughter graduated from college last year, and, and I spend most of my time here in Riverside community, being acclimated to what’s going on.
“When I moved in, I started We Thrive in Riverside Renters Association, to bring resources to the community to not only renters but the homeowners as well.
“Under my leadership, over 5000 residents receive resources from us.
“In addition, we have helped people with rental assistance and also providing ways for people to go out and connect with other civic organizations.
“That’s why I do our workshops. So on day one what I will do is what I will continue to do, and that is serve the good citizens of the Mableton.”
Philpot asked the first question submitted by a community resident: How do you intend to work in the best interests and support both homeowners and the renter population in our district?
Oladapo: “That’s a great question. I used to be a renter here in Mableton a very long time ago.
“And now that my husband, and I own a home, we understand the great needs of both sides. I think for both parties, it’s very important for us to implement affordable housing programs that can provide financial assistance to both the renters and the homeowners who are struggling.
“This can include creating rent subsidies, or downpayment assistance, or even helping homeowners find low-interest loans.
“And for renters, it’s also important to create rent control policies that can prevent it, the rent increases by landlords, so that renters will not be sent out of their homes.
“And for homeowners, specifically, one that is really close to my heart that I hope we’re able to implement is to provide this for the Senior Community Housing rehab programs that can provide financial assistance to seniors who are struggling to maintain their properties.
“I was just talking to one of the seniors on my committee about that. And she was hoping that that’s something that we can implement.
“Just by doing this, I think we can work together to promote a healthy community for both renters, renters and homeowners in our in our community.”
DeLancy: “Well, basically just making sure that people know their options. Basically, yes, homeowners need to have the same respect as renters.
“But we also need to be realistic. It’s very difficult for people to become homeowners, if they’re only making $10 an hour, it’s very difficult to become homeowners if they make $12 an hour.
“So the conversation I’m having with people is to partner, talk with some relatives, if you’re not married, get married, because it’s not easy maintaining homes, by yourself, even if the rent is $50.
“So we’re going to have to have workshops, we’re going to have to have meetings with each other and be realistic on the route to homeownership and talk about how can we make our situation better, because we all are going to be able to thrive together in this great community.”
Cope asked the next question from the community: Did you play an active role in the de-annexation effort? However, that may have worked? And if you did, how does that impact your ability to serve on the city council?
DeLancy: “No, I was not involved with the de-annexation. My involvement with the great city of Mableton was informing people of the options to vote last November because people didn’t know what was on the ballot.
“Yes, the question was kind of lengthy. So my role was to communicate with people and get them involved and look at looking at the question on the ballot so that they’d know if they wanted to vote yes or no.
“My role is also letting people know that once we are a city, there are also some issues that can be addressed as a city, like having representation on the local level, not having to wait for the county commission to respond when there’s over 80,000 people on our roster.
“So basically, letting people know by having small, neighborhood-driven representatives, we can get more done together.
“That’s been my role. And now we’ll be continuing our role as we continue to work on April 18.”
Opadapo: “I plain and simple do not have any association, have played any role in the de-annexation of our community. From my understanding, a lot of the voters in our community, which is District 2 voted yes.
“So I’m continuing to push that narrative and just working in the best interest of this community.
“And I think for the parties who are pursuing de-annexation, I still believe that we can work together cordially and find a common ground on the City Council.”
Philpot read the next community-submitted question: “What strategies can you use or employ to attract better restaurants and higher-end businesses to this district?”
Oladapo: “That is a great question.
“I do believe 100% that economic growth and the growth and development of new businesses is crucial to the success of our city.
“And I think the first thing we need to do as city council in preparation for this, from my experience, is to streamline the regulations around new business formation and establishment just so it’s easier for business owners to know what they need and how to, you know, sending their applications to open a business here.
“And then we can start to identify target industries that we want in our community.
“For example, we do have a lot of tire shops, do we want more tire shops? Do we want to attract restaurants? Do we want grocery stores and once we make that understanding, then we start seeing improved existing infrastructure, the roads, public transportation for folks to get to these businesses, and then start promoting the new city to people, marketing campaigns on the city website, word of mouth, trade shows, just so people can know that Mableton is the place to set up their businesses.”
DeLancy: “Well, as the South Cobb Business Association director, my role is to make sure that businesses and new businesses know of different opportunities so they can thrive.
“And what I will do is to invite new businesses, or people thinking about doing business in Mableton to the South Cobb Business Association meeting, I will also let them know about the South Cobb Development Authority meeting, as well as the South Cobb Area Council.
“Because the more information that people have, in order to make sure that their business thrive, they are going to be able to stay in our area.
“And that’s one thing we need to do.
“But also recognize that we do have some concerns such as not having a grocery store in the area.
“And that would be a deep priority. They want to bring in a grocery store, and also showing people how to be entrepreneurs as well.
“So again, I will invite people to those meetings, and also connect people to other people you have mentoring, so they can be successful.”
Cope provided the next community-submitted request for information: Please provide specific and concrete steps as to how you plan to address the homeless population, which now exists within Mableton.
DeLancy: “Well, we will have to make sure that people are aware about Cobb Collaborative.
“Cobb Collaborative is an organization that partners with MUST Ministries that has the resources, so we can all connect and share data.
“That’s what’s called Step 1: community asset mapping, right?
“Step 2 is we’re doing some on-the-ground research, making sure that people that are labeled homeless want to be housed.
“Sometimes people do not want to be housed. So there are some issues with that.
“If you have a person that’s only making $1,000 in Social Security, they don’t want to go and give the money on rent for the apartment when apartments are over $1200 a month.
“So we have to make sure they understand that it’s not that people just want to be homeless, it’s they don’t have enough money.
“And then we’re gonna have to be intentional of bringing in housing for all income levels. That’s what we’re going have to do as well.
“So again, we’ve got to do a community asset mapping, we got to do some research, and also be intentional, with some long-term goals to bring in housing for all economic levels.
Oladapo: “Homelessness is definitely a complex issue here, that requires a comprehensive approach from us.
“And I believe that first that we can do is prioritize providing permanent housing to homeless individuals, and that can also be coupled with a lot of support services such as mental health and addiction counseling, you know, job training and financial management assistance, because this is very, very important and part of the reason why a lot of people are homeless.
“Another opportunity here at City Council is we can create emergency shelters.
“We have a lot of buildings that are rundown in our community that we can transform to shelters for homeless people.
“And lastly here, I want to mention that we cannot do it all alone, we definitely need to collaborate with a lot of our community members … nonprofit organizations, community groups, city agencies, to make sure that we solve this problem together. So those are just some of the options … on how to address this homeless situation.”
Philpot read the next question: Riverside Parkway corridor has over a dozen over a dozen apartment complexes and doesn’t need more. How will you how to how do you plan to address this through zoning through input on zoning decisions?
Oladapo: “Yeah, absolutely. I know, Riverside … I pass through there all the time. It’s just about a minute from where I currently live.
“And I think we proved that it’s a lot of apartments there. And I think one way, the first thing that we can actually do in City Council is to create density restriction, which just limits the number of housing units and the number of apartments that can continually be built in that area.
“And also, we also need to talk about parking, because that’s also, you know, one of the issues that I’ve heard from, you know, people who live there, as to the problem that is currently going on there.
“So it’s definitely important for us to control the number of apartments that could get built there. And I think, you know, by doing that we can create a community that works for everyone.”
DeLancy: “Well, the last time an apartment complex was built on Riverside Parkway was over 20 years ago, and that was Walton Reserve.
“There is a need for replacement apartments, not additional, I’m gonna say replacement, because the apartments that exist right now are over 40 years old, they’re on their last legs.
“They do need to be torn down.
“But we have to be mindful that when you start tearing down apartments, people need a place to live.
“And so yes, we’re gonna have to say replacement, because, again, people need a place to live.
“I haven’t heard of any apartments coming up as, as of yet, but they are changing names so that’s why people think they’re new apartments.
“Again, the last one that was built was 20 years ago. And when people were talking about another being built, it was not to be an addition … it’s a replacement for your aging apartment, because there’s a problem when you have apartments that have been around for 40 years … but then they’re turning off the water in the middle of the day because the water is going into somebody’s apartment, because leaking is happening.”
Cope presented the next request for information: Please identify the specific ways in which you will work with this outcome redevelopment authority in order to achieve those visions for business development you articulated earlier
DeLancy: “Continue to look at the plan, making sure that they hear from residents about their concerns and what some opportunities to be included.
“Bring other people in because again, people don’t know that the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority meets monthly.
“So making sure people know to attend those meetings, and also, if you can’t attend the meetings, get the minutes.
“But definitely some of the plans that are in place: the health center, a mixed-use property.
