Snellville leaders unified and looking ahead
By Carole Townsend
Snellville – Campaigning is hard work. At the end of a tough campaign, both those who were elected and those who weren’t, are tired.
That is certainly true of the newly-elected leaders of Snellville. This year’s campaign was intense and hard fought; the effects of the campaign are evident with each of the new council members and the new mayor. But there is something else that is evident, too – a renewed sense of dedication, energy and yes, even optimism.
Mayor Tom Witts is enthusiastic about the future of Snellville. Sitting behind the mayor’s desk in city hall, a tired smile replaces the frown of concentration on his face when asked about the results of the November election. “I have never seen such a groundswell of happy, proud people as I see in this city now,” Witts said. According to the new mayor, there are great things in store for Snellville. “It’s amazing to me to see and hear what this election has done for the people. It’s one thing for a politician to say it, but when the people say it, that’s something else. I want to see the level of involvement, from elected officials to staff to volunteers, continue to be strong and to grow even stronger. This city is made up of great people who get great things done.”
Councilman Bobby Howard shares Witts’ enthusiasm. “The people are ready for this city to be united. There are a lot of projects that have been on the radar for a while and can now move forward. We have redevelopment areas that we can work on. We’re adding sidewalks and a labyrinth to the city (the labyrinth is planned to be adjacent to the Veterans’ Memorial). There are all kinds of good things going on here.”
Howard champions the city’s Cop Cab, an initiative that encourages people not to drink and drive. The Cop Cab has been so successful in promoting that message that other cities are taking notice. “It’s a project that I’m very proud of,” Howard said.
Councilman Roger Marmol, new to the Snellville council and new to the ins and outs of getting things done in the city, wants to get to know his colleagues and city staff members better. “I want to learn how things work, how to get things done,” Marmol stated. The freshman councilman also plans to turn some of his attention back to the home front. “I’ve put a lot of my private life on hold during this election. Now, I need to get that back in order, especially with my wife,” he laughed.
Councilman Dave Emanuel wants to pursue the possibility of attracting a Greater Gwinnett College satellite campus to Snellville. “We can finally go forward with a number of exciting plans that have been stagnating because of roadblocks. There is a new sign ordinance in the works, and I’d like to see the city’s website revamped.” The Town Center is a priority for Emanuel, his fellow council members and Witts. “We need a walkable Town Center. Study after study has shown us that both young people and seniors want that. We’re ripe for this type of development in Snellville,” said Emanuel. “We’re ready to rock and roll.”
Emanuel wants to attract hi-tech jobs to the city, giving homeowners a selection of jobs in all income ranges, not just restaurant and retail. “All of the businesses we have now are important to the city. I just want to see higher-income jobs added to increase job diversity, and we can do that.” According to Emanuel, all improvements accomplish a goal that matters to every property owner in the city, and that is increased property values. “If an empty-nester couple wants to sell their home and downsize or move to a walkable community, they won’t have to leave Snellville. With increased property values, they won’t be upside-down on their mortgage. They can sell their current home and buy another home right here.”
“We’re ecstatic about the election results. People are ready for a good change,” said councilwoman Barbara Bender. “We have a great group of people now who can debate and discuss in a healthy manner.” A December 5 work retreat will put those ‘debate and discussion’ skills to work, when all council members, the mayor and key staff members will meet for an annual retreat, to strategize and plan both short-term and long-term goals. “We’re certainly hoping that our Town Center projects will come to fruition soon. That’s a goal that’s near and dear to my heart,” Bender said.
Cristy Lenski, also a freshman council member, is ready to roll up her sleeves and get started. Like Marmol, she plans to learn the ropes first. A social studies teacher at South Gwinnett High School, Lenski’s heart is with the youth of the city. She wants to form a youth association that brings high schoolers into the decision-making processes of Snellville. “ I want them to see that they can affect their city’s future, even now. I have always taught civic involvement and responsibility; now, I can actually put it into practice,” said Lenski.
Now that the 2015 election is behind them, Snellville city leaders are united in their eagerness to move past the campaign season and get on with the business of the city. For more information about upcoming events and the city calendar, visit www.snellville.org, or “like” the city’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/City-of-Snellville-GA-City Hall, and the Snellville Tourism and Trade (STAT) Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Snellville-Tourism-and-Trade.