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New council takes over in Flowery Branch
Tara Richards takes an oath as she is sworn in as a Flowery Branch City Council member Wednesday at City Hall. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

FLOWERY BRANCH — A new era of government began Wednesday in Flowery Branch as three City Council members were introduced and the council agreed to switch to night meetings as a way to better involve the public.

“I am truly excited about the next four years, because I believe we have a most positive, professional, intelligent and independent council,” said Mayor Diane Hirling during a swearing-in ceremony at City Hall that also featured new council members Mike Miller, Kris Yardley and Tara Richards.

“All I can wish for is that every decision we make will be the right decision in the best interest of our residents for the positive growth of our city,” the mayor said.

Hirling began her speech saying that she had set out four years ago, at the beginning of her first term, “to bring stability and respectability” to the city government.

“I am proud to say we have achieved it,” she said.

Hirling ran unopposed for her second four-year term. Miller, Yardley and Richards won their respective races in November to succeed Allen Bryans Sr., Pat Zalewski and Mary Jones, who didn’t seek re-election.

The election was noteworthy because the council now comprises residents who are relative newcomers, with four of the five hailing from the city’s largest subdivision, Sterling on the Lake.

The new council members spoke little to the audience about their new jobs.

“It’s an honor to be here, and we will remember that every day as we work hard to do the business of the city,” Yardley said.
Miller gave no remarks as he headed to his seat after being sworn in. Richards only said, “I look forward to serving on this council in the next four years,” drawing some laughter from the audience for her brevity.

During public comment time, former Flowery Branch Councilman Ed Lezaj praised Hirling for “continuity the last four years ... (and) I hope she continues that.”

“You took over a dysfunctional City Council and, unfortunately, I happened to be a member of that,” he said.
Lezaj pointed out the top-heavy Sterling makeup of the council, adding, “Just remember, you serve the entire city. ... It’s not this side of (Interstate) 985 versus that side.”

The council then launched into a short meeting, naming Councilman Craig Lutz as its mayor pro tem.

The group also voted to change the time and date of future city meetings.

Meetings have been held at 9:30 a.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, but starting with the next meeting, they will take place at 6 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of the month.

The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 21, when there will be a final reading and vote on the change.

Lutz made the motion to change the meeting times. He said he has tried twice before — at council organization meetings the start of the past two years — to get it passed but was shot down each time.

There was little discussion on the matter, as the new council members touted the idea as candidates.

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