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Meet the Post 3 candidates

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ROSWELL, Ga. — The campaign for Post 3 on the Roswell City Council has become the most crowded race in Roswell’s fall election. A total of six candidates qualified for the special election: Hanny Alexander, Bassem Fakhoury, Sean Groer, Mike Nyden, Joe Piontek and George Vail.

Post 3, liaison to Administration and Finance, was recently vacated by former council member and mayor pro tem Donald J. Horton, after he resigned to pursue his bid for mayor.

Hanny Alexander

Alexander

Background: Hanny Alexander has worked as a Roswell firefighter since 2004, before resigning to run for City Council. He has attended the Air Force Academy and graduated from American Intercontinental University with a bachelor’s degree in information technology and a master’s in international business management. He was born in Nashville, Tenn.

What made you decide to run?

I love living in Roswell — it is a great city for families and businesses. I want to ensure it continues to be so — to be a place where people want to raise families. When kids graduate college, I want them to come back to Roswell and raise their own families. There is a lot we can to do ensure Roswell does not become simply a pass through city. Serving on the City Council will allow me to have a hand in shaping the vibrant, sought-after community I envision.

By not being a career politician, I will bring new, fresh ideas to the table. Further, as a resident, businessman and patron of Roswell, I will work to maintain the small-town feel we all enjoy.

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

Being a veteran, a firefighter and a businessman, I bring a wealth of knowledge and understanding to the council. I will bring new ideas and the ability to be understanding of all our constituents. I understand the art of compromise and will work tirelessly to listen to the people of Roswell.

I see Roswell as a community where families and businesses love to be. We are a vibrant community — with a small-town feel — boasting great food, great culture, great people and are considered the suburb to live in. It is a place where families raise their children, and where those children can’t wait to come back to and raise their own families.

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

Parks, transportation and economic development.

I will bring ideas that allow us to expand Roswell’s parks, so they become common meeting places. Roswell is full of a number of wonderful, family-friendly parks — more than most cities our size. Leveraging our parks to showcase local restaurants and food trucks, and to feature live music, will ensure we continue to grow that small-town, connected feel.

I will push to establish a committee that includes GDOT, Gwinnett County, Sandy Springs and Alpharetta. The committee will work together to devise a plan to improve traffic concerns. This is obviously not a problem that can be solved in my two-year term. However, the longer we wait to address this, the greater negative long-term impact it will have on our community. We need to jump on this now.

It’s time to look at smart economic development. We need to incentivize businesses so they want to make Roswell their home. By creating tax incentives and business-friendly practices, we can help to mitigate the future tax burden on our residents. Currently, Roswell is 80 percent residential and 20 percent business. By creating tax incentives for businesses to move into and operate in Roswell, we would create greater revenue for our city, which would allow our residents to reduce the painful tax hikes the future will likely hold for our primarily residential city.

Bassem Fakhoury

Fakoury

Background: Bassem Fakhoury has resided in Atlanta since 1993 and in Roswell since 2008. He’s been married for 23 years and has two children attending Georgia Tech.

Fakhoury owns a company specializing in the repair and maintenance of restaurant equipment that he started in 2013. Prior to that, he worked for The Coca-Cola Company for 19 years.

Fakhoury is involved with various community interfaith projects around Roswell as well as on the Citizen Emergency Response Team. He was recently elected chairman of the board of directors of the Roswell Community Masjid.

What made you decide to run?

I became concerned about the level of hate and divisiveness displayed around the country. I want to do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen in Roswell. I believe in the importance of leveraging the contributions of the entire community towards making our city a better place to live in for everyone. The greater the diversity of thoughts, the more creativity is brought to resolving the problems.

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

I think the biggest concern is making the city thrive economically while preserving its historical identity. I think the solution requires listening to all the ideas and suggestions, building a strong cooperation between the various constituents and implementing a sustainable approach to solving problems and implementing improvements.

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

I would like to involve more youth in the decision-making processes. It is imperative that they bring their enthusiasm and energy to resolving the issues we face today. They are a key component of the community that I would like to see more engaged.

I would like to bring businesses that will respect the historic identity of Roswell. This will not only make Roswell a destination, it will help alleviate the tax burden on the homeowners. Instead of trying to figure out how to change to draw new development, let us leverage the unique assets that we already have.

I will work with city officials, city planners and experts in the field to improve the energy efficiency of government facilities, to reduce the carbon emission of government vehicles and to encourage future developments to meet similar standards.

Sean Groer

Groer

Background: Sean Groer, his wife and two children have lived in the Chickering neighborhood in Roswell for nine years. He has recently retired and is now spending all of his time raising his children, spending time with family and focusing on what he can do to make Roswell a better place.

Groer has a bachelor’s degree in economics and computer science, and a master’s degree in statistics.

What made you decide to run?

