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 candidate Cara Schroeder, who is running for District 2, Post 1 on the Tucker City Council. The answers have not been edited.
1) Why are you running for this office?
I love Tucker and have dedicated more than 20 years of my life to caring for its people and parks well before it was a city. I want to take all that I have experienced and learned in my volunteer leadership positions, whether it was through our Friends of Tucker Parks groups or my appointed positions on Tucker’s Community Council and now Planning Commission and combine it with my professional strategic planning experience to bring my qualifications to the Tucker City Council. My leadership and experience will be a great asset to the citizens of Tucker.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
Dedication to Tucker – I am prepared to serve the people of Tucker from day one because it’s what I’ve been doing for more than 20 years. With such a high turnover on council due to term limits and the passing of our dear friend Bill Rosenfeld, Tucker needs proven leadership from people who know the community and have invested their time and talent into making it successful.
Planning & Zoning Experience – From my time serving on Tucker’s Community Council and now serving on the city’s Planning Commission, along with my training received from the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, I have a much better understanding of community planning, the legal zoning process and our zoning codes. Zoning is one of the Council’s most important responsibilities and I have faced those tough decisions. It’s not easy, but I am fully prepared for this new role.
Proven Results in Our Parks – I have successfully implemented park improvements from start to finish by gathering community input, developing plans, and building relationships with other organizations and government entities. I have been engaged with park projects from start to finish, from securing funding to implementation. Examples of park projects include: new trail map with wayfaring signage at Henderson Park, engaged and recruited volunteers to expand our reach with Tucker Parks, and secured over $1.3 million in funds for park improvements.
Business Ownership & Budget Experience – Through my nonprofit consulting company, I know what it is like to be a small business owner. I serve clients and my team members every day. I work with nonprofits assisting them with the building their strategic plans and budgets, similar to what our City Council and staff do for the city of Tucker.
3) If elected, what are your top two or three priorities?
My top three priorities include:
· Lawrenceville Highway Business District Improvements.
· Public Safety including new traffic calming measures and pedestrian safety improvements.
· Diversity and Inclusion for all residents of district 2 and all of Tucker.
Please reference my website at carafortucker.com to read more about these priorities.
4) In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing the city of Tucker?
As with most cities right now, Tucker is faced with how to balance preservation around the city, while embracing change and future growth. Change and growth is vital for any city and without proper planning and sustainability, our city would become extinct. The key is to grow wisely so we keep our “hometown feel” and maintain housing affordability so Tucker continues to be a welcoming place for our diverse community to live, work, play and pray.
Another important issue with our municipal election is the fact that four new members will be elected to city council. With such a high turnover of leadership, it will be important to vote for qualified and experienced people who will serve the entire Tucker community and avoid special interest politics. We need leaders ready to serve all the people of Tucker and not engage in partisan politics. City functions are nonpartisan and our City Council should be also.
5) What is your opinion of Tucker’s current mayor and who will you be voting for in the mayoral election?
Frank Auman has provided steady leadership to help our City stand up on a solid and successful foundation these past five years. That work began long before he ever ran for Mayor. His dedication to Tucker was proven through his work in the community and at the State Capitol helping to keep Tucker together and avoid being split apart by the Lakeside cityhood initiative. During this time of transition for the City Council, we need his continued experience, dedication and leadership to continue Tucker’s success over the next four years. I’ll be voting for Frank Auman Mayor FOR Tucker.
6) What is your opinion of Tucker’s current city manager?
I am the only District 2 candidate that has actually worked directly with Tami Hanlin (City Manager) through my role as a Tucker planning commissioner and as a Friends of Tucker Parks volunteer. Tami is always positive, actively seeks feedback, and works to build consensus to do what is best for all of Tucker. I know that the Tucker city staff (Team Tucker) appreciates her knowledge and leadership and so do I.
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?
The unique partnership between the DeKalb County Police Department and the City of Tucker continues to be successful with keeping our citizens safe. Tucker has always had exceptional relationships with our DeKalb County police officers with strong neighborhood watch programs. I have experienced first-hand public safety issues that were addressed immediately by our police officers. They are equipped to handle all levels of public safety needs with resources many local police departments do not have. I have also experienced their concern for the people in our community. Officers have used their own money to provide shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Tucker. Their very involved in our community and participate regularly with community cookouts and sponsoring events to build relationships with our youth.
If elected, I will continue to advocate for more community policing resources and ensure our officers have what they need to protect and serve Tucker. I am thankful to our DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond and his decision to allocate monies from the American Rescue Plan for crime prevention, public safety and retention bonuses. We need to recruit and retain more officers so they can continue to invest the time to building relationships in the communities they serve, including Tucker.
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?
Tucker is a welcoming and caring community NDO or not, but if given the opportunity, I will support the passage of an NDO for the city.
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?
One of my top priorities is to continue Tucker’s mission of being an inclusive community. Our diversity is our strength and an asset to this community. I will utilize my experience and leadership to ensure all residents of District 2, regardless of race, ethnicity, background, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity have a voice in city affairs and a seat at the table. I’m committed to appoint community members that reflect our diversity and to ensure inclusion of all Tucker residents.
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?
I served on the mayor’s emergency COVID-19 advisory committee to address any and all pandemic concerns, and I witnesses the city’s response first- hand. The City of Tucker provided fact-based education and lifesaving resources to support its residents and business owners. While others publicly argued, Tucker got to work delivering masks to assisted living facilities, senior apartments and local businesses. Masks were mailed to residents and given away at drive-thru events. We strongly encourage mask use and vaccinations.
