Editor’s note: Decaturish and the Tucker Observer have published an Elections Guide, a 76-page e-edition featuring Q&As with nearly every candidate running in our communities. To see it, click here. This special e-edition features candidates running for public office in Decatur, Avondale Estates, Atlanta City Council District 5, Clarkston Tucker and Stone Mountain. There is a PDF version of this, which you can see by clicking here, but due to the format of this e-edition, we strongly encourage you to use the e-reader version.
The Tucker Observer provided each candidate in our local races with a series of questions about local issues. Here are the answers of Mayor Frank Auman, who is running for reelection. The answers have not been edited.
1) Why are you running for this office?
I am running for reelection because I love Tucker. Many of us are dedicating our time and effort to ensure we remaine together as a community and set up a city government on a solid foundation. I want to serve the people of Tucker for four more years to make sure we keep our momentum and fulfill the promises we made during the cityhood effort. The three most important reasons for my re-election are: People – we will have four new councilmembers among the seven total members. We need steady, experienced leadership to build a team as strong as the one we have had since our beginning; Plans – the plans we use to guide our priorities and budget (Comp Plan, Parks, Transportation, Downtown, and more) will all be updated or renewed during the next four years. It’s critical that we have a sound planning process that produces results that benefit all of Tucker and keeps us making improvements to our quality of life; and Projects – We have an array of impactful projects underway, including the Northlake redevelopment, major parks improvements, trails, and two new green spaces downtown. I want to see those through to completion and ensure the community’s vision is implemented.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponent?
I know our City and am running to serve Tucker, not a political party. I have the experience, relationships, dedication and sweat equity needed to continue to provide the leadership Tucker deserves and wants. I’m not seeking to bring Washington-style pundit politics to divide our community. We all know where that has led over the past 20 or so years. We need someone who will remain committed to and can stay focused on serving all of our constituents and planning for Tucker’s future.
3) If elected, what are your top two or three priorities?
In addition to the plans and projects I mentioned in question one, we cannot take for granted the basic responsibilities we’ve been so successful at, such as sound fiscal responsibility, strategic planning, and award-winning communications. As for new initiatives, it’s time to consider adopting roads and drainage and stormwater as locally provided services. We’ve been successful with our SPLOST-funded paving and sidewalk projects and need to ensure we have an effective plan for maintenance under our control and not rely on others to take care of it. A second major priority for me is universal broadband for every resident, business and public space in Tucker.
4) In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing the city of Tucker?
As a city government, the issue is leadership. Still being a new city and having to manage a large turnover on council, we must have a leader who has a thorough understanding of the government’s workings and role in the community and the discipline to stay on task. We must have leaders who are even-handed, empathetic, and consider the long-term good of our community in their decision-making. And we must have leaders who have been here long enough and been involved enough in all the aspects of Tucker to understand the full impact of the decisions they will make.
5) What is your opinion of Tucker’s current city council and who will you be voting for in the city council election?
Our current city council is a team of strong leaders who have given of their time and talents without hesitation. It is a difficult and time-consuming task and one they do not take lightly. They may make it look easy at our meetings, but that’s because the effort is put in all along the way. We do not always agree but work to build consensus for the good of the community.
I will vote for the candidates who demonstrate the experience, dedication and understanding of what it takes to serve on city council and make tough decisions. These are the people who have proven time and time again their commitment to Tucker by their actions not just their words on social media. Many of our candidates are already proven leaders in Tucker.
6) What is your opinion of Tucker’s current city manager?
The city manager is a non-political position, which is filled by Mayor and Council. As a personnel matter, it is not appropriate for detailed discussion here. Clearly, she would not be serving in the role if she was not an effective leader.
7) What is your current opinion of the DeKalb County Police Department and are there any changes you would advocate for if you are elected?
We have an excellent relationship with DKPD, and especially our Tucker Precinct, which we constantly nurture and work to maintain and improve. It’s an important reason crime in Tucker is so much lower than in the rest of the precinct. Our officers are in the community building relationships with our citizens and business owners. They are responsive to our concerns. I will continue to work with the Tucker Precinct Commander, Major Medlin, Chief Ramos, Public Safety Director Lumpkin, CEO Michael Thurmond and all of our Commissioners to ensure DKPD receives the funding it needs for retention and recruitment of officers and the reinvestment back into training and additional resources needed to truly be a community policing department.
8) Tucker residents, all involved in boards or committees in city government, drafted a non-discrimination ordinance. Many of the cities surrounding Tucker have an NDO, yet Tucker City Council has not brought it for a discussion. What is your position on the non-discrimination ordinance?
I have great regard and respect for each of the appointed officials who have been involved in this effort. In fact, I appointed each one of them to those positions. I have spent many hours discussing the issue with them and many other citizens, because it matters to all of us. I have serious reservations about trying to use the force of law to bring about the change we’d like to see on this matter. My concerns include the fact that such a law is outside our purview, it creates division instead of unity, and it will lead to all sorts of needless, expensive legal action by and among our citizens. The unintended consequences could be severe, and we are far from a consensus as to the solution. If the point is to state our values and make clear that as a city and as individuals, we are opposed to already illegal employment and other forms of discrimination enshrined in federal and state law, as adjudicated by the courts, we can do that with a resolution, which I have offered repeatedly. I wrote the resolution in support of hate crimes legislation, and I remain convinced something like that is more appropriate here.