In 2013, I sold my business to KPMG after starting it from scratch with one other partner, no funding, and a few ideas. The business focused on building solutions that help companies make business decisions using analytics and massive amounts of data. We started the company in 2010 and it grew very fast — much like the way Roswell is growing now. I stayed at KPMG for about three years to integrate the business and left there in March of this year. Now I am focused on family and community, have all the time I need to do a great job for our city and feel like I can provide perspective on how to innovate and modernize our city while still making it the community we want for our children.

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

The challenge we face in Roswell is protecting what makes us special — our small-town charm, while managing massive growth. At the same time, Roswell homeowners are overburdened from a tax perspective — the ratio of business tax to residential tax is imbalanced compared to the cities around us. So how do we bring businesses to Roswell without losing our identity?

I believe we need to repurpose several of our large shopping centers into places where high tech companies will want to build their business and focus on connecting the key areas of the city with walkable and bikeable options. Being from the startup world and the tech sector, I have a thorough understanding of the culture and facilities these companies require. Having someone from the tech sector on City Council sends a message to businesses that Roswell is serious about transforming to a tech hub with small-town charm.

Traffic is a challenge as well, as Roswell is a thoroughfare for traffic coming from Sandy Springs, Milton, Woodstock and other areas. Between the growth within the city and the growth around us, we have to get much more scientific about how we manage traffic. My 17 years of experience in advanced analytics and optimization will provide new thinking on how to solve the city’s traffic problems. After talking with leaders around the community, I feel that we are not using smart city technology yet, and it could really help.

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

Most importantly, we cannot continue to put high-density developments near our historic districts — the development at the corner of Woodstock and Canton has changed our city forever, and we must ensure we manage any development in the Canton Street area responsibly.

From a growth perspective, I’d like to focus on the opportunities we have in East Roswell and outside of Canton Street — think about ways to repurpose some of the land and buildings to places that will attract modern companies with high paying jobs. This will help with our tax ratio, and we will do it in areas of the city where it doesn’t overburden the infrastructure. With the wonderful parks we already have along the river, we can connect parts of east Roswell to our downtown. Ga. 400 divides our city in half and it’s very important to me that we be creative in ways to make sure the entire city is connected.

I would also focus on using data and modern technology to help inform the decisions that the city makes. There is always a human aspect to decisions made in council chambers, with transportation and public works, and in other areas. However, cities in general are not using the massive amounts of data available to them to help make fact-based decisions and understand the downstream effects of the decisions they make with development, rezoning, etc.

I’d like to take a look at the Parks and Recreation programs for our families, and in particular our children, and ensure they are getting the funding they need to provide every child with the opportunities they need. Many of our programs are oversubscribed, and it’s not fair to the children for them to miss opportunities they deserve, because we can’t provide them the resources they need.

Mike Nyden

Nyden

Background: Mike was born in California, and with his wife Trudy, has resided in Roswell since 2004. They own a consulting company specializing in program managing the build of technology infrastructure for large events, arenas and mixed use developments including Suntrust Park and The Battery, Atlanta. Mike and Trudy have one adult daughter.

What made you decide to run?

I was surprised at Don Horton’s resignation, and then concerned about who had an interest in continuing the effort of the councilmen elected in 2015 and the voter’s direction. I think real progress has been made to repair our zoning, including protecting our neighborhoods, and defending our historic areas and downtown. When no one came forward who expressed a desire to continue what the voters asked for, and the new council has undertaken, I decided to run.

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

In my opinion, the key issues for the city should be exactly those of its citizens.

  1. Continue to fix our Zoning, the UDC: Let’s protect neighborhoods and defend our Historic District and downtown from development that just doesn’t make sense.
  2. Bring high paying jobs to Roswell, with new Class A and mixed-use space: Let’s reach out to larger companies and repurpose our empty big-box stores. I think “maker space” and incubators on our east side may be a great fit, and the outreach toward that end is a good start, and those high paying jobs will help support small business development that could fill some of the now abandoned retail space.
  3. Tackle Traffic with citizen input, particularly as it impacts their neighborhoods: Listen to the people who offer input for a local solution for traffic by acknowledging they are “citizen stakeholders” who need to have an actual say in any solution that will impact them and their neighborhoods. Let’s understand their problems better, listen when the people most impacted offer suggestions and define solutions that solve their traffic issues.

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

I will continue to support the direction of City Council, and the vision of the voters.

And one other thing – I want to make sure that each of our Roswell kids, particularly those who are economically disadvantaged, have access to the youth programs provided by our great Parks and Recreation Department and personnel. I believe we have the heart and strength as a community to make this happen. With a little innovative thinking and a positive will, we can find reliable and safe transportation for these kids. I think it’s important. If they’re in our town, they’re “our kids,” and I think we should work together to take care of them.

Joe Piontek

Piontek

Background: Joe Piontek is a Roswell native with 45 years of dedication to the city and its residents. Joe has built a business here, raised a family here and been involved in the community.