The City used its CARES funding to support Tucker businesses and non-profits who suffered during COVID. They also partnered with NETWorks for housing relief and food delivery getting assistance directly in the hands of those who needed it most with more than 550 households served. Fifty students were helped through distance learning support so their parents could continue to provide for their families. It was truly a community and city partnership that ensured federal funds were used effectively and efficiently.
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?
The City of Tucker should carefully consider whether the City could provide more effective and efficient service if they transferred roads and stormwater management from DeKalb County. It’s my understanding that City staff and Mayor and Council have worked tirelessly with the county’s Roads and Drainage Department, since taking on these services would, by Tucker’s charter require a citizen referendum. Through SPLOST funds the city is paving roads and adding sidewalks, so as we continue to build this infrastructure, we must also ensure a proper maintenance plan for the long term.
There are also numerous stormwater issues that have gone unattended for many years, well before Tucker became a city. If elected to city council, I’ll work with my fellow councilmembers and city staff to propose a path forward for the city, educate our residents about the pros and cons of taking on this additional service, and then let the voters decide at the polls.
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?
A larger field to host semi professional sports teams as well as perhaps major tournaments for youth programs will be a huge step for the City and economic development. The income generated by these events will add to our pool of income to update other parks that still are in need of important amenities. We have made considerable improvements to our parks since taking them over from the county. Fitzgerald Field will also bring more economic opportunities for local businesses. The City is already investing in the needed infrastructure in and around Fitzgerald Field because its needed now for our youth sports programs. There are already sidewalks along Lawrenceville Highway, but we need to address pedestrian access to Fitzgerald as well as all our parks.
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?
Whether City of Tucker staff are contractors or employed directly, they are all a part of what the City calls Team Tucker. You’d not be able to tell who works for whom in your daily interactions with the city as all employees are committed to providing positive customer service and following policy set by the Mayor and City Council. It’s also important to note that many staff members, contract or not live in Tucker which is a plus. The Mayor and Council review these contracts every year and have periodically brought staff in house where it makes sense. I would support this thorough review and consideration. Many local governments continue to use this hybrid model well.
14) Do you support continuing to stream Tucker’s meetings online? Why or why not?
Yes, the City created online capabilities due to COVID safety protocols. It’s important to note the City has had a more generous virtual public comment/public hearing policy during COVID than other surrounding cities who required public comment to be done by email or a phoned in voicemail. I appreciated that efforts the city has imposed to keep city meetings open and accessible while maintaining the safety of our community. Of course, the open meetings act will regulate that after emergency orders expired, but continued streaming of city meetings has become a new normal and should remain in place.
15) What can be done to improve pedestrian safety on Tucker’s roads?
Pedestrian safety is an ongoing issue not only in Tucker, but across Metro Atlanta. A large portion of the City’s transportation plan addresses pedestrian safety improvements, and we need to continue to implement this plan. The City recently approved safety plans for Brockett Road and Chamblee Tucker Road. They continue to build sidewalks, add flashing crosswalk signs and have installed digital speed detectors across many of our collector roads. As a city council member, it will be my top priorities to continue to review and implement the recommendations from the traffic studies and transportation plan.
16) What do you think is Tucker’s greatest strength?
Our greatest strength has always been our community’s willingness to roll up their sleeves and come together to solve problems in our community. Many community members and organizations continue to participate in and with city government whether as volunteers, appointees to city boards or participating in the many public participation opportunities. We collaborate on issues and organize around future solutions. One of my priorities will be to increase this type of public engagement and to ensure new residents to our city have the same opportunities for engagement that I did many years ago.
17) What do you think is Tucker’s biggest challenge?
As with most cities right now, Tucker is faced with how to balance preserving what we love about our city, while embracing our future which will always include change and growth. Without change and growth, we become extinct. The key is to grow wisely so we keep that “hometown feel” and affordability so Tucker continues to be a welcoming place for our members of our community.
18) How would you address what you believe to be Tucker’s biggest challenge?
I would like to engage the general public on city issues that impact our residents directly and indirectly. We need to continue to engage and educate the community on the importance of economic development, planning and zoning, and smart growth as directed by the city. Keeping housing affordable is a problem facing many cities and communities around Atlanta. There are no easy answers or solutions, but we need to explore options and learn together. As a City Council member, I want to make sure the community is aware of these steps.
As Tucker becomes a desired location for those looking to move here for our proximity to Atlanta, our diverse housing stock, or for our many parks and amenities, we must ensure that our long-time residents can remain in their homes, while new residents can afford to locate in Tucker.
19) If you are elected, what will you do to support the business community in the city of Tucker?
To keep Tucker an economically viable community, I will support our various array of businesses, whether locally owned, national chains, manufacturing, service related, etc. It’s important to work with our business community so they can be successful and thrive in Tucker. I will engage with them so they understand what business resources are available to them as well as how they can be a good business partners, property owners and employers.
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?
Yes, of course. I do this now in my service to the city and volunteer organizations and through my business. Anyone who has ever worked with me knows that I am both transparent and ethical. Actions speak louder than words, so I’ll continue to seek education and guidance on these matters through resources like the Georgia Municipal Association and ensure all elected officials work towards appropriate ethics and governmental transparency.
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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