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Meet Roswell’s five mayoral candidates

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ROSWELL, Ga. — By far the busiest race in Roswell this fall will be for the mayor’s seat. Five candidates qualified for the Nov. 7 election after longtime Mayor Jere Wood was ousted in August when a Fulton County Superior Court ruled he had violated term limits. Wood is appealing the decision and remains the city’s mayor for now.

We asked the five mayoral candidates to provide responses to several questions about their bid for office. Here are their responses:

Lori Henry

Henry

Background: Lori Henry is a small business owner and longtime resident of Roswell. She has served on Roswell’s City Council for more than eight years. A graduate of Ohio State University, Henry began her career as a Cobb County public school teacher.

She and her husband Karl have raised their daughter, Scottie, within walking distance of the Historic District, while her parents lived in Martin’s Landing for over 35 years.

What made you decide to run?

The issues that are facing the city, like the need for economic development, made me decide to run. I want to protect the neighborhoods of our city that make us unique, while attracting businesses to create economic vitality. I want to be an even more careful steward of our tax dollars. My leadership will provide a careful framework for hearing all sides, while keeping an eye on the ball. As the next mayor, I will set the tone and tenor of my administration as one of inclusiveness and consensus building.

What do you think are the key issues for the city and citizens?

The key issues for the city are the need for economic development, particularly attracting businesses here instead of them going to our neighboring communities. Economic vitality is one of the foundations of a thriving community. Key issues for the CEO of the city are creating an atmosphere of respect, motivating and appreciating our city employees, and managing the budget with fiscal restraint and transparency. The key issues for our citizens are protecting their quality of life, and this means honoring the reasons we all move to Roswell. Zoning and traffic are what I hear citizens say are their key concerns.

If elected, what are some of the first issues or projects that you plan to tackle?

Economic development will be at the top of my agenda. We must focus on our vacant and underutilized strip centers, investigate innovative adaptive reuse opportunities, and attract businesses – the missing component in the Live, Work, Play equation.

We need to take a new approach to how we deal with traffic – the challenges of traffic on Holcomb Bridge Road are different than traffic on Jones Road. One size does not fit all.

I want to continue to fix the zoning code, creating a balanced approach to development. My pledge to every citizen is that I will represent you and your vision for Roswell. I want to protect and enhance the reasons that make us love this community.

Donald J. Horton

Horton

Background: Don Horton, a Roswell resident since 1986, formally served the Roswell City Council in Post 3 and as mayor pro tem.

He received both his bachelor’s degree in performance and master’s degree in conducting from the University of Michigan. After a career in music, he transitioned to financial services and is currently the principle of Horton Financial Strategies, RIA.

He has been married to his spouse, Gayle, for 47 years. He has two adult children and five grandchildren.

What made you decide to run?

A group of concerned citizens approached me about running for mayor of Roswell. They recognized that I took time to educate myself on every issue that came before council, had careful and reasoned explanations, and that my voting record showed a true independent voice.

What do you think are the key issues for the city and citizens?

Our tax base is seriously out of balance and unstable. The commercial tax base is only 27 percent while the residential tax base is almost three times that, putting the tax burden squarely on the residents.

The answer is to encourage commercial development on Holcomb Bridge and Highway 9. That commercial development should embrace Mixed Use, including office, retail, and multi-family residential. Our city is losing out to our neighbors because developers view us as unfriendly.

Companies are not moving to Roswell because there is very little Class A office space. Institutional Class A office space is defined as having more than four stories, high-end finishes, and is located near a freeway and transit options. We have to make some compromises in order to ensure that our city remains vibrant and attractive into the future.

If elected, what are some of the first issues or projects that you plan to tackle?

  1. Protections for our Historic District: The City Council has had many work sessions on this topic and never seems to make progress. I believe those work sessions need to include every member of the Historic Preservation Commission and arrive at consensus with the council on some of the most pressing areas.
  2. Smart City Technology: I have been studying the benefits that can be derived from it to improve traffic flow, include autonomous trolley systems and to potential energy savings. It would not completely end our traffic problems but it could mitigate it somewhat. We have to embrace new technologies and where we can, implement them.
  3. Redevelopment of our tired and under-utilized strip shopping centers: In some cases finding ways to re-purpose those centers may be appropriate. However, in many cases, the layout of those shopping centers is based on models that are outdated and unattractive. The face of retail has changed. People don’t have to leave their homes to shop today. These shopping areas need to be more of a destination — a place where people can go for an experience in addition to shopping and dining.

Lee Jenkins

Jenkins

Background: Lee Jenkins is an Atlantan and a graduate from the University of Tennessee, where he was a football player. After earning his B.A., he spent one year with the NFL New York Giants. An injury shortened his football career and instead led him to a 25-year career in the financial services industry.

He retired in 2012 and became the founder and pastor of Eagles Nest Church in Roswell. He has been married to his wife, Martica, for 29 years and has three children.

What made you decide to run?

I decided to run because I love Roswell and the people who live here. I simply feel called to serve the citizens of this great city in a more meaningful way. Like many people in Roswell, I have grown tired of the divisive politics and the lack of civility and unity at City Hall. Roswell is ready for fresh, transformative leadership with someone who knows how to get our world-class talent to work together. Roswell is ready to have someone who is a problem-solver and can bring people together to face our challenges.

What do you think are the key issues for the city and citizens?

I have listened to hundreds of Roswell citizens since I announced my candidacy. There are numerous issues in our city. We must address the traffic problem and determine a smart and sensible way to develop our city commercially and residentially. We must vigorously preserve the character and charm of our city. Additionally, we must make Roswell one city united. The Eastside-Westside distinction must be addressed. Lastly and most importantly, we have a leadership vacuum. Our city government is working against each other instead of working with each other. I can change that culture.

