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Newcomers poised to make up most of Flowery Branch council

POSTED: October 18, 2009 12:14 a.m.
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Chris Bozeman

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Flowery Branch politics will soon be awash with fresh, new faces.

The five people seeking one of three vacant seats on the Flowery Branch City Council haven’t sought public office before, replacing three incumbents who chose not to seek re-election Nov. 3.

And the three new council members will join two councilman in the middle of their first four-year terms, Chris Fetterman and Craig Lutz.

“A lot of new people are coming (into the city), and some are taking interest,” said Mayor Diane Hirling in a recent interview. “I think it’s a great thing that we have a choice of the six candidates.”

Hirling is unopposed in her bid for a second four-year term as mayor.

At issue for many of the candidates is how Flowery Branch handles future growth.

Once a sleepy city, the South Hall town has boomed in the past decade or so, now serving as home for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and teeming with new subdivisions, including the 1,000-acre Sterling on the Lake.

Property off Spout Springs and Hog Mountain roads off Interstate 985 has been developed into shopping centers, with businesses continuing to open even as the recession lingers.

“I would like to see this same kind of effort being put into our downtown area as well,” said Stacy Carlson, who is running for the Post 3 seat being vacated by Pat Zalewski.

“Flowery Branch has a very good home feeling to it. ... I love the downtown feel and I would very much like to emphasize it and see more positive development in the near future.”

Carlson, 26, said another key issue for her is the condition of the city park.

“We need to get this cleaned up to make it more family friendly and more accommodating to our children,” she said.

For Kristopher Yardley, also running for Zalewski’s seat, the election centers around “where we go from here.”

“There’s a section that’s been growing a little bit and one that hasn’t as much. There’s kind of battle of where the growth goes,” he said. “I want to make sure the city grows positively. We need to attract small businesses. They help the economy grow.

“We need to do as much as we can to attract small business. Get government out of the way and keep taxes low, so they are attracted to the area. If people build small businesses, that’s a reinvestment in the community.”

Chris Bozeman, 31, has concerns about the town’s drinking water.

“Some people have issues with (quality), such as rust in the lines,” he said.

Also, he is concerned that the town’s police department is overstaffed.

“I don’t see the purpose of having 15 officers in a 5.9-mile square-radius town,” said Bozeman, who is running for the Post 5 seat being vacated by Mary Jones.

“From what the city manager and mayor have told me, we’re paying out $1.2 million a year and only receiving in revenue $787,000, so we’re taking a deficit with our police department.”

Tara Richards, 33, said she believes the city’s lack of a capital improvements program is a big issue, “especially with having a boom in growth.”

Also, “I think it’s important that we get the public involved” by having more evening meetings, she said.

Currently, all the council’s meetings are held in the morning.

Overall, “I think it will help to get a council that maybe has a little bit more background in planning and quality development, so we that we can look a little more long-term.

“I think we’ve been very short-term focused.”

She is also running for Jones’ seat.

Mike Miller, 34, sees growth as the city’s biggest challenge.

“In the city, there are two sides: People who don’t want the growth and people who do,” he said. “I tend to be pro-growth as long as it is very well planned out. I’ve seen too many communities in Georgia that have taken on growth without the infrastructure being planned for.

“I think we’ve got a good start to that in Flowery Branch, with the plans to upgrade (the sewer plant). I just want to make sure that as the growth comes, it is planned for and not thrown upon us.”

A sixth candidate, Otto Mutzberg II, announced Thursday by e-mail that he was withdrawing from the election, said City Clerk Melissa McCain, adding that the withdrawal isn’t formal until he signs an affidavit.

As of Friday morning, Mutzberg hadn’t withdrawn officially. If he does, Miller will face no opposition in his bid for the Post 4 seat being vacated by Allen J. Bryans Sr.

Mutzberg couldn’t be reached for comment.



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