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SPOTLIGHT Q and A with candidates for Mayor of Mableton

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Michael Murphy

What do you think are the 3 most pressing concerns for residents in the new city of Mableton?

Three most pressing concerns of residents: Housing, Economic Development and fiscal responsibility (no tax increases)

What are your goals and objectives as an elected official for the new city of Mableton?

Goals and objectives as an elected official: recruit and hire a qualified City Manager, proceed to fill the other key positions of Finance Director, Attorney and HR professional. Present an organization chart with areas of responsibility to the residents, establish a temporary operational facility, with the assistance of the county officials. My objective would include ensuring that transparency, trust and excellence will be the benchmark of our new city. We will be open for business and ready to serve the residents and on a glide path to full control from the county on the areas taken over by the city.

How would you describe your management/leadership style?

My management/leadership style is that of a superb listener, team builder/team player, a vision sharer and a committed communication conduit.

What actions will you take to ensure that high quality and effective communication occurs throughout the city of Mableton?

The actions that I would commit to in order to ensure high quality and effective communication throughout the city would be: Be visible, be responsive and listen well to the questions of the residents.I will make sure not to over promise and risk under delivering. I will work to exceed expectations.

As Mayor or member of the city council, how will you provide effective communication with other members of the governing body?

My commitment to my fellow council members would be: no surprises, I will listen to, trust and communicate to all council members. I would make no assumptions, and ask questions to ensure clarity.

What are your plans to ensure that the new city of Mableton has the budget appropriation to meet the needs of the residents?

I plan to work with the City Manager and Finance Director to ensure bilateral lines of communication with the county. I intend to have a pro forma budget prepared with details on expected revenues, ensure revenue streams are flowing into the city, explore all near term revenue opportunities and expected expenses detailed and controlled . We also would be clear on when additional revenues would come on stream, as it is expected that the city will miss out on some line items in its first year of operation.

What do you plan to accomplish in your first 30 days? In your first 90 days?

In the first 30 days, my primary goal would be to identify key staff positions and hire to fill them. This would include City Manager, Finance Director, Attorney, HR Director. I intend to present a proven transition plan as a guide to add to the outside opportunities of consultants, GMA and successful city lite governments like Mableton. In the first 90 days, I plan to have qualified staff in place at a suitable, accommodating temporary location. I would work diligently with the county to identify fiscal locations and options for a permanent city hall, centrally located and adequate to serve the residents of the city.

What is your position on de-annexation?

I do not support de-annexation. I am willing to listen to points put forth by their representative, consider the facts and vote accordingly.

Describe an ethical dilemma you’ve faced. How did you resolve it?

The ethical dilemma that I can recall involved my terms as a Lay Member of the Massachusetts Judicial Conduct Commission where I was faced with a vote on life term judicial appointments that I had voted on as a member of the Governors’ Council where I interviewed and voted on their appointment to the bench. I took upon myself to recuse myself from being present or voting on case disposition and resolution of those judges who had complaints come before the commission.

What are your plans for redevelopment for the new city of Mableton?

I will work with the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority to finally address the full development of Magnolia Crossing. Clearly, it is in the best interest of both the city and county to get this parcel developed. It offers opportunities for retail, residential and commercial establishments for that corridor. I will present to the county the advantages of forming a Land Bank Authority. This entity would allow us to develop blighted, tax delinquent, out of code parcels, expand green spaces and address commercial property development as well. The objective is to get parcels on the tax rolls or maximize land use, especially in the case of green space and park land expansion. I will work to address the food, bank and health care desert that exists in parts of the city.

Dr. Michael Owens

What do you think are the 3 most pressing concerns for residents in the new city of Mableton?

Improving the quality of life for residents (Fine dining and shopping options, grocery store, and urgent care options south of Veterans Memorial)  2. Keeping taxes low for residents, especially seniors and those on a fixed income.  3. Building a sense of community (Mableton is much more than just a great location)

What are your goals and objectives as an elected official for the new city of Mableton?

To be a servant-leader and help guide Mableton to become the city that our residents want and deserve it to be.  2. To partner with Cobb county and neighboring cities to create partnerships and Intergovernmental Agreements that are in the best interests of the residents of Mableton.  3. To use my strong relationships with our state officials, members of Congress, and our US Senate to identify additional funding resources and opportunities to keep our city costs low and maximize the benefits of state and federal programs.

How would you describe your management/leadership style?

I joined the United States Marine Corps when I was 17 years old, therefore much of my foundation in leadership has been built on characteristics that value honor, judgment, commitment, justice, unselfishness, and loyalty.   My management style has its foundations in the Marine Corps as well but has been shaped by working as an executive-level leader at several fortune 500 companies.  I believe in empowering people, giving them opportunities, and holding them accountable. I believe in leading by setting an example and continuing to seek self-improvement. I lead with honesty, information, and proficiency.  