“But again, communication, being receptive, being a great listener, and connecting people so we can execute these plans and not have plans just sitting on the shelf.”
Oladapo: “I studied up on the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority, and what I understand is they play a very crucial role in helping cities and business owners and those who want to start a new business understand the needs and the requirements to do so.
“So educating business owners is very, very important for the development of our city.
“And what I would do is to maybe get in calendar invites from South Cobb Redevelopment Authority and try to understand the cadence of their meeting and send those out to all the residents and a newsletter every month to remind them to attend those meetings.
“And also make sure to be accessible to them if they have any questions.
“And also make sure the city council as a whole is accessible to them if they have any questions or any thoughts on how we can continue to make things better, or how they need to set up their businesses in our community.”
Philpot read the next question: What professional or personal experience most qualifies you, for District 2 city council to lead the new city of Mableton?
Oladapo: “One of the professional experiences that I’m most proud of actually is my work with the Georgia Department of Health and Human Services, helping them to formulate policies and strategies that will benefit the citizens that are taken advantage of Medicare, Medicaid, food stamp, WIC, and TANF.
“And all of these programs were very, very citizen-focused. And the strategies that I built for Georgia Department of Health and Human Services, were very citizen-focused and make sure that it is at the advantage of the citizens who are taking benefit of these programs.
“And this program had a multimillion-dollar project, approximately $15 million that I managed and executed for the state.
“And we are continuing to take advantage of it. I handed the projects off to another team who is continuing to push it forward.
“And I think it makes me a great candidate for this role, being able to manage that large budget and also being able to negotiate with the state, being able to work with a lot of stakeholders, because there was a lot of people that we worked with, I think that qualifies me for this role.
DeLancy: “What sets me apart from my opponent for this role, is I’ve been serving this role for 15 years.
“I’ve been advocating for residents. I’ve been attending the business meetings, I have been an advocate for our schools for our children.
“I started a nonprofit from scratch, while raising two kids on my own.
“And with this nonprofit I started 15 years ago, we’ve had some wins, we get awarded grants: the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, Hunger Free America Foundation, Community Foundation of Atlanta.
“That’s what I’ve done.
“And also working with other people, having a board, a board that helps keep me accountable, keeps checks and balances in place, making sure I turn my reports in on time.
“I’m able to do that by myself for 16 years, raise two kids have a child to graduate college and also be a successful in nonprofit on day one, Monica Evette DeLancy will be your city council person, and I ask all of you to vote for Monica Evette DeLancy.
Cope presented the next community request for information: Tell the specific steps that you will follow, if elected, in order to have members of your district to be engaged in the governmental process.
DeLancy: “Step 1: communicate to them that they can attend meetings, right? That’s one thing we were able to do.
“When we were successful for winning those counterclaims against those apartment complexes that had neglected to make repairs, I encouraged those renters to attend the meeting, took them to the meeting.
“And yes, that’s how they were able to be successful.
“Then, since COVID, I’m attending meetings.
“So giving the calendar for the meeting, people need to know these dates … And when they can’t get to meeting, provide transportation.
“And with our schools, we had a couple of our parents who want to be in leadership roles. but needed mentoring.
“I partnered them up with other leaders so they could learn how to be in leading roles in schools.
“So that’s something we have to do, we cannot be afraid to work with other people, we have to be intentional about what we want to accomplish. And don’t be afraid to ask, for help. That’s what we will have to do.”
Oladapo: “I think is definitely important to keep members of our districts engaged in having them understand the local government processes.
“I think one of the main ways to do that is to hold public meetings. We need to hold regular meetings that are open to the public, just so they have the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.
“And I will encourage all of the members of the district to attend those meetings.
“And I’ll also leverage social media to communicate which I am already doing.
“I also mentioned earlier, a newsletter which will I will be creating and sending to everyone’s email about activities that are going on in our community and meetings that they need to attend.
“You know mailings, as well. This is also another opportunity for those who do not have access to social media or those who are not able to attend public meetings due to restrictions.
“So communication is super, super, super important and very on top of mind for me, you once I become city council, so that those are the things that I will do to keep the members of our district engaged.
City Council District 3: Keisha Jeffcoat and Yashica Marshall
Cope asked the candidates for opening remarks:
Marshall: “Thank you, MIC and ACT, for hosting this forum. I really appreciate it, I really appreciate the community coming in to listen to the individuals that you will be voting for.
“My name is Yashica Marshall. I am an attorney. I am the only attorney in the pool of candidates. and I think that that is important because I have a skill set that most people don’t have that I can bring to the table.
“I think I’ll be useful to both the people that are sitting on the board as well as you all also have been in the area of compliance for the last eight years.
“So I’m all about focusing on getting things right from the beginning so we can have less risk on the end. So I think that’s important. We’re starting up a whole new city… so I think that is up to you, the voters, to make sure that you elect the right people in the beginning, so we’ll have less risk on the end. So I really thank everyone, I thank everyone who voted for me the first time, I actually hope you come back out and vote for me again. And so I appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.”
Jeffcoat: “Good evening, everyone. I’m Keisha Jeffcoat.
“And as you all know, I’m running for Mableton City Council District 3. I want to thank the Mableton Improvement Coalition and Austell Community Task Force for organizing and hosting this event.
“I also want to thank our residents as well for taking the time to attend this forum. I’ve been a resident here of Cobb County for 16 years. And with the past six years living here Mableton.
“I’m passionate about the community and the people that live here. I believe Mableton is an incredible place to live, work and raise a family.
“There are many opportunities to enhance our city, and I’m the candidate who can lead us there. I’m a 27 year Army veteran who forfeited law school to fight for our country. I’ve started at all levels of the army leading several project and program initiatives and managing large-scale budgets, and also have my MBA.
“I’ve worked in corporate America more recently, as a senior product development leader, leading and developing enterprise digital product solutions.
“I have the leadership, the education experience, and the values to get the work done, and I will advocate for you.
“And I’m confident we can do this together so that we can build a city we’re proud to call home. So thank you so much.”
Philpot asked the first question submitted from the community: Are there any plans for development of affordable housing in the district?
Jeffcoat: “I think it’s important for us to have affordable housing in Mableton, obviously, a lot of renters live here.
“And we just want to make sure that we offer them the resources that they need. We talked a lot yesterday in the forum about having access to certain programs like the Georgia Dream Home as well as the NACA program.
“And so we want to make sure that we’re driving our units down so that we can have some options for the renters that are in this area.
“And then also, education is so important … putting out their information about them being able to learn about your FICO score, you know, learn about money management and that sort of thing, and that we’ll be able to help them move and be able to afford homes in this area.”
Marshall: “I think that we’ve heard from lots of residents that that is a concern that lots of people actually want to live here in the city of Mableton.
“And it’s important that we have diverse number of different type housing for the individuals who want to move into Mableton and people who want to live here and work here.
“And so I think it’s very important as when we move forward with development and looking at new zoning applications that we are considering being able to provide mixed-use housing, land where we can actually have individuals who can afford housing in this area, because we do want Mableton to grow.
“But we want that growth to be smart, we want that growth to be conscientious of who we have in our community.
“So we’re gonna try to learn as much as we can about the people here and what it is that they’re looking for, and ensure that the development that we are going to push for really reflects what we have in this community.”
Cope asked the second question submitted by a community member: How do you plan to represent the interests of seniors separate and apart from other age or demographic groups in our in your district?
Marshall: “I think one of the things that I would love to do is really have a meeting where I’m focused on senior attendance and having an understanding of what it is that the seniors want to see happen in their community.
“I think that seniors are extremely important to the community as a whole. And sometimes they are a forgotten class.
“I don’t think that there are a lot of resources that are put into place that really focuses on seniors, I think that it’s important for them to remain active and engaged and that we can definitely put in programs that allows for that to happen.
“So I think having candid conversations about where they are in their lives, what it is that they want to accomplish being here in the city is going to be extremely important, and that’s something that I know I will pledge to do.”
Jeffcoat: “The baby boomer boomers are the largest demographic and they’ll be aging.
“And so it’s going to be important for us to provide them with the necessary resources that they’re going to need to be able to thrive because this is going to be an inclusive community, and they’ll be a part of it.
“More importantly, they’re active seniors. So we need to make sure that they have the activities out there, and that it’s an age-friendly community, making sure that they’re accessible to public transportation, so that they will be able to get out and have mobility, especially for those who are unable to drive.
“They’re going to need access to health care facilities. A lot of them will have appointments and things of that nature that they need to go to.
“And so it’s important that we keep their independence, give them the ability to have independence, so they can go about their daily lives.
“Also senior-friendly housing is important, offering them apartments and condos and retirement 55-plus, age living. That’s important.
“And giving them job opportunities.”
Philpot read the next community question: How do you plan to stimulate economic development in the new city?