If elected, what are some of the first issues or projects that you plan to tackle?

As a leader of leaders, I want city staff, City Council, and the numerous boards and commissions to be empowered to do the jobs they were elected, hired and appointed to do. I will work to ensure that they have the training, support and positive work environment they need to perform at the highest level. After that, I will focus on areas like transportation, development and redevelopment. Roswell is ready for a new chapter in her life. Roswell is ready for Lee Jenkins.

Michael Litten

Litten

Background: With 40 years in sales, marketing and management, Micheal Litten vows to bring his experience and acumen to Roswell’s leadership. He has worked for both startups and Fortune 500 companies in the healthcare market.

He has lived in Roswell for 33 years after moving to seven different cities and graduating from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s in marketing. Litten has two younger sisters, Susan and Elizabeth, who founded Raindance Media Solutions and the Lionheart School, respectively. He has two sons, David and Jonathan.

What made you decide to run?

I will bring a “think different” mindset to approach to the leadership role of Roswell. For example, I’ve decided not to use yard signs for my campaign, but seed paper instead to germinate flowers rather than litter landfills.

I embody the words of George Bernard Shaw, immortalized by Bobby Kennedy: “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’"

Since I announced my candidacy in January, I have been meeting with numerous “think different” visionaries who share a passion for delivering “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” to the city we love.

What do you think are the key issues for the city and citizens?

To paraphrase former president Calvin Coolidge, "The chief business of the American people is business."

I believe the chief business of Roswell's “CEO” is to bring high paying jobs to Roswell, so we can live, work and play. I will use my sales and marketing skills to court innovative companies that are interested in locating in the Atlanta area and let them know that Roswell is open for business.

If elected, what are some of the first issues or projects that you plan to tackle?

  1. Bring high paying jobs to Roswell by modeling the success of the adaptive reuse of the old Herman Miller manufacturing facility on Mansell. The old Super Target and Kohl’s location in East Roswell are prime targets.
  2. Address our transportation crisis by seeking a myriad of “think different” solutions to include finding a way to encourage our children to ride the bus to school.
  3. Create a Roswell Area Park pool version 2.0 by making it an indoor/outdoor aquatic facility working with the German company Losberger.
  4. Develop a beach volleyball venue and Chattahoochee River “put in” at the old Ace Sand & Gravel location.
  5. Begin a “Tunes in the Trees” concert series from the back porch of City Hall and a “Rockin’ the River” music festival at the Riverside park and Ace Sand & Gravel location.
  6. Launch a Roswell heliport out by the recycling center.
  7. Advance the idea of making Roswell the geocaching city of the South.
  8. Use a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority loan to purchase the Seven Branches legacy property.
  9. Continue to champion the idea of a Makerspace at the old fire station #4.

Sandra Sidhom

Sidhom

Background: Sandra Sidhom’s parents came to America 30 years ago to escape the religious persecution in Egypt for their Christian faith.

She is a lifelong resident of Roswell and graduated from the University of North Georgia with a Bachelor’s of Arts in international affairs with a Middle Eastern concentration. She has experience working in project management, real estate and with Fortune 500 companies.

What made you decide to run?

I was very concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability that I have seen from our elected officials. I realized that public servants have been exclusively serving private interests for too long, and “We the People” have been waiting for far too long for representation that reflects our values and vision for our community.

I am running because I see many opportunities to Renew Roswell and transform our beautiful community into the American Dream Destination of the South. Fresh leadership will enable the citizens of Roswell to live better lives and be able to leave behind a proud legacy.

What do you think are the key issues for the city and citizens?

  1. Renewing our economy: As mayor, I will fight each and every day to make sure we’re doing everything we can to bring top paying jobs to Roswell and supporting our small businesses. I will utilize my experience working with large and medium-sized businesses to attract job creators and promote sustainable economic development in the city.
  2. Increasing property values and reducing blight: I will prioritize reducing blight, abandoned properties and eyesores that lower our property values, reduce our safety and hurt our quality of life in Roswell. Roswell should be a great place to live, work, and play, with property values rising across the city.
  3. An inclusive Roswell: Roswell is a place full of great people who deserve a voice in city government. As mayor I will work to make our city more inclusive by engaging a diverse group of residents to weigh in on municipal issues and working to address issues of discrimination.
  4. Preserving Roswell: We can and must do more to preserve our city's character while promoting sensible growth. As mayor, I’ll work with our community and business leaders to bring forth a unified vision for development that promotes economic strength while preserving Roswell’s small-town feel and historic charm. I will address re-purposing existing buildings, and identify opportunities to improve eyesores that plague our community.

If elected, what are some of the first issues or projects that you plan to tackle?

In these critical times, it is more important than ever before to invest in renewable energy and fight climate change head-on through local ordinances promoting conservation and transforming abandoned buildings into renewable energy hubs. The best part is that we will not only be saving the planet, we will be able to utilize the revenues earned through energy generation to finance a portion of the city’s operations to reduce the tax burden on our citizens.

I will implement an open-door policy and do all I can to ensure that the process to creating solutions for our city is transparent. I will be a full-time advocate for the citizens of Roswell, working non-stop on their behalf.

As mayor I will partner with our local schools, after school organizations and parents to support families and education with wraparound afterschool programs. Too many of our children are not getting the support they need outside of the classroom, and it’s time that our city steps up and leads the way to support families with programs tailored toward the needs of our youth.


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