He is the president of ComWeb Internet Solutions, based in Roswell. He is a member of Roswell Rotary and the former president of the Willow Springs Homeowners Association. He served on the City's Planning Commission, the Northwood Elementary Foundation and is currently a Trustee of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System.

What made you decide to run?

I have always attended City Hall meetings, work sessions and community charrettes. Lately, I've seen a polarization in the politics of the city that has been very negatively perceived by the business community, causing businesses to dismiss even attempting to open in Roswell and moving to the warmer climes in Sandy Springs or Alpharetta. This is leading to a serious long-term imbalance in the city's income balance and will eventually lead to much higher taxes on our residents.

With the decisions of two more council members to leave, in addition to the two senior councilmen not seeking reelection, it became imperative to bring balance back to the council. I believe I have the appropriate skill set, temperament and knowledge of the issues facing the city to restore that balance and provide leadership going forward.

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

Development: The Unified Development Code established clear, easy-to-understand development regulations that provide appropriate design guidance for innovative approaches to development while maintaining the desired character of Roswell. It addresses development throughout the city, including the Historic District. On the downside, the transitions between commercial and residential areas need work. Not just by sweeping regulations but by a block-to-block breakdown to make sure the character of each area is respected appropriately.

Taxation: A fact of city revenue and budget models is that a residence uses more in services than they pay in taxes so a healthy and sustainable mix of revenues needs to be 60 percent business and 40 percent residential. Roswell sits closer to 30/70. This will lead to ever increasing taxes on our residents. I oppose any increase in our taxes and will work to improve the climate businesses need to call Roswell home.

Traffic: Roswell has the same set of roads we had in the ’80s when our population spiked from 5,000 to the current 95,000 residents. The recent passage of the TSPLOST funds and the Transportation Department's preparation with shovel-ready projects will ease many of our problems over the next five years. We also need to research all options from the Master Transit Plan currently being undertaken by Fulton County. The best solutions will involve work between our six cities and not just a Roswell-centric plan.

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

I'm from the "East Side," and I understand the general feeling that overdevelopment is being pushed to that side of the city to solve the exploding growth we are seeing in our population. We have missed so many great opportunities to solve the Holcomb Bridge and Ga. 400 corridor and that would be a major priority for me. Our city needs Class A office space as well as new housing choices for our changing population to keep Roswell a vibrant community while maintaining our unique charm. I believe this can be done with careful growth but we need to better involve and inform our residents of the issues and tradeoffs we face. Solving this problem will go a long way to solving the development, taxation and traffic issues I've addressed.

George Vail

Vail

Background: George Vail and his wife, Lisa, moved to Roswell seven years ago, where they now live with their two children.

George has an undergraduate degree in geography along with a master’s degree in environmental sciences and policy. He has spent his career working on transportation, planning and environmental problems for private companies, cities, counties, states and federal agencies. His financial and budgetary experience includes being a former director of an IT software consulting company where he managed a $30 million budget.

What made you decide to run?

As a husband and father of two children in elementary school, I am compelled to bring my 20 years of planning and infrastructure consulting experience working with similar cities like Roswell to my own town. I have felt for some time that our city leadership has not been working well together, which has distracted them from focusing on the right problems and priorities with respect to growth, protecting our historic character and keeping Roswell moving. Our town needs to be better managed, planned and ultimately cared for with respect to the people who currently live, work and own businesses here.

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

UDC/Community Planning — I'm in favor of smart, manageable growth when it considers the needs and potential impacts to existing neighborhoods, our historic town character, water and transportation infrastructure and local schools. The Unified Development Code, along with the city's zoning map, need to be carefully revised to better protect the character of our Historic District. Thousands of dollars have been spent to date by the city on developing various master plans that have already gone through community workshops and consensus building. In addition, the city just updated the 2035 Comprehensive Plan that provides our long-range policy direction. Let's stop paying for planning documents that sit collecting dust on the shelf and start leveraging them as guidelines on zoning decisions and implement what's already “on the books.”

Improved Transportation — I've personally worked on many roadway improvement, alignment and widening projects over my career and I will work with our Transportation Department to focus on reducing congestion, improving traffic flow, traffic light timing, additional sidewalks, bike lanes and multi-use paths, median beautification, along with potential traffic calming measures that may be needed in some of our neighborhoods.

Economic Development — Roswell needs an updated economic development and action strategy to focus on attracting new businesses and high-paying tech and health care jobs, while prioritizing the revitalization of our aging shopping centers and blighted corridors into unique destinations that fit the character of our city.

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

  1. Bring my years of planning experience to help the city revise its UDC to better protect our Historic District and residential neighborhoods.
  2. Work closely with our Public Works and Transportation Departments to focus city resources and budgets on addressing our aging water infrastructure and implementation of the TSPLOST projects that were voted on by the citizens of Roswell.
  3. Build a strong partnership with Roswell Inc to bring new investments in economic development that will focus on blighted areas, aging shopping centers and the East Roswell Target/Kohl’s shopping center.


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