What actions will you take to ensure that high quality and effective communication occurs throughout the city of Mableton?

1. Make it a priority.   2. Hire a talented, dedicated City Communications Officer.  3. Meet people where they are when communicating with them.  We will not place the burden on the residents to go get the info.  We must be willing to deliver it to them.

What do you plan to accomplish in your first 30 days? In your first 90 days?

As an experienced manager and executive, I’ve led very large teams and managed complex projects comprising of multiple teams across multiple states and countries.  I keep an open-door policy and make myself as available as possible.  Throughout the course of this campaign I’ve made my cell phone and email address available on my website, campaign material, and on my filings with the county.  It is also important that formal, documented communication plans and operating procedures are created, executed, and maintained. I would hire the best city manager possible.  As a Certified Information systems Auditor, I understand the importance of having a strong auditing and governance program in place, so I will be  financially sound when reviewing and making all decisions.  I will continue to work with people at the state and federal level to bolster incoming funds allowing us to deliver more services to residents while keeping taxes low. I will establish a City/County working relationship with Cobb County.  I will interview qualified candidates for City Manager, City Clerk, and Municipal judge.  I will join the Georgia Municipal Association and learn as much as possible.  I will meet with existing Mayors in Cobb and across Georgia, many of who are supporting my campaign, to seek guidance, and gain ideas and things to avoid. I will launch a citywide survey to gather as much input from residents as possible.

What is your position on de-annexation?

My position is to support the state legislation and the law that comes out of that body.  My focus is on providing services to the 77,500 people that live within the city limits and improving their quality of life.

Describe an ethical dilemma you’ve faced. How did you resolve it?

As the Business Information Security Officer supporting a global legal organization fighting cybercrime, I face ethical dilemmas daily. Ethics rely on logical and rational criteria to reach a decision. I rely on this. Many confuse this with values or morals which deal with different conflicts.

What are your plans for redevelopment for the new city of Mableton?

Utilizing our tools of code enforcement, city planning, parks, and sanitation to work with our existing business to uplift our main corridors. Work with developers to build smart, sustainable, mixed-use facilities that contain affordable workforce units.  I have other ideas and plans that will make Mableton a key city in the region.

LaTonia Long

What do you think are the 3 most pressing concerns for residents in the new city of Mableton?

As mayor, my overall goal is to help build a city that is financially solid and operationally sound. Rather than being a bedroom city for Atlanta, I want us to continue to have our own identity and to refine it. To that end, the three most pressing concerns are: 1. How the city will operate and how much it will cost residents. 2. Creating a government where the members work together to unite the city around a central, forward moving vision. 3. Which services we will adopt and when. I believe the transition from Cobb led to city focused can, should and must be smooth.

What are your goals and objectives as an elected official for the new city of Mableton?

My goal is for us to have the most family friendly city in Georgia. As the largest city in Cobb County, we have a unique opportunity in front of us. We have some very immediate tasks ahead of us: · We must establish a Board of Advisors/Transition team. (This is the first part of my 90-120-180 Day Plan).  We need to understand and establish our financial structure · Create a revenue generating plan · Negotiate the transfer of services from the county · Identify our temporary and permanent city hall locations · Unite the city around a shared vision · Identify the community boards we will have and recruit volunteers.

How would you describe your management/leadership style?

Collaborative. It is always better to listen and work together rather than fight and govern by having one more vote than the opposition. You may not agree, but we all have one goal in common and that is for the city to be successful. The mayor has one vote. Each council member has one vote. This means that open communication and working together to find solutions are going to be key. I want us to be a model of the good that is possible in a new city.

What actions will you take to ensure that high quality and effective communication occurs throughout the city of Mableton?

1) I will launch a listening tour in each council district 2) As part of our city website, I will urge the selected vendor to create a space for people to sign up for email alerts 3) I would also like to offer residents the opportunity to sign up for text and call alerts/notifications. Also, within the first 90 days I would like to develop along with the city council a City Council meeting schedule to let our citizens now what’s going on.

As Mayor or member of the city council, how will you provide effective communication with other members of the governing body?

I will have regular office hours for the public and also will set aside time to meet with the members of council. As I mentioned above, I want to launch a listening tour in each council district. I will invite the council member for that area to participate with me. 

What are your plans to ensure that the new city of Mableton has the budget appropriation to meet the needs of the residents?