Jeffcoat: “I think the first thing to do with economic development is to take a look at our land use, and our zoning and making sure that we allocate spaces for commercial business and industrial use, and as well as our residents.
“We need to make sure that we pour into our businesses and support the new businesses as well as the businesses that come this year.
“There needs to be a mix of diversity in the businesses that are here. So it’s not just about obviously having restaurants but we also need to make sure that we have movie theaters, as well as bowling alleys to drive up revenue.
“So I believe that’s what I would do, as it relates to making sure that we develop our area.”
Marshall: “I think that when we’re talking about any type of planning, my background in compliance really helps with this.
“I think we would have to establish an economic diversity plan that really lays out what it is that we want to accomplish.
“That includes timelines and includes the type of businesses that we want to bring in, an put that up against a financial budget that allows us to see how much the cost will be to us in order to instill these changes that we’re hoping to see within the organization.
“So my first business is always to create a comprehensive plan, our comprehensive economic development plan, and correct financing so we know that we can afford to do what we want to do, and that we have the area and the space in order to do that.”
Cope presented the next question: How do you intend to communicate your vision to your constituents? And how will you decide to hold meetings, town halls, things that nature with your constituents on a regular basis?
Marshall: “It’s very important to me to be an accessible person, an elected official, where people can call me, email me, reach out to me at any time.
“I have been accessible already, to the individuals that I’ve met on the campaign trail.
“And I continue to do that. I would like to ensure that I have monthly updates on what’s going on, be able to break things down for people in a way that they really understand what the process is where we are because transparency is very important.
“And I think communication is as well.
“I would also like to have a newsletter that not only has English drafted but also drafted in Spanish as well, because we have a huge Spanish population that we need to account for.
“So I think that they’ll constant communication and accessibility to me as a whole will let everyone know that I’m here for them and I’m listening to their voices.”
Jeffcoat: “I think it’s important to stay connected to the community. I think first and foremost, you need to be visible and you need to be present.
“I’m going to leverage social media, like I’ve been doing throughout this campaign, sending out text messages, being a part of social media, making sure that I have information sessions and town hall meetings so they will be able to come out and ask questions, and also be a part of the decision-making process, because this is going to be a collective effort.
“And I want the community to be heavily engaged and involved in that, in addition to providing as much information as I can, by way of a newsletter.
“I’ve already started a newsletter, and then I want to be able to drive them to my website, so they can see updated information there.
“So I’m going to be connected through social media, and just making sure that they have access and that I’m visible out in the community attending events and things of that nature.”
Philpot presented the next question: “How do you plan on keeping yourself and the other city council members accountable?”
Jeffcoat: “I think it’s very important that we know what our left and right limits are, when it comes to the legalities. There will be a seasoned city attorney, that will be on staff.
“So it’s gonna be important that we’re transparent and that we include partnerships at the county level, to make sure that everyone is involved and that information is shared and that we know what is outlined in the charter, and what the expectation is from each of the city council members as well as the mayor.
“So it’s just important for us to just to make sure we know what the laws are, so that we’ll be able to govern accordingly.”
Marshall: “I think that is important to ensure that you form really good relationships with the people that you’re going to be making choices with.
“We all have one vote that will be sitting on the city council. And so we’re going to have to work together in order to move things forward.
“And I think that, once we’re elected, we’re already in a space where our residents are looking at us to be accountable for the things that we say we’re going to do, and that they we can ensure that we are going to move forward with a unified vision.
“So I think ensuring that you have formed really great working relationships with all of the candidates, which I feel like I’ve already done that is going to really help ensure that we are accountable to each other, as well accountable to the people that we represent.”
Cope presented the next question: Please point our audience to specific examples of where you have had to manage responsibilities for a budget, since a city has a very large budget and involving complicated finances.
Marshall: “I have been in leadership roles almost my entire career.
“I was the director of a hospital system of in West Virginia for a couple of years prior to me actually going attending law school.
“During that time, I was maintaining a multi-million dollar budget. I also found on issues that with incorrect billing, that actually allowed us to go into the black as we had been in the red for a while after I became a director.
“So I am someone who currently … working as a director of compliance and risk management, also manage a huge team of individuals, and I had to budget and ensure that our compliance department stayed within budget with resources and tools.
“So I have been in management positions, practically my entire life, and leadership positions practically my entire life.
“And all of them came along with budgets because I had to manage individuals and manage my departments.”
Jeffcoat: “I’d been in the army, as I stated, for 27 years. So as a senior officer, we are in strategic leadership roles.
“So throughout my career, I’ve held various positions in project and program management.
“One specific role that I held was a program manager for our Yellow River reintegration program to support a senior-level command that was comprised of over 20,000 soldiers, civilians and contractors.
“So I managed in the annual budget of about $20 million, and that involves just direct site evaluation (and) selection, vendor relations, and I was able to manage the support, the day to day service and proactive outreach to our soldiers and family members.
“And it was essentially a program that helps soldiers reintegrate back into the workforce after having been deployed.
“So I was responsible for hiring and managing and mentoring staff, providing training and development as well as performance-based coaching. So that’s just one of many roles that I’ve held in the corporate sector.”
Philpot asked the final question for the District 3 candidates: What realistic things do you want to accomplish as city council member if elected?
Marshall: “I want to think that everything I accomplish is realistic. But I really do want to start with ensuring that we have a really solid foundation in the beginning, where we transition all of the services over seamlessly with little disruption to the residents.
“I know how important that is. And I know that this can seem like a scary process, because we’re moving to a new government.
“And we’ll be taking over four services. And so, to me, my focus in the beginning is really, how are we going to ensure that we have a strong foundation?
“How are we going to be sure that we set up the infrastructure for those grandiose plans that may come later … where we are bringing in new businesses and focused on development within our community.
“So I wouldn’t say that I have a lot of future things that I do want to focus on. But it is very important to me to focus on the beginning.”
Jeffcoat: “I think it’s gonna be important for us to establish a strong foundation. And that is going to start with making sure that we have the right players in place, to provide our city with the vision, so that we will be able to accomplish those goals.
“I think during the first 90 days, obviously, we’ll establish a city financials team, to discuss our budget, and be able to identify opportunities within our city so that we can solution for those opportunities.
“It’s going to be important for us to be collaborative in our approach.
“There’s so many different ideas that I have.
“But more importantly, within the next two years is a transition over our city lite services.
“And then hopefully, in long term, we can look at more economic development and have a thriving city that’s focused on technology and innovation, as well as making sure that we still maintain that suburban feel for everyone that’s here.”
District 5: Cheryl Davis and T.J. Ferguson
Philpot asked the two District 5 candidates to introduce themselves.
Davis: “Hey, everyone, my name is Cheryl Davis.
“I’ve lived in Mableton since 2004. I have been with the state of Georgia for more than 21 years. But prior to that I did work for PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the top four accounting firms in the world … And now I’m working for the State of Georgia doing IT contracts, acquiring services for the state of Georgia, managing multimillion-dollar contracts …
“And I have joined this run for office because I have a passion for Mableton. I want to see it grow. I have been wanting to make Mableton a city for many, many years. And I voted yes. And I’m excited to be here. And I just want to serve and help the community grow and be great.”
Ferguson: “Hello, again, my name is TJ Ferguson and I am running for Mableton City Council District 5.
“I’m running because at the end of the day, I love this entire city of Mableton and I want to see Mableton be the best thing it can possibly be.
“We are continuously jumped over for different services and different amenities that we should have in Mableton.
“And I think that the group that we’re putting together is going to be able to do a lot to help and make sure that that doesn’t happen again.
“I’ve been here 18 years. I love my home. I love the area, I love the people that I’m able to call my neighbors.
“And at the end of the day, I as I said, just want to see Mabelton be the best that it can be. It’s pretty simple.”
Philpot presented the next question: Is promoting non-car-based means of transportation like bike lanes, buses, or rail a priority for you for the city of Mableton and for your district as well?
Davis: “That is a concern.
“I myself drive an alternative fuel vehicle. And I do encourage and would like to find some bike lanes and create a walkable community.
“And (a bike is) something like I also personally want to invest in, but they didn’t buy one because we don’t want to get run down on Veterans Memorial.
“So we want to create a family-friendly community where we can walk to different activities, and just be more of a small town feel.
“And yes, that is a priority of mine. And I would like to see how we can do that through zoning and code enforcement, maybe do some right-of-way, and then see if we can build some sidewalks.”
Ferguson: “Not connecting the Silver Comet Trail onto all arteries of Mableton was a mistake.
“And that’s a mistake that we need to fix because there’s a couple different reasons why.
“Number one, the Silver Comet Trail not only is a place where people go on to, to work out, but they also go for transportation as the way that they get back to and from work.
