I’ve been asked a few times why I would give up a voting seat on the council so I could run for the (mostly) non-voting mayor role.
Let me first start by saying that I’m proud of what I was able to do on council – particularly the improvements I was able to secure for Brook Park after many years of neglect, as well as the ordinance I successfully introduced to finally allow alcohol at public events. These were tangible benefits I was able to secure for the people I represented.
At the same time, however, I was constantly frustrated by the city’s lack of economic development over the last decade – especially since Doraville is such a major cross-roads for Metro Atlanta. There is no reason why our neighbors should be booming, and we’re still driving by an empty and derelict Kmart every day.
Why is Doraville in this position? Lack of leadership.
There are very few organizations that can function without a leader. That’s certainly true of city councils. On council, each member is an equal – if any particular member tried to act as leader of the group, they would get push-back from the other council members. The reason we have a mayor is to set the agenda and provide that necessary leadership to the council. Other cities have mayors who are leaders with vision and who have moved their cities forward. Unfortunately, in Doraville, there has been very little leadership for many years.
After I was elected to council, I thought – at the very least – we would finally be able to start working on Doraville’s downtown redevelopment. As I’ve pointed out before, the city owns 10 acres of land across from the MARTA station. A majority of council members at the time said they were willing to start work on this. The city has already created multiple plans laying out possible visions for this land (here’s one from 2010, and here’s one from 2016!). After finally being able to schedule a work session discussion however, the most we could get any consensus on was to put together another(!) plan to look at it. If there had been someone leading the council, that person would have taken the reigns and pushed us forward towards action.
The last straw for me was during the 2020 budget process. Our current mayor kept making a statement that continues to ring in my ears; saying that “We have to trust staff” about whatever budget and pay plan they put before us. This sentiment frustrates me, because while it’s important to trust staff to be experts in their given fields – they are supposed to be operating based on direction that comes from the council. If council is not giving staff guidance about what to prioritize in the budget process, and instead the council is just a rubber-stamp, then what is the point of even having a council? Again, this is a failure of leadership. The mayor should be making sure these discussions between council and staff are happening early and often.
Running for mayor was not part of my plan for my life right now, but I came to realize that the city was desperately short of leadership and would continue to drift for another 4 years if we didn’t have a change. I agonized about leaving my council seat right up until I made my declaration. In the end, though, I believe my leadership skills are needed more as Doraville’s next mayor. That is why I am running.