9) Racial justice and diversity have been points of conversation over the last year. What will you do to promote racial justice and diversity in the city of Tucker?
Tucker is already one of the most diverse communities I know in all aspects and it’s why we’ve remained a community dedicated to working together. We will certainly not tolerate illegal discrimination in our own employment and other practices as a city. Furthermore, I will continue to lead by example, word and deed, inviting and encouraging every citizen and stakeholder in Tucker to do the same. It’s important to remember, the Tucker cityhood movement was about keeping our entire community together and not allowing outsiders to divide us based on their perceived socioeconomic and racial/ethnic lines.
10) What do you think of the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and what steps do you think the city should take to help reduce the spread of the virus?
This pandemic has been the challenge of a lifetime, and has been devastating to many of our friends and neighbors. As a matter of public policy, I couldn’t be prouder of our holistic response as a city government, both to the health threat itself, and to the broader impacts to business and community life. With guidance from a special advisory panel I appointed, we implemented our Mask Movement program through which we personally delivered and mailed tens of thousands masks to our nursing homes, senior apartments, businesses and residents. We distributed over $4,000,000 in CARES funding to businesses, non-profits and individuals to help them survive and recover from the effects of the pandemic. We assisted more than 250 households with housing and utility relief and provided food to 300 households. There have been a thousand other small decisions along the way that will lead to Tucker coming out of the pandemic healthy, prosperous and ready to face the future, when it could have been left simply battered and discouraged. It’s been an extremely difficult time to navigate, and there will be permanent holes left in all our lives as a result. But we will emerge from this as we have so many large scale upheavals in our history, and we are already seeing positive results in our continued progress as a city.
11) Residents frequently complain about roads and drainage. As of now, the majority of the responsibility lies with DeKalb. How would you work with the county to improve these services? Should Tucker start the process of taking over roads and drainage?
Actually, the whole responsibility lies with DeKalb, and we have worked closely with them since the beginning. For a combination of reasons, they have simply not been able to provide the level of service our citizens want and need. We started seriously discussing bringing this service under the city’s direct control over a year ago, and now have a consensus on the current council that it is among our top priorities. We need to carefully plan for an effective transfer of services and work to educate our citizens so they can make an informed decision at the ballot box when asked in a referendum whether Tucker should take on this responsibility. I am confident based on our track record with other services that we can provide a much better level of service than we’ve been receiving.
12) Parks and Rec is working to turn Fitzgerald Field into an arena that will attract sports tournaments and outdoor events. How will this go over in Tucker? Does the city have enough infrastructure, like sidewalks, to support a sports complex?
The city is not turning Fitzgerald Field into an arena. It already attracts sports tournaments and outdoor activities but is woefully out of date. Acquiring the park was a huge addition to the city’s ability to provide recreational opportunities, and we have already made hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements there. We are now rebuilding the stadium field into a state-of-the-art facility that will hold up to 1500 people for a game or event. We will spend a part of our ARPA money to add and rebuild infrastructure so that our citizens can fully enjoy a range of recreational opportunities there.
13) The city of Tucker largely is staffed by contractors, people who do not directly work for the city. Do you support the current method of staffing the city’s government or would you want to change to a more traditional system where employees work directly for the city?
I have said many times that starting the city with CH2M (later Jacobs), InterDev, Optech and a group of other contractors was one of the smartest decisions we made in the early stages of cityhood. As we have matured, we have continuously brought more and more of those positions in house, and we’ll likely continue to do so. But we will always use contractors for many of our needs as a best business practice for their expertise, seasonal needs, ability to scale, and to expand our capacity for public works projects. We have also made a point to hire highly qualified residents of Tucker into many of these positions, via both contractors and in-house staff, which strengthens our government significantly. Whether a contractor or in-house staff, they are all Team Tucker and eager to give their best to the City.
14) Do you support continuing to stream Tucker’s meetings online? Why or why not?
With the technology available, it’s hard to see why we wouldn’t stream them for viewing remotely, but that cannot replace participation in a meeting by engaged citizens, speaking and working face to face with their elected representatives when they feel safe and ready to do so.
15) What can be done to improve pedestrian safety on Tucker’s roads?
Pedestrian safety has been and will remain a top priority for the city government. Our transportation master plan is based on improved pedestrian safety, especially around our schools. We have added sidewalks in all areas of the city, from Downtown to Henderson Road, LaVista, Cowan, Idlewood, Elmdale, and Hugh Howell. And we have more projects underway now on Brockett, Cooledge and Old Norcross. We have added new flashing pedestrian crossings, including in school zones, and we have replaced and added safety infrastructure at the intersections at Brockett Rd. and US78, at Hugh Howell and Flintstone, and at Lawrenceville Hwy and Lynburn. A long-awaited safety project will soon get underway for Chamblee-Tucker as well. And building out Tucker’s trail system to connect our schools, parks, neighborhoods and shopping areas will add access to safe routes for pedestrians all around the city.