“We need to be able to continue to allow people to utilize the Silver Comet Trail, and then as you come off the Silver Comet Trail, you need to have more opportunities, like bike lanes.
“Every good city has bike lanes.
“Every good city has a way for its citizens to get around in a car, and a bike, public transportation, all those different types of things.
“And the last thing I’m gonna throw out there is even having slug routes that allow for rides to happen from a point where you can pick up somebody and go downtown or go to different areas.
“We’ve got a bunch of different opportunities in Mableton to make us a cleaner city. And I think we’re going to look in trying to figure out how we can incorporate those.”
Cope presented the next question submitted from the community: How do you plan to stimulate economic development in the new city? Be specific and offer concrete details.
Ferguson: “Awesome question.
“I was hoping that I got that question, as I heard the other folks say, we don’t have enough time.
“But all of the four services that we are said to provide set us up to be able to do exactly that economic development based on the fact that we’re going to have zoning practices that are stimulating and looking for the types of businesses that we want to bring into the area.
“Number two, when we’re talking about code enforcement, we’re going to work to clean up Veterans Memorial and other areas within District 5 and other districts to help promote, and to help other businesses see that we are serious about what we’re doing.
“Affordable and attainable housing options that we can bring into Mableton so that the people that are working in Mableton are actually able to live in Mableton, that’s going to be huge to stimulate economic growth.
“I mean, I can go on and on. But just think about the fact that there’s a business that’s being owned right now by a couple of folks that live in District 5. It’s in District 3, it’s an awesome place.
“But it never would have happened if we didn’t have the zoning issues that we have … it would have been delayed.”
Davis: “What I think we need to do is we have a lot of cleanups that we have to do first in regards to making the city more attractive to other businesses.
“And we have to work with our current business owners to reinvest in their businesses, to fix up and renovate, and improve their brick and mortar, fill the potholes in the parking lot. And that will attract more other businesses into the community because new businesses don’t want to come in and build, and then create a business next to something that is dilapidated and falling down.
“So we have a lot of work to do with our code enforcement and our in clean up and our zoning in order to create a space that is welcoming to new businesses, and then actively seek out and partner with developers and big box companies in order to show them how attractive Mableton can be.”
Philpot presented the next question submitted from the community: What is the most important idea or message that you would propose to the residents who did not vote for Mableton cityhood?
Davis: From the very beginning, I’ve always said that, even though I voted yes, we have to find a way.
“This is where we are now.
“Regardless of what side we started out on, we’re going to have to meet the middle because we’re all one huge city now.
“And we have to do the things that are in the best interest of the community of Mableton as a whole. And I even commented to our current, our first councilperson Debora Herndon, we’re probably going to have to do some team building activities.
“Once we all get together just to build that trust back again, it’s not about your side or my side.
“It’s about us as a community. And we need to come together. And regardless of where we stood in the beginning, we need to come together now and make choices and decisions that are most beneficial for the community for Mableton as a whole.”
Ferguson: “I think the biggest word that I would throw out there is unity.
“At the end of the day, we are here we are whether or not you voted for the city or not. The city is here, the city is happening.
“Do not not go out and vote because you’re not for the city. Please go out and vote regardless of whether or not you were for the city originally or not.
“Because the people that you put into place are going to be here to affect your life, your city for the next five years, two years, six years to come.
“So please go out and vote number one, and let’s create a sense of unity. Let’s work together.
“Let’s understand your hesitancy and why you don’t want the city and let’s work with us.
“Allow us to make this a great situation that we all see it can be. Give us that opportunity.”
Cope presented the next request for information submitted from the community: Trash and sanitation are specifically assigned tasks of this new city. Please tell the voters how you plan on addressing this issue for the new city and be specific in your response.
Ferguson: “So there’s two different portions of sanitation that I’m thinking about. First of all, from a residential perspective, I’m looking at ensuring that with our 77,000 people that live in Mableton, that we have the opportunity to get them the best prices at local sanitation departments.
“That’s number one. That’s the negotiation tactic that we will definitely employ to make sure that we have the best options for all residents. If you need back door service, if you need the ability to have recycling, if you need any of those different types of services, I want to make sure that you have it.
“Then we also have to address the commercial side of it. Commercial will be addressed not only with code enforcement, but then also working with some of those sanitation departments to figure out how it is that we can better ensure that they have the dumpsters necessary to do what they need to do from a commercial perspective.
“So we gotta we gotta attack it from two different angles in order to really talk to and tackle the sanitation conversation.”
Davis: “Sanitation is such a hot topic.
“I think what we need to do is listen to the community first and find out what they want. We do have a trash issue problem. I was out just this past weekend, helping to clean up Wallace Park.
“But I’m not sure if offering sanitation to the whole community is one of those things that we need to do in order to address that problem. I would have to look at everything first before I make a final decision on ‘should we take that over?’
“And if it looks like that, that will be our best option. I don’t necessarily advocate going to one sanitation company. We should probably break it up into about four sanitation companies to alleviate the burden on one.
“And again, if whatever special services that anyone needs: back door, recycling and things like that, we can build that into the program.”
Philpot presented the next question submitted from the community: What will you do to preserve or improve current homeowners’ property values as the city takes off?
Davis: “It’s not gonna happen overnight. This is a marathon and not a sprint. So our first order of duty is to establish a firm foundation: city manager, attorney, an accountant.
“We want to get this thing started off right. So we may not necessarily see any drastic changes, or hardly any changes to our property values right away.
“But the more we do clean up with our current businesses, we need diversity in businesses.
“I’m not looking at any of our existing businesses out of business. but I do want to control what new ones come in. We don’t need another tire shop. We don’t need another storage facility, just diversity in services.
“And the more things that we bring to our community, like movie theaters, and bowling alleys and family-friendly activities, will make the community more attractive and will help grow our property values.”
Ferguson: “Unfortunately, Mableton becoming a city is not going to be the thing that increases your property value.
“Mableton becoming a city is not going to be the thing that is going to drive a whole lot.
“What we’re going to have to focus on his is business development: how do we build up the city of Mableton, to where people outside of the city of Mableton, say Cobb County, say the state of Georgia, say the US sees our city that drives our property values up.
“So that’s where we need to do our work. Where do we do that? Specifically? You do that with the types of businesses that you bring in. You do that with an overhead look at what the city looks like. And you say this really is a thriving environment. And then you do that with community.
“And then last thing I’m going to throw it out there continuously: it’s all about a unified city that looks like like it’s driving towards a life together.”
Cope presented the next question submitted from the community: How would you develop and cause the historic Mableton an area which was part of the original city of Mableton to be a lively and robust downtown Mableton area, and would you be open to moving Mableton Elementary School to accomplish that task?
Ferguson: “Oh, my goodness, that is a difficult question.
“Moving Mableton Elementary School, let’s put that on the shelf, because it’s a beautiful school that just got there. I’m not doing anything there.
“But if you think about the Floyd Road corridor, and how it comes down into Mableton Parkway, that area and then branches off on each side of Veterans, that’s what we need to focus on.
“Building up that area. I always say that I want to be able to get in this goes into the question before I want to be able to go from a bike ride on the Silver Comet Trail, go hit up a farmer’s market, go home, hang out, then be able to go and have dinner on Veterans, go to a show over at the Maple House and then go back to Veterans and have a cocktail afterwards, all within five miles of my house.
“So that’s how we build up that and make it into a bustling community to where we have the ability in that five-mile range to be able to do all of those things.
“That also attracts business. It also attracts people to our, to our city. It also attracts we also can start thinking about motels and everything else.”
Davis: “I agree. I don’t think we should be moving the elementary school. It’s a beautiful school.
“The Mableton Town Square Park is a beautiful area.
“We have a lot of business on Floyd, so we probably should start looking at expanding beyond Floyd to Veterans and down to Mableton Parkway.
“I would love to find a way to continue to incorporate historical Mableton into our world and where we’re headed.
“And I will need to look at what’s there available in the land and how much space we have to currently build up because it’s the perfect area to do so with the library and the post office there. And we need to maintain and preserve our history of Mableton because it’s so important to where we came from and to bring that to the future of our new city.”
Philpot presented the next question submitted from the community: What is your plan for the first 90 days of duty?
Davis: “The first 90 days, like I said, we need to establish our city, set up business.
“And set up business means to determine what is most important: hire a city manager, hire an attorney, hire a CPA, look at our budget …
“Put together a job posting posted nationwide, looking for people to come and make sure that we are establishing and starting off on the right foot, (with) a solid foundation.
“We need to assess what our bills are, what we have to work and are going to be responsible for, and how much we have to do the things we need to do to achieve these goals.
“And we need to figure out if we’re going to actually have enough money to pay our bills and move forward … and just make sure that we are in line with all the laws and regulations.”