My priorities are licensing, parks and recs, code enforcement, and zoning. By assuming licensing, we can use those fees to jump start our revenue. The others are services that should have a low cost to launch and continue. That will free up our tax dollars to pay our staff and set aside reserves. Given that we are a new city, I will encourage the council to spend below projected revenues, perhaps at 80 % to 85%, rather than 100%. I will also support a policy that requires a mid-year budget review to compare projected vs actual revenues and expenditures. This will allow us to identify potential trouble areas early and allow time for adjustments with minimal to no impact on our employees.

What do you plan to accomplish in your first 30 days? In your first 90 days?

In my first 30 days, • Create and launch a Board of Advisors/Transition Team • Retain temporary municipal legal counsel to negotiate and execute contracts · Create job description for city manager and city attorney (long-term) In the first 90, • Create revenue generation plan- there are a lot of numbers floating around, but we need to know how we are going to pay our bills • Identify location for a temporary city hall • Develop HR policies for future city employees • Create job description for city manager and city attorney (long-term) • Develop city council meeting schedule (to let our residents know what’s going on) and list of community boards/committees.

What is your position on de-annexation?

Like many residents I have a lot of concerns about what was ahead of us. This is a major undertaking and that is why I’m running. I understand the challenges of becoming a new city. With my experience in public policy, I see the pitfalls of a new city, but I also see the potential. I was not initially in favor of the city; however, the city is here and the new leadership must prioritize creating a unifying vision for the city. Governor Kemp recently spoke out against Buckhead’s efforts to de-annex from the city of Atlanta. In the senate late last week, the Buckhead City bill failed miserably. Eagles’ Landing in Stockbridge failed to deannex just a few years ago. The city passed with a majority of votes. I will not support the disenfranchisement of the vote. Mableton is a city.

Describe an ethical dilemma you’ve faced. How did you resolve it?

I was uncertain about running for public office because I did not support the creation of Mableton initially. I talked with friends and neighbors and realized, quickly, that I should run because our city needs a reasonable voice that understands all sides. As a policy leader, wife, and mother, I know the road ahead can be difficult. As a citizen, I want leadership that will listen and be committed to making Mableton the best place to be. That is the kind of mayor I will be.

What are your plans for redevelopment for the new city of Mableton?

I want us to develop a comprehensive land use plan that code enforcement and zoning can use to make sure we have consistent design standards that maintain and uplift home values, so we can pursue creating a family friendly city with smart development. We must be intentional in our efforts to protect homeowners and create a pathway to homeownership. We must be committed to beautifying our neighborhood’s city. For me, this all starts with the creation of a transition team/board of advisors within the first 90 days so that we can determine what we can do responsibly.

Aaron Carman

What do you think are the 3 most pressing concerns for residents in the new city of Mableton?

Higher Taxes  2) Economic Development   3) Building trust with our newly formed City Government and Elected Officials

What are your goals and objectives as an elected official for the new city of Mableton?

First, I believe it is important to collaborate with residents and business owners. I want to build trust between our new city government and its residents by open, honest and transparent communication on the vision and plan for Mableton as Mayor. Second, I want to create a strong, organizational foundation for the City of Mableton that focuses on the core services designated to be taken over by the city. This will set us on a positive path for our future, by minimizing the city’s spending and tax burden on our residents. If we do that well, we will earn the trust and the right to ask our residents to support smart growth for our future. Additionally, I want to support local business while also attracting new development to the area. We must do this thoughtfully, with focus on Improving and revitalizing our major corridors as part of a long term plan that leads to building a downtown Mableton core. I believe we can build towards this over time, but it will not be done overnight. Finally, Mableton lacks adequate public transit. Upon being elected Mayor, one of the first actions will be to engage and work with the County and Regional Commission by collaborating with their efforts and partnering with our neighboring cities to create investment and lasting change in public transit, not only for the City of Mableton, but the County and Region. 

How would you describe your management/leadership style?

I believe strongly in being a servant leader. I look at my top 5 strengths from Strength Finders: 1) Positivity (Always looking for the positive in any given situation) 2) Empathy (I believe we must listen first and talk second to truly understand the needs of people) 3) Developer (looking for ways to coach and mentor people that unlocks their potential) 4) Arranger (breaking down complex situations to their simplest form and then focusing your energy and resources on the things that will drive the biggest outcomes)  5) Connectedness ( creating and fostering relationships that bring value to both parties)

What actions will you take to ensure that high quality and effective communication occurs throughout the city of Mableton?

I believe we must have a multifaceted approach that includes intentional communication. We must look at the various ways our residents and stakeholders prefer to receive communication and have easy access to communications. This should always include in person or virtual town halls (both city wide and in each district). We should have a digital strategy for videos from each of your elected officials housed in a central and consistent location providing updates and news for the community. We should have newsletters with announcements and resources available to our community. We should listen regularly to our residents to understand their needs and constantly look to improve our channels of communication. This will build trust and respect with our new government and our residents.