16) What do you think is Tucker’s greatest strength?
We have an engaged citizenry unlike any other community in metro Atlanta. Volunteer opportunities and participation consistently show Tucker at the top of polls and surveys on the subject. One clear example was Tucker being selected as the top suburb in metro Atlanta, which was the result of public online voting. Tucker was not even included as an option by the AJC in their survey initially, but won by a wide margin as a write-in candidate, based on deep and wide participation by the people who love their hometown.
17) What do you think is Tucker’s biggest challenge?
For the city government, it will always be a challenge to remain responsive to our citizens’ needs and plan effectively for our future, without over-reaching, or setting unrealistic expectations that the government can or will solve all the challenges we may face. We must continue to value our partnerships across the community and never believe any one of us has all of the solutions.
18) How would you address what you believe to be Tucker’s biggest challenge?
Leadership. The city’s leadership has to understand its role, have the discipline to do its jobs effectively, and stay in its lane. Simultaneously, we must nurture community and volunteer groups, the faith community, and individuals to do their part, creating an integrated network of partnerships and programs that work for everyone.
19) If you are elected, what will you do to support the business community in the city of Tucker?
Supporting the business community has been and will remain a top priority for me. We talk about them, write about them, and promote them at every opportunity, doing everything we can to ensure their success. It’s why I go to every opening and ribbon-cutting I possibly can – not for the photo op, but to tell them personally and clearly that we support their efforts. It’s also why I established Manufacturing Day, to highlight the amazing work that goes on here. It’s why we constantly work to improve and streamline all our permitting, licensing and other processes as much as possible. It’s why we granted over $2,000,000 in grants to more than 100 Tucker small businesses to help them through the pandemic. It’s why we recognize a business of the month, give a Mayor’s Business Award every year, and support the work of our two outstanding Community Improvement Districts. We can never take for granted what our businesses provide to all of us in taxes, jobs (especially jobs close to home), support of our restaurants and retail and our entire economic development system.
20) If you are elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner? How would you work to promote ethics and transparency in government?
My personal record over the last 5+ years on this subject speaks for itself. For the city, we are constantly adding opportunities for public participation. From the time we conducted our first master plans with large steering committees drawn from the public and then held dozens of public input meetings about those plans, to our charter review commission, we have gone out of our way to create opportunities for insight and input from our citizens. As Mayor, I appoint some 40-50 citizens to serve on our various boards and commissions, ensuring they bring real qualifications, and represent every demographic and geographic part of Tucker. Last year, during the pandemic, we revamped our land use process, adding a public community meeting required to be held by developers before they are even allowed to submit an application. We created the University of Government Affairs at Tucker to enable every member of the public to learn as much detail as they would like about how their government works, how decisions get made, and how they can be a part of it. Despite our best efforts, government can seem opaque, and difficult to access. We remain sensitive to that and are constantly seeking ways to include and involve the public.
More information about voting in the Nov. 2 election:
Election Day is Nov. 2. Early voting will begin on Oct. 12 and will end on Oct. 29. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 4. To register to vote, click here.
To see a list of important dates in the 2021 election year, click here.
Voters in DeKalb County are eligible to apply for an absentee ballot as of Aug. 16.
To apply for an absentee ballot:
— Visit the Georgia Secretary of State website.
— Complete the absentee ballot application using the state’s official paper form. Use black or blue ink only.
Applications can be mailed to the county elections office at this address: DeKalb County Election office, 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032-1239.
Applications can also be submitted by fax, 404-298-4038, or email, [email protected]
Voters may send an absentee ballot request for multiple people who live in the same household in the same envelope or email.
If an absentee ballot is not mailed to you, call DeKalb Elections office, 404-298-4020. You may still vote in person, either early or on Election Day.
In accordance with SB202, a new voting bill signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in March, a copy of a voter’s ID is required to apply for an absentee ballot. A Georgia driver’s license, Georgia state ID, Georgia voter card, U.S. Passport, U.S. military ID, employee ID issued by any branch of the federal or state government, tribal ID, or a document verifying a voter’s name and address – including a paycheck, utility bill, or bank statement – are accepted forms of ID.
Early voting begins Oct. 12 and ends Oct. 29. The hours for early voting are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will also be weekend early voting on Oct. 16, 17, 23 and 24. Call your elections office for hours.
Beginning Oct. 12, you can participate in early voting at the following locations:
– Bessie Branham Recreation Center (2051 Delano Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30317)
– Lynwood Recreation Center (3360 Osborne Road NE, Brookhaven, GA 30319)
– Berean Christian Church – Family Life Center (2197 Young Road, Stone Mountain, GA 30088)
– DeKalb Voter Registration & Elections Office (4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300, Decatur, GA 30032)
– Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library (5234 LaVista Road, Tucker, GA 30084)
– Stonecrest Library (3123 Klondike Road, Stonecrest, GA 30038)
– County Line-Ellenwood Library (4331 River Road, Ellenwood, GA 30294)
– Dunwoody Library (5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road., Dunwoody, GA 30338)
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