Ferguson: “The first 90 days are going to be a whirlwind of information. And I look at it to where we’re going to be drinking through a firehose, but we’re gonna have to take it in smaller cup chunks.
“So if we think about the first 30 days, it’s all about establishing us it’s all about us getting together understanding our roles and what it needs to be but then also looking at people that can help us understand number one, the budget number two, how to form this thing and then going and talking with the residents letting them know hey, we’re here. This is your city council. We’re here. These are our numbers. Give me a call.
“This is so much more detailed, but then we go into 60 days. We need to get together, talking about current services, assess those things, and setting up communications channels, setting up all the ways that we’re going to communicate with people.
“And then 90 days, create that go forward plan, create the committees that we want to have working with us from the community, and then kind of get that initial timeline proposal together with Cobb County.”
Cope presented the next question submitted from the community: Will you support attracting quality businesses and restaurants to Mableton and telling other restaurants and businesses that you do not wish those to locate here in Mableton?
Davis: “I’m all for new restaurants, new businesses, new diversity of services. That has been something that I have been saying from the very beginning. I want diversity of services.
“And I think we have enough auto repair shops, used car lots, tire shops. Again, I’m not trying to run anyone out of business. I just don’t want that continuation of the same business.
“And what I will actively pursue is new restaurants, new shopping for the residents, family-friendly activities, and festivals and parks and bike lanes and making it a homey feel.
“When you come home, you don’t want to have to drive 30-40 minutes for your entertainment or just to take your family out and enjoy your time when you’ve been at work all day.
“So yes, I will not encourage the same business to come here. And yes, I will encourage new businesses.”
Ferguson: “Yes. I mean, yes. I mean, at the end of the day, yes, we want new businesses.
“That’s the whole reason why I’m in this race, because I want to work to promote, to bring in different businesses, different types of organizations to work, or to do business in our wonderful city.
“So yes, and I don’t need the same thing that we currently have.
“That’s why we are in this situation because we continue to allow the same businesses to come in. So yes, yes.”
District 4: Patricia Auch and Cassandra Brown
Philpot asked the candidates to give a brief opening statement.
Auch: “Hello Mableton.
“My name is Patricia Auch, and I moved to Mableton in 2014, and since moving to Mableton, I’ve been a very active volunteer in the community. I volunteer almost every weekend with the Keep Cobb Beautiful adopt-a-mile program, cleaning up roadside litter in Mableton and beautifying our community.
“I’ve also volunteered with the Cobb County Watershed Stewardship program and the Georgia Native Plant Society removing invasive plant species from Heritage Park.
“I’ve served as a poll worker and a poll manager. I was awarded Friends of Mableton 2021 Volunteer of the Year and helped organize the Very Merry Mableton on the Square this past Christmas, as well as the upcoming Easter extravaganza on the square this coming Saturday.
“I’ve also founded a local garden club and organized community plant exchanges. I’m just very involved in the community. I feel very close to the community and that’s why I’m running for city council.
“I want to continue my service to the community and be a voice for District 4.”
Brown: “I am Cassandra Brown.
“I am a wife, mother. I am a grandmother, an Army veteran.
“And I’m an IT executive with over 30 years of experience.
“I am running simply because I am pro-Mableton, I love it here.
“My family and I have been here for 20 years, we don’t intend to go anywhere.
“My plan is that I will utilize that professional experience that I have to ensure that our city is set up appropriately from the beginning, because that will be very important to protect our most important investment that we have outside of our children, which is our home.
“And so if you vote for Cassandra Brown, I will ensure you that I will look out for your best interests. And I am here to represent all of the people of District 4.”
Cope presented the next question submitted from the community: District 4 had the largest number of candidates who are running for city council seats. Have you been reaching out to the others who did run for your same seat? And what are your plans in the future to keep them engaged in this new city?
Brown: “Indeed, I have been in contact with all of my opponents, except for Ms. Auch, of course, because we’re here in this runoff this today.
“And I can proudly say that I have the support of every last one of those candidates.
“We definitely engage with one another. I’ve spoken to them about please, continuing to stay engaged as we go forward as a city.
“I think all of them have some unique qualities that they can bring to us and help us to make our city a success.
“And then one final thing I would add is that I also have the endorsement of the mayoral candidates except for Aaron Carman.”
Auch: “I’ve reached out to a couple of the candidates. And I also went to the meet and greet of District 3 last night.
“Some of the responses from the candidates who have been running, it’s been a bit chilly, but I’m very happy to see that they are engaged.
“They seem to really want to participate in the city going forward. And that’s really exciting because we need as much engagement as we can from both previous candidates and the citizens who are here.”
Philpot presented the next question submitted from the community: Mableton has many monuments to the Confederacy. How can we tell a more complete story that encompasses the experiences of all of Mableton citizens?
Auch: “In District 4, I guess I would need to know a little more detail on what monument we’re discussing, … Ruff Mill?
“Generally, I’m not aware of any Confederate monuments in District 4.
“We do have some historical things in District 4 that people have a great desire to preserve like the Concord Covered Bridge and the Heritage Mill ruins. And I’m open to listening if there’s objections to something in Mableton that is offensive to someone.”
Brown: “I’m not exactly sure that there’s an exact monument.
“But what I can say is that, for example, I know that the Mable House sits on the former site of a plantation.
“And I know that this is not in our district, but I’ve seen some plaques and things of that nature in the city.
“So what I would say is that I would like to see us start to include the voices of those who have been historically not heard from.
“I’m a history buff, and I’ve actually volunteered with the River Line organization, and they’ve done work to preserve civil war trenches, but we need to bring in a more inclusive story.
“And I would also add that we sit on Native American land. So I think that needs to be recognized as well.”
Cope presented the next question submitted from the community: In your opinion, what about District 4 makes it unique and distinctly different from the other city council seats? Please be specific.
Auch: “District 4 really appreciates the more rural aspect of Mableton.
“We have Cooper Lake Road, which is beautiful, larger lots, we have a horse arena in there. We have the Concord Covered Bridge.
“They’re not itching for density, the way that some of the other districts have expressed.
“And I’m open to allowing the type of development and density in those districts.
“But also honoring the desires of District 4, we have a lot of new development that’s been approved with townhomes and higher density and apartments on Floyd Road.
“And just maybe let’s get those developed first, before doing too much. We need the growth to be smart.”
Brown: “We certainly have some very bucolic spots here in Mableton.
“I think that Buckner Road that I live off of was an example of one of those areas.
“And what I would say that might be more unique about District 4 is that we had the most voters to come out for this election.
“So that in itself tells me we have a very astute, highly engaged, civic-minded set of people.
“And I want to continue to build upon that.
“And definitely in terms of development, it’s something that we do want to do. And we’re in a smart growth type of way for our future development, which I talked about on my website.
Philpot presented the next question submitted from the community: From your vantage point, what do you see as the opportunities and challenges for District 4? And what plans do you have for these?
Brown: “So I would say in terms of what we have is opportunity is more opportunity for development. But again, that needs to be done in a smart way.
“Meaning that we need to think about future development and where that development goes.
“And so that is not necessarily impeding those places that have that more suburban feel, but figuring out where we can include density, because I know from my research that retailers, small businesses coming in, they’re going to be looking at traffic counts and density, in order to make a decision to come into our community.
“And so then finally, I would say that we want to look at ways that we can unify our community, because realistically, de-annexation has been an issue here. And I would definitely seek opportunity to bring everyone together as a united Mableton.”
Auch: “District 4 has all the opportunities as any other district in the city.
“We have an opportunity to shape the kind of city we want it to be. And it’s going to take engagement from the community and expressing what you want, being part of that plan for the city.
“We’ve got to go and have a comprehensive vision for what we want our city look like and we need people in District 4 to come to the table to make sure that your vision is represented, and whatever that is going to be.
“Some of the challenges is there are some challenges on District 4 that need a little more work than others.
“We got Veterans Memorial, which is on the bottom part of District Four. That’s going to be a focus to revitalize. It has been the complaint I think of almost in every district of the city.
“And so we’re going to need to crack down on code enforcement. We’re going to have to work with law enforcement, we’re going to have to work together to get the economic development and things we want to see in our city.”
Cope presented the next question submitted from the community: Do you believe that the city has enough revenue streams and sources as provided in the enabling legislation that created it? And if you do not believe so, do you support a millage rate increase?
Auch: “I sure hope we have the revenue sources that were stated in the feasibility study, it was stated that with a conservative estimate of what the expenditures would be and what our revenues would be, so I’m committed to sticking to the city lite model, and using that as a template for how we set up our city.
“It’s very important, I think, to make sure we live within our means and work with that budget, I don’t think anyone is ready for a millage increase and I would be very disappointed if there was, and I am not going to vote in favor of millage increase, especially this early in the setup of our new city.”
