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Candidates for Brookhaven's first mayor sound off on issues
by LaTria Garnigan
lgarnigan@neighbornewspapers.com
September 06, 2012 03:44 PM | 2605 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Neighbor asked the mayoral candidates for Brookhaven, a few questions about why they decided to run for office and what their top priorities are for the newly-created city. Below are their answers.

Larry Danese, 30-year resident of DeKalb County and a retired engineer

Top priorities:
 working for a smooth transition from startup to full implementation of the city services we will provide
 balancing the council priorities, which may vary by district
 ensuring the flow of revenue and the selection of a qualified city manager and police chief

Any hesitation about being the first mayor of a new city, if elected:
No

Challenges:
Once past the 20-something actions we must take first to establish authorities, revenue and ensure continuation of existing services, we will balance the concerns of the individual districts with those of the city in ways that foster the aspirations of residents and businesses for a great city and fiscally responsible government.

Initially supported cityhood efforts:
Yes

Experience:
I have a 15-year history of service to the community, serving on numerous boards and committees. I have worked with county and city governments on watershed management, planning and zoning, code enforcement and with state officials on transportation issues and animal related legislation.

Prepared for pushback from DeKalb County in regards to services:
Precedent for transfer of property and services has been established by the formation of Dunwoody and the annexation by Chamblee. No pushback is anticipated. Negotiation is required for the timetable for turnover and the costs for continuing services in the interim.

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J. Max Davis, 42, an attorney specializing in consumer finance law and a 40-year resident of Brookhaven

Top priorities:
n fiscal responsibility, transparency and service
Starting a city from scratch requires public servants who understand the importance of fiscal responsibility in the new cityhood model, and who also understand Brookhaven will have to be run vastly different from our county and even federal government. I believe that our city should never spend more than it has and should operate in a transparent and efficient manner.

Any hesitation about being the first mayor of a new city, if elected:
I have no hesitations whatsoever. I am ready to start helping our community come together to create the jewel city of the Southeast. Achieving cityhood required many volunteers and I am very proud to have been among them. I look forward to continuing to get to know and understand the concerns of those who had differing opinions about cityhood.

Challenges:
From the opening gavel of the very first city council meeting, Brookhaven needs a leader who truly understands the new efficient city model and who is ready to listen and build consensus. From a practical standpoint, the first task is going to have to be adopting the city code and ordinances so that we do not have even one minute where we have a city without any law. The most important service that will need to be set up is a first-class police department.

Initially supported cityhood efforts:
Yes, I was the president of Brookhaven Yes. I also served on the board of Citizens for North DeKalb, the citizens group that raised the funds for the feasibility study on Brookhaven required by state law before any new municipal incorporation.

Experience:
As an attorney I have been involved in land use and planning issues in DeKalb County and surrounding municipalities. I led a grassroots effort to bring the positive development at Town Brookhaven. I was a founding member of Friends of Murphy Candler Park and the Ashford Alliance. I have the temperament, personality and character necessary to lead and build consensus and achieve what is best for our city.

Prepared for pushback from DeKalb County in regards to services:
It is in the best interest of Brookhaven and DeKalb to have an orderly transition. I am mindful of some of the potential issues. Having had several consultations with elected officials in our surrounding municipalities, I am keenly aware and prepared for such contingencies. I have already met with DeKalb officials about this in an effort to identify and prevent problems that may arise.

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Sandy Murray, 65, small business owner and 9 years Brookhaven resident

Top priorities:
I would work hard to provide our residents of Brookhaven with a smooth transition of services from DeKalb County to our new city. I would make sure that this process is conducted in an orderly and planned way, so that services would not be interrupted.

Any hesitation about being the first mayor of a new city, if elected:
I do not have any hesitation about being the first mayor of the new city of Brookhaven. I have lived here for nearly a decade. I am an active Rotarian and know that the Rotarian motto “Service above self” is going to play an important role in my ability to lead our new city.

Challenges:
There are many challenges that the city by itself cannot solve. For example, the federal and state highways within the city boundaries may need widening or repaving in the near future. This will require the mayor to work with the proper authorities to accomplish critical tasks. The same cooperative spirit will be required when dealing with issues related to water, sewer, drainage and many other critical pieces of our infrastructure.

Initially supported cityhood efforts:
After reading the Carl Vinson Institute Study in November 2011, I had many questions about what would be required of our communities if a new city of Brookhaven was formed. Now we are beginning to put past differences aside to make a truly great city.

Experience:
I have many years of experience as a business executive who has created businesses and grown them successfully. I understand customer service models and how to work to keep customers satisfied. I enjoy working with people to identify and solve issues, even when those people don’t agree on the means to solving those issues.

Prepared for pushback from DeKalb County in regards to services:
Yes. Although all city services will not be available immediately on Dec. 17, I will work hard beginning day one (if I’m elected mayor) to make sure that there is a smooth transition of services from the county to Brookhaven. I would make sure there is significant input from and cooperation with the city council and our city manager. We have a couple of years to absorb the costs of these services and make sure that the new city is operating smoothly within the guidelines of our city charter.

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Thom Shepard, 44, off-and-on lifelong resident of Brookhaven

Top priorities:
I want Brookhaven to set the bar for all future cities that follow the path of the first seven new cities. I want Brookhaven to set this standard not just with quality of service, which should be above and beyond the expectations of citizens, but with frugality, efficiency, sensibility and innovation in public-private partnerships as well as figuring out what we can do as a community outside the government to reduce dependence on the taxpayer.

Challenges:
This election is not like most. We can’t just resort to typical politics and sort it all out later. We must start working together to make sure that no matter which candidate wins on Nov. 6 or Dec. 4, we all have as much knowledge, experience and understanding of the critical issues as is possible. The winning candidate will face tough decisions that will have to be made rapidly so we must focus on the details most critical to the start-up period while still taking time to politic on more general and long range platforms.
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