As Mayor or member of the city council, how will you provide effective communication with other members of the governing body?

It starts with the foundation of trust (being honest and open with one another) and respect (we will not always agree with the solutions to our problems and challenges, but we will give each member respect). We can not expect our residents to trust and respect our newly elected officials and government if we do not lead by example in how we govern.

What are your plans to ensure that the new city of Mableton has the budget appropriation to meet the needs of the residents?

We must immediately begin working with the County to get access and understand the real data behind our revenues and expenses. We must have full clarity on these numbers as we begin to build out the budgets for each of the services we are taking on from the County. Initially we must focus on the transition of the core services outlined in the City Lite Model. My stance is that we begin with Zoning and Planning, Code Enforcement, and Parks and Recreation. Leaving Trash and Sanitation out. We can address concerns around trash, littering and dumping through stricter code enforcement, ongoing partnerships with non-profit organizations, and community awareness programs. My belief is that we must make sure we are able to do these core services first at the same or better service levels while remaining in budget to then earn the right to ask our citizens for us to take on additional services or programs

What do you plan to accomplish in your first 30 days? In your first 90 days?

The first priority will be to hire a City Manager and Attorney. We are going to be tasked with acquiring the resources, infrastructure and contracts to fully take on and transition the core services from the County. To do this we will need experienced people to help negotiate these services and contracts. We will also be negotiating the contracts for services that we will retain from the County. To do this effectively we will need these positions filled with skilled people. We will also look to form a transition team with people from multiple professional backgrounds and representatives from government to assist in the transition process for Mableton. We must work with the county to acquire the actual data around our revenues and expenses to then begin working toward the first 90 days plan to begin establishing the details of our transition plan, developing a budget and begin laying out the initial foundation for the City of Mableton’s Governmental Infrastructure. This will include the plans to acquire a physical location to house our governmental offices and the plans to build out each of the departments for the services we are taking on. This again should be communicated openly and transparently with all of our residents so they can see the progress we are making, challenges we are facing and the plans to overcome any obstacles we are facing. I believe in tangible results and we must make sure we are showing tangible results and progress at each of these milestones.  

What is your position on de-annexation?

Since the election I have supported the people that had concerns over the nature of the bill and how it was listed on the ballot. I fully support the people involved in the de-annexation effort. In working with these folks and seeing the passion they have for this area and the community, it was one of the reasons that inspired me to run for mayor. I also believe that if the de-annexation efforts do not go through, we will need someone that can bring our city together. As collaborative leader, I can help lead us through this by engaging and listening to both sides and working to build a bridge and unify our City of Mableton.    

Describe an ethical dilemma you’ve faced. How did you resolve it?

I feel we are all faced with ethical dilemmas every day and its what is in our core that determines how we respond to them.  Whether it is little moments where we are alone and can cut corners or take the easy path.  Or more complex situations where we are observing injustice or someone is being threatened.  These are all things we encounter throughout our days and it is the choices we make in those moments that determines our character.  For me, I feel as I encounter these and many others through out my professional and personal life, that I rely on my core values of how I was raised, my religious beliefs as a Christian and empathy for others.  In those moments I strive to be consistent in all things that I do so that people feel safe around me and can trust the man that I am.  It is a daily choice we all must make in these moments and although none of us are perfect, we can strive to be consistent and do the right things.  This is a guiding principle in my life and it is something that I try to instill in my boys as I raise them.  When we witness injustice, we should intercede.  When we are faced with the short cut, take the time and effort to do it right.  We have the opportunity to take advantage of a person or situation, chose to do the right thing and some times that means sacrificing yourself for the betterment of the situation or another person.  Ultimately the way I was raised  and something that was instilled in me over the years were a couple key values: 1) always leave something better than the way you found it 2) Know the person God created me to be and be true and consistent in that daily.  When we do those two things, we will make the right decisions more than we will not

What are your plans for redevelopment for the new city of Mableton?

I see both short and long-term steps we can take to improve the “blight” along our major corridors.  Immediately, the city should implement consistent code enforcement.  In order to continue to improve the area in the coming years, Mableton should retain consulting services or have a permanent staff position dedicated to economic development and planning.  The purpose of this position and/or services would be to establish redevelopment incentives and opportunities that coincide with the city’s vision and plans.    However, before we can earn the right to ask our residents to support a massive redevelopment, we must focus on our core services.  A downtown center should be a long-term strategy for redevelopment for Mableton.  My family moved to Smyrna 40 years ago, before its downtown area had been developed.  It took time to develop that area into what we now know as downtown Smyrna.  Something similar can be accomplished in Mableton over time, but this should be viewed as a long-term vision for the development of the city.  I look forward to working with our residents to envision what we can accomplish and establish as a city center.   

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