Brown: “What’s important to know, first of all, is that with the feasibility study, there were pointed out 11 different sources of revenue, that indicate that we would have enough revenue to operate our city and still have a $3 million dollar surplus per this very conservative feasibility study conducted by the University of Georgia.
“Further, the University of Georgia, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, indicates that they took an extremely conservative view when they put this study together.
“It’s so conservative that it doesn’t even include Six Flags, which is one of the most prolific revenue generators in the state of Georgia. So I’m fairly confident that we should not have to visit a millage rate whatsoever.”
Philpot presented the next question submitted from the community: What background experience will you use to help manage and grow businesses and improve the quality of life for family and children in District 4?
Brown: “In terms of my background and experience, I’ve been very consistent and making sure that I state this: I have over 30 years of experience.
“In IT, I have managed large teams, as many as 55 people across the United States and Canada,
“I have managed a book of business as much as $20 million, which is more than the $14 million that the feasibility study says that we’ll have from, from our revenues.
“And so I will use that professional experience I have negotiating complex contracts, and doing deals with big companies like FedEx and Delta.
“I will use that to inform my decision-making.
“As we set up our city it’s going to be very important that we are identifying our city attorney right away, we are then identifying our city manager.
“I will use my experience dealing with RFPs (requests for proposals), and things of that nature to ensure that we are off to the best possible start.
Auch: “To encourage business, we’re going to have to work with the marketing and economic development team, probably as far as bringing business into the area as well as zoning.
“But as far as getting families involved, there’s going to be probably a focus on programming and partnerships with our organizations within the community.
“And my background in that is that I have been participating in some of those organizations that helped make family-friendly, programming like Very, Merry Mableton on the square this past Christmas, or the extravaganza happening this Saturday, and just making programs that are going to engage families and have a little bit of something for everyone, which is a service that the city will be taking over as parks and recreation. And that will be involved some programming.”
Cope presented the next question submitted from the community: Did you participate actively in the de-annexation movement in Mableton? And if so, how will this inform your service as a city council member if elected?
Brown: “I did not participate.”
Auch: “Well I did participate.
“The community has a legal right to pursue the avenues to have the government they want, they have a legal right to pursue de-annexation.
“And they did pursue it through the legislature. And it didn’t happen.
“So how is that going to affect me as a city council person? It doesn’t.
“There’s a different track and a different path.
“As a city council we have to work the focus is on doing the best with the cards were dealt and we’re going to have to work on making the city one that I want to live in.
“And hopefully we’ll get engagement from the community who want de-annexation and work on getting the community they want.
“There are still legal avenues they can pursue. And I’m not going to hinder that, because they have a legal right to it.”
Philpot presented the next question submitted from the community: What do you think needs to change in District Four? And are there any potential changes you would resist for District Four?
Brown: “So what changes do we need in District 4?
“I would say as I talked to people throughout Mableton, you know, District 4, I should say, I’ve knocked on hundreds of doors at this point.
“Everyone talks about, they want more local shopping, they want more local restaurants.
“And so to that end, obviously, as a city, we will want to leverage our economic development plan, economic planning department that would sit under planning.
“And so in terms of what would need to change, I think District4 is pretty terrific with the exception of maybe Veterans Memorial, which is admittedly an eyesore, which definitely, we want to pursue zoning there.
“And also to leverage code enforcement to start to clean it up, and then create more aesthetically pleasing streetscapes so that it would be welcoming for any new businesses that come in.”
Auch: “Changes I would like to see? Litter.
“That is one of the things that I’ve been most active with and Mableton. It’s going to take some work, it’s going to take some partnership with our schools and with organizations.
“And it’s a very complex issue. But I think that’s something that everyone agrees with it is a problem. And I would like to really see a solution actually being discussed.
“And some enforcement is going to take law enforcement and code enforcement to really see change in that department.
“As far as change I would resist, I’m open to listening to the citizens and what they want for the community. And nothing comes to mind right now. It will probably come to me later, though.”
After Philpot began closing out the District 4 discussion, Auch said, “I’ll make one more comment; a statement on something that I think is pretty important to mention, it’s just like part of my commitment as being running for District 4 is I’ve pledged half of my city council salary back to the nonprofits in District 4.”
“And I just want that to be known that that is a commitment I’ve made, and I want improvement that much in our community.”
Cope then allowed Brown extra time to match Auch’s.
“I have not made that commitment, I think I’ve communicated that I have a very professional background, that would lend itself to setting up the city, being a city council person is going to take a considerable amount of my personal time. And so I will also say that I actually practice what I call smallanthropy. So I’m a smallanthropist, and I donate a considerable amount of money to charitable organizations, I will continue to do that. I’ve set up an endowment fund at my university, Tuskegee University.”
Mayoral candidates: Aaron Carman and Michael Owens
Cope asked the mayoral candidates to give brief introductions.
Carman: “My name is Aaron Carman, and it’s an honor to be a part of the forum tonight. Over the past three months, I’ve had the amazing experience to get to speak to many people across the city.
“And I’ve been humbled by the support and the encouragement, and the ideas that have come from those interactions. And I’m here to represent all the people in Mableton. And I know I’ve said it before, but I don’t really consider myself a politician, but rather just a resident of the city that felt compelled to step forward and help lead us through this transition into cityhood.
“I have no aspirations for a career in politics. My aspirations are simply to establish the foundation of our new city. And then once we have done that, well, we can then pass the baton on to the next round of leaders for the city.
“My main purpose is to make sure we honor our residents and build a solid foundation and limit the financial impact on them. And I believe we can do this, and I look forward to the opportunity to do so.”
Owens: “My name is Mike Owens. I’m a candidate running for mayor here in the new city of Mableton.
“I’m a Marine Corps veteran, small business owner, cybersecurity executive. I’ve worked with cities, states, countries, helping them to become better places, ensure that all of our information, our data is who we are, remain safe.
“I’ve dedicated my life to, to dedicate my life to the sanctity to the service of this country. And this is one main reason I’m running for mayor of Mableton. I you know, I’ve volunteered and a lot of efforts over the years.
“When I was 17 years old I joined the Marine Corps and was trained in communications, engineering and counterterrorism.
“I’ve been a lifetime member of MIC for over 12 years, I’ve been involved with ACT and back to school jams and community efforts. And that is very important. I’m running for mayor because I want to continue to do the work that needs to be done as we grow.
“My family moved here in 1998. My kids are here. My mother’s a retired nurse, my father owned a business on Old Floyd Road. I want to do what’s right for the people of Mableton. I’m a pro-city candidate. I voted for the city of Mableton. Because I believe in Mableton. And I believe we can move forward together.”
Philpot presented the next question submitted from the community: How will you attract corporate investment into the new city of Mableton?
Owens: “How will you attract corporate development into the city? You know, it’s going to be a combination of multiple efforts. I can tell you, first and foremost, a lot of developers and people who want to come in are already coming, they already see the writing on the wall. Because many people know what we do.
“Mableton is a great place to live, it will be a great place to work and play, being at the confluence of (interstates) 285 and 20.
“Having some of the greatest access to areas and both the proximity to Atlanta, but yet be on the other side of Chattahoochee gives us a lot of opportunity.
“I will work with the South Cobb Regional Development Authority as well as the Cobb Chamber, where I’ve been a member and an executive member with the Cobb Chamber. I think that’s very important. And we can do a lot of things there.”
Carman: “I agree. I think this area is completely untapped with its potential and its location and proximity to Atlanta gives us a great place to attract businesses.
“And I think it’s going to come in the form of partnering with the organizations that are already in place, to do that. So the South Cobb Development Authority, the Cobb Chamber, and then also the business associations.
“But I think there’s a thing that we can do as far as leaders here locally in the community, to understand what type of businesses we want to attract what type of corporate investment we want, and then look to form incentives or tax breaks for those types of companies to attract into that long term vision of Mableton.
“So I think it’s very important that part of our long-term strategy is to hire a director of economic and community development that can really tie into those types of programs and kind of feed that into the long-term vision of Mableton.”
Cope presented the next question submitted from the community: Is there a city in Cobb County that exists today that you see as a model for how Mableton should be developed if you’re elected? Be specific.
Owens: “No, I don’t. Because Mableton is a unique city with unique demographics with unique location we mentioned earlier.
“The thing I love about Mapleton is that we now are one of the most diverse cities in the state economically, racially, culturally, and I want to be the mayor that highlights that the idea of being inclusionary, bringing people to the table, and truly striking out on our own with what we decide to do.
“I do want to make sure we leverage our Hispanic community, we want to make sure we bring in our African community. We have a Jewish population within the city.
“I want to be the one that makes sure we all pull things together. And that’s not a blueprint that we can take from Marietta or from Acworth or Kennesaw.
“I’ve been to all of those cities, and they’re fine cities in their own right.
“But we have an opportunity here to do something new to truly deliver the best services we can for our city and to the residents of the city.
“And that’s what I want to make sure we do. It’s not based off someone else. I don’t believe reinventing the wheel, but I do believe in striking this opportunity to have a new city for people what they want.”
Carman: “Yeah, I mean, I agree.
“If you look at any other city in Cobb County, we are completely different. It’s almost as if we have three or four cities within the boundaries of Mableton.
“And quite honestly, I think that’s a beautiful thing. And that’s why a lot of people choose to want to live here and be a part of this community. So we are working with a blank canvas, and we can create this city the way that we dream and envision it to be.
“I think there’s different things from cities that have been in existence in Cobb County that we can learn from and kind of apply some of those lessons learned to different things, like building a downtown corridor.
“Smyrna did that back in the 80s, and 90s. Those are plans that we can probably look at and see if there’s things that we can emulate.
“But you know, to me, this is a brand new city, it’s very diverse, there’s very different needs and wants within the city.
“And I think we should come at it with a blank canvas and really try to set the model other cities coming to us in 10-15 years and saying, ‘How did you do it? We want to emulate that success.'”
Philpot presented the next question submitted from the community: Every city in the Atlanta metro area is known for something based on that city’s reputation. As mayor, what will Mableton be known for?
Carman: “I love this question.
“So this is something that I think we can really have an opportunity here because when we look at Mableton, the diversity that we have, the legacy of cultural arts that we have, both with Pebblebrook High School, and other schools.
“For the arts, we’ve got the Mable House in the middle of our city, right?
“So I think cultural arts should be a part of our branding and a part of our DNA. And we should celebrate that not only in the form of music and concerts and entertainment, but really embracing the artist and our community and looking at ways we can incorporate murals into our city that really represent the history, the culture, the diversity of our city.
“And I think we can do that. And it should be a part of our branding. And that’s going to attract people to move here, but then also new businesses as well.”
Owens: “The best thing about our city and what our city will be known for, hasn’t been defined yet.
“Because I believe in the future of the city and the opportunity, we have to truly start to build talking about our students, our schools, our businesses, having a city that is very well run to the fact that people are looking at it going “That is what a city should look like!”
“Being able to attract certain types of businesses into an into the area into biomechanics. into robotics into cybersecurity …
“We have an opportunity with the airport being so close and downtown being so close, that we can start to define what our city looks like and ultimately have people from across the country from across the state look at Mableton, the way our cities run, the way we have an outlook on providing services to citizens, and, quite frankly, the happiness that our citizens enjoy for living in Mableton.”
Cope presented the next question submitted from the community: Downtown Mableton has many core assets such as the Mable House Amphitheatre, the library, the circular Town Square, the elementary school and historic homes. How do you plan to develop that area to where it’ll be vibrant and lively and attract more visitors and more residents to that area? Please be specific.
Carman: “I think it kind of goes back to what I said earlier. I think we need to have an economic and community developer as part of the staff in the city.
“There have been studies and plans already put together from back in 2010 and others in the more recent future. I think we take those into account and really Look at how we use some of our core services like zoning and planning to make sure that everything we do feeds towards that vision of the building out of a downtown core.
“But again, it doesn’t happen overnight. I mean, I grew up in Smyrna and we moved to Smyrna in the early 80s. Downtown Smyrna. It didn’t look like it does today, right, it took 20 years for it to get to that point. And now, another 10-15 years later, you see the explosion around it.
“And I think we can certainly do that.
“It probably won’t take 20 years. But it’s something that we should build towards and use the mechanism of zoning and planning to feed into that long-term vision for that downtown area.
“But it absolutely should be that core of our city, both historically and economically. And I think the gem of the Mable House being right there is a part of that.”
Owens: “A lot of people kind of overlook this fact that there are plans from downtown Mableton, as a matter of fact there’s already been improvements.
“We talked about Mableton Elementary School earlier. Well, there was a Mableton Elementary School there before. My daughter went there. And they’ve rebuilt that school and moved it back.
“But there’s already been improvements to upgrade the infrastructure around there. And I’m ecstatic about it. There are plans that are public that you can see that were put in that actually won awards for what this area could look like, and the historic Mableton area as a whole.
“Just last night, I was talking to a group of business owners about this that are on Veterans Memorial, and they understand that the aspect of being able to connect Veterans Memorial to the city town square, and then over to the library and then to Maple House is a fantastic walkable area that I’m certain that we will be able to build, that we can attract people from all over Mableton to come, get out of their cars park and walk through our city. That is what I want to see: build a walkable area, that can be a destination downtown, where people can eat, drink, go to a concert, and truly enjoy themselves. So I’m looking forward to that.”
Philpot presented the next question submitted from the community: What are your plans for improving and making Mableton a walkable, affordable destination-oriented city?
Owens: “I think that’s that’s key, Donte. And I’ve spoken quite a bit about it and understanding that, and we talked about the downtown area, that’s just one area.
“You know, the goal is to have multiple places throughout the city, again, where people can get out of their cars, and they can walk. And that’s improving our park systems. There’s been discussions about connecting the Silver Comet Trail to other areas, obviously, the Riverlands project down by the Chattahoochee.
“I think is just gonna be a fantastic area for us to grow and to build. So a lot of these areas are one reason why I’m happy we have Parks and Rec, we have city planning and code enforcement, those things allow us to be able to really dig into creating this vibrant area where we can have more walkable spaces, and bring people in to truly, truly enjoy the city.
“So I’m already committed that I’ve talked with business owners about it. They’re engaged, they want to see this happening, because they understand that bringing more businesses into the area, bringing more walkable areas, and increasing foot traffic will lead to a more vibrant, more economical sustainable area, and a place where we could just enjoy. So I’m happy to see this happen.”
Carman: “I think that that’s what we all want, right?
“We want to be able to see more walkable, more green spaces.
“I think from the zoning and planning perspective, we can work with existing business owners and landowners on the major thoroughfares to look at the way we change the view of that where we have walkable, larger bike paths, larger walkable paths that connect down those larger corridors.
“Not just sidewalks, but bike paths and walkable paths, and then connecting our city parks right so the city parks should be a big foundation of who the city is.
“And that really brings our community out to be able to celebrate and to use those parks and feel safe and feel like that’s a place where we can come together as a community.
“So connecting our parks, connecting to the Silver Comet, connecting to the downtown focus areas within the city;
“And there’s multiple: Six Flags, downtown historic Mableton, the Austell corridor on East West connector, so we should be able to look to ways we can use zoning and planning to connect all of those epicenters together and make them walkable, make them bike ready as well.”
Cope presented the next request for information submitted from the community: If elected mayor, you will be the face of the new city and will have the chance to set the vision for the city government. Please provide three specific measures that you would see as part of your grand vision for the city of Mableton and give the timetables that would take to implement each.
Owens: “That’s a bit of a complicated question. We we do have timelines when people talk about, you know, 30, 60 90 days.
“There’s some key times that are things that we have to engage here.
“One of the first ones is June 1. And I don’t want to get too much into to the specifics around this. But you know, hiring a city manager and city attorney and city planner (and) city clerk as part of that.
“But we have to make sure that we have some civic things in place in June, as it relates to our tax digest, to make sure we’re working with the county is having a successful IGA (intergovernmental agreement) in place with our tax commissioner have an IGA in place with Cobb County, and ensuring that my goal is working with the county to make sure we put a short term moratorium on new licenses that are coming into the city.
“So we have an effective amount of time to be able to evaluate this. And we will see how we can move forward once we have policies and ordinances established, so we can then move forward.”
Carman: “I attended the House Bill 49 meeting where all the cities in Cobb County start to negotiate with Cobb County the services they receive. And it was interesting to see that dynamic.
“And I think, in talking to the folks there, that’s going to be our first thing is once we once we get elected and are sworn in, we need to start immediately looking to fill for the city attorney spot initially, because we’re going to have to negotiate contracts with Cobb County, but a city manager as well.
“So those are immediate things that we’re going to need to put in place to have the ability to very adequately negotiate contracts with Cobb County.
“But then I think once we start to do that, we’ve got the two-year period to transition those core services away from Cobb County, and then be able to negotiate what the services will receive from Cobb County as well. So to me, the first thing we have to do is hire city attorney, city manager.
“We started negotiating and working with our partners at Cobb County to identify the services we’re going to transition away.
“And that’s going to be our focus, because that’s the foundation of what we’re building here. And we need to set a budget as well.”
Philpot presented the next question submitted from the community: How does being a city benefit the citizens of Mableton?
Carman: “I think it gives us local control over the services and the direction of the city.
“We’re still going to rely very heavily on Cobb County for a lot of the main services like fire, police, and so forth.
“But there’s a lot of things in this area …
“I grew up here, we moved to Smyrna in ’83, when Smyrna was not the sexy city that it thinks it is now, right?
“I’ve lived in Mableton for a while now. And I gotta tell you, there’s a lot of potential here.
“And we’ve always kind of been the afterthought of Cobb County when it comes to receiving investment and funding and so forth.
“So I think having that local control over the city, and really celebrating this area for what it is, will give us a great opportunity.
We’ve got that blank canvas, we can really paint the picture of how we want to see the city develop and grow. And I’m excited about that.”
Owens: “This really gets to the heart of why I’m running for mayor, I voted for the city emphatically, because I believe in the future of the city, I understand the challenges that we have, but also understand the opportunities.
“You know, me being in this race to run to help deliver a best-in-class services to people that need it most. And to improve the quality of life for every single person in the city.
“That’s, that’s why I’m running. And, you know, I think it’s going to be vital as we continue to go forward to really keep that first and foremost. I know the challenges. I’ve been volunteering. I’ve lived in multiple parts within Mableton. I had kids that went to multiple different schools here. I know the challenges.
“I’m ready to work with our partners with our nonprofits that have been over the years to truly dig into the bottom of the challenge that we have and rise to the top to be able to again, provide the service that will increase the quality of life for everybody here.”
Cope presented the next question: Both of you have cited the diversity of Mableton as being one of its assets. How specifically, do you plan to encourage diversity and put in place plans, not proclamations that will support that diversity?
Carman: “Yeah, it’s a great question. I think, like I said, we should celebrate that as part of the DNA of our city.
“And I think there’s a couple of ways that we should do that. We should form as a committee, once we have everybody in place, a committee of residents, local leaders, church leaders, business leaders, and elected officials to be a part of a diversity and inclusion council or committee for the city, to look for ways that we can constantly invest in that and celebrate that.
“I think also, when it comes to even business development and economic growth, we should look for minority-owned businesses and give tax breaks or incentives to bring minority-owned businesses into our city. So I think those are two very simple ways that we can do that.
“But then also, I think it’s about unity, and really celebrating the differences of all the residents here in the city.
“And I think we can do that. It’s part of why Mableton is the city that it is, and people choose to want to live here that diversity should be at the DNA of our city.
Owens: “I’ll go back to the diversity and inclusion of the city is what makes Mableton Mableton, and which is why the de-annexation movement has been so problematic in this campaign.
“Because it’s this effort of being a city has truly been about wanting to bring people together, not tear people apart. So I’m standing in front of all you today as a candidate for mayor because I believe in that inclusion, I’ve talked about celebrating it. I’ve worked with our Hispanic members of the community.
“You know, I served on the diversity and inclusion committee with the chamber, to work to bring people out to make sure that people feel that they’re included, you know, we I worked with Mableton Day for years.
“And in that celebration, every single year, we touted the fact of how many different people that didn’t look like us didn’t worship like us, didn’t speak like us.
“But those are who we have to be comfortable with to make sure that we reaching out to those people bringing them to the table.
“Too much talked in this election, this campaign has been about excluding people or people not wanting to be in the city.
“I want to make sure that we wrap arms around everyone in the city and make them feel comfortable, make them feel that this city is something that’s going to work for them. And that’s why I’m running for mayor.”
Philpot presented the next question submitted from the community: Do you agree that de-annexation should only occur if the city fails to implement services as planned? Why or why not?
Owens: “You know what my answer to that question is.
“I’m not even going to delve into the hypotheticals of what may happen in future.
“My goal as mayor is to ensure we deliver best-in-class services, to make sure that every single member or every single resident of the city is happy with the services they’re receiving, whether they are de-annexers or not.
“you know, talking about what will happen in the future, let’s focus on making sure we deliver services, we make sure people are happy, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Carman: “I kind of agree with Dr. Owens, I don’t believe that we should hypothetically, look at the failure of services, I think the focus should be on delivering the core services.
“And for me, I’ve said like on the last forum, I believe that we should start with three and not four, I think we need to look at zoning and planning, code enforcement and parks and recreation and leave trash out of this.
“I think we need to earn the trust both sides: people that voted for the city, they want to see improvement of services, they want to see the city improve.
“The people that voted against the city or have been doing the de-annexation movement, it’s not that they don’t want to see the city succeed, or they want it to fail.
“It’s just that they were confused or didn’t feel like they were part of the original concept.
“So I think we need to earn the trust of both sides. And we do that by being a high-functioning government offering those services, limiting the financial impact on those services that they’re receiving.
“And if we do that we can earn the trust and respect to then listen and go back to the community and say, now we have some ideas that can really raise the bar in the city and have the right to do so.”
Cope presented the next question submitted from the community: Do you plan to use the powers of zoning and code enforcement to limit or drive out certain types of business, those which have either been unsightly, or have not been good corporate neighbors over the years: why or why not?
Owens: “You know, the idea of of zoning and code enforcement is to ensure that that we are both supporting our businesses and supporting our community in a way that’s best for everyone.
“My take on that is this, I want to make sure that we educate business owners, we informed them and then we hold them accountable. I’m not interested in putting anybody out of business, but I want to create a situation where it’s help me help you, right?
“If we can help our small businesses become better stewards of their property, better stewards of the facades that they’re creating, then I think we’re all winners in that. The goal is not to put anybody out of business, the goal is actually to enhance our business partners, our business owners, and allow them to thrive here.
“What we’ve seen in past times, however, is that because we’ve had challenges with zoning, and planning, you have businesses, especially along Veterans Memorial that are operating, conducting businesses, legally, I might add, but they may be in a type of business that the building was never set up for.
“So we hear tire shops all the time, maybe the business wasn’t set up for tire shops, but we do need all businesses in the city. I want to make sure that we’re supporting them and helping them move forward as well.”
Carman: “I think having the ability to have control over zoning and planning and code enforcement is going to give us the ability to, over time, go into that long-term vision for what the city can be and what it should look like.
“And I think that is by engaging our business community, the folks that exist today, and make sure they understand that the level of the expectations that we have, as a city are going to be at a certain standard.
“And a lot of times, it’s not even the business owners, they’re not the ones that own the buildings that they reside in.
“So a lot of the facade and the ownership of the building itself, are landowners that don’t even live in Mableton, or Georgia.
“And so I think we need to reach out to all of those owners and make sure they understand that, hey, there’s a new city government in town.
“And we’re going to have a high expectation of what it’s going to be to look like and operate within Mableton.
“And then use code enforcement to hold them accountable. Not necessarily the business owners that are using those buildings, but the owners of the buildings that are responsible for the upkeep and the physical approach of it. So I think over time, we can then start to manage the types of businesses that go into those areas from there.”
Philpot presented the last question submitted from the community: What do you see as a problem with Cobb County Parks? And what’s your plan to fix said problems?
Carman: “Love this question.
“I grew up on the ball fields. I grew up playing over at Brinkley Park from baseball in Smyrna. Tolleson Park playing football, a little league all the way up through Campbell High School. And I’d grown up playing even on the baseball fields over like Wallace Park and Lions Club and everything like that.
“The thing that I hate to see is that we don’t have a thriving kind of youth sports programs in the city.
“And I think investment there, when we hire our parks director, I want to make sure that we focus on that because I think that’s an awesome way to build community involvement pride in your community.
“And some of my best friends, both now as an adult came from the ball fields.
“But even as an adult, coaching my son playing baseball, some of my best friends in the community are from those teams as well. So I think the investment in the parks, but not only the parks, but then the athletic programs we’re offering available to the community needs to be a huge focus so that we can bring people out in a place that they can participate, build sense of pride and community involvement around it.”
Owens: “There’s a lot of parks in Cobb County cops, the third largest county in the state.
“So what’s happened is a lot of the parks and programs have been left up to the community.
“And, you know, I’ve been involved I was involved in amateur advocates association, which actually ran the Junior Falcons, ran the track program.
“I was just speaking with my cousin last week who runs a football program right now at Wallace Park.
“And he was telling me, you know, he literally comes out of his pocket to be able to have to run these programs.
“And the one thing he asked me: ‘Michael, when you’re mayor, can you please do something to make sure that our local parks get funded?’
“I’ve also talked to the Atlanta Hawks. I’ve talked to the Atlanta Braves. We have to have community partners to come in right now.
“And Hurt Road, If you go up there and look at that basketball court, the Hawks basically had taken over that park and made a memorial to it.
“And if you look at that park right now, it is dilapidated. It needs help. I’m going back to the Atlanta Hawks, and I commit to this right now, and get them to refurbish that park. Get that Hawk back on the backboard so we can do what we need to do.”