JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – In his first two terms, Mayor Mike Bodker was unopposed. In his third term, he is in the fight of his life. He faces an investigation, started two months before the election and initiated by a majority of the City Council, and his opponent is popular former Councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tem Bev Miller, who resigned with two years on her term to take a crack at him.
But Bodker is not without a lot of support on his own. His supporters point out the investigation makes no specific allegations, and they say it is suspiciously timed to help his opponent. Bodker has been more than just popular with the city. He is often described as the “Face of Johns Creek.”
It promises to be the most closely watched race in the city’s history.
MIKE BODKER: Says he
can keep city in right direction
Says investigation politically motivated
Bodker has been the city’s only mayor, and he says it is because he has worked tirelessly for the good of the city. Looking back on the last seven years, he sees a city that has come a long way and should continue down that path to more success.
He said his next four years in office will look a lot like those that have come before.
“First, we must be economically sustainable for the government to meet the needs of the citizens. Our Achilles heel has been that the city is 79 percent residential and only 21 percent commercial. If we can improve that by about 5 percent more commercial, we will see some dramatic changes in what we are able to do,” he said.
The city must diversify and create positive financial growth in the community. Placed in the proper areas, new economic growth will lessen the tax burden on residents.
“My whole term of office has been about raising the quality of life in the city. That means investing our tax dollars in the right projects that will protect and enhance the community,” he said.
Top on that agenda is investing in road infrastructure.
Bodker noted this year’s budget has money earmarked for paving the Johns Creek subdivisions in need of it most. The city is also leveraging its capital improvement investment with the Ga. Department of Transportation so that road dollars are doubled.
“We have the opportunity to borrow $6 million next year that will also go directly to fixing our roads. That will be the test for the citizens that we are doing well enough to then move up to a voter-approved referendum bring more of our subdivisions up to standards,” he said.
The city needs to remain focused on those things that have gotten Johns Creek to the point it is now, he said. That means:
** Protecting and enhancing public and private schools. “That is overwhelmingly the top reason people choose to live here.”
** Focus on economic development. That means encouraging business whether it is through events such as the PGA tournament or working with Advantage Johns Creek to recruit new businesses and retain the old.
** Maintain a careful balance of residential and non-residential growth. “You don’t want to be so restrictive you choke off business. But you don’t want to be Buford Highway either.”
Nothing needs to be very much different with the cooperation of the City Council, Bodker said, alluding to the investigation five members launched against him.
“The City Council has been held back,” he said. “We’re not working with the same vision. The citizens have got to decide how to get the four votes it takes to get things done.
“I’ve always explained my rationale for my decisions. We may not always agree, but I know to come to a decision,” Bodker said.
He says he has gained the respect of peers among elected municipal officials. He is one of only two Georgia mayors serving in a leadership position with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He is the second vice president of the Georgia Municipal Association and is slated to be president in two years, and he serves as the North Fulton representative on the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Executive Committee.
He is on the executive committee and was former chairman of the Metropolitan Atlanta Mayors Association and was the inaugural chairman of the North Fulton Mayors Association.
“I think that shows the respect I have earned and the abilities I have to work with my peers on the national, state and local levels,” he said.
BEV MILLER: Says
race about leadership
Time has come for change
Bev Miller says she remembers with fondness those early days of cityhood, and the enthusiasm the City Council had and its unity of purpose.
She said that unity of purpose has strayed and that it is time for change.
“This is all about leadership. Johns Creek is such a good place to live. I have been here 19 years, and it is time for change,” Miller said.
She said the mayor’s seat has never been challenged, so it is time the voters were given a choice.
“What I am saying is it is time to take Johns Creek to the next level. My style is not the Bev Miller Show. I am about listening to the taxpayers and the business people so we can look together to see how we will make this a better place to live,” she said.
That is a tall challenge, she admits, since Johns Creek is already one of the premier residential cities in the state.
“But we are already working to advance and to grow our business community. Their job and our job are to collaborate to make the city a vibrant place to live. On our side, we have to listen better to the business community,” she said.
What the City Council needs to do is to continue working to create a better sense of community – a better sense of place, she said. Seven years has been a relatively short period to do these things, but there are many ways to do that.
“We do that through the branding process. That’s where we work through our [Johns Creek] Visitors and Convention Bureau. It’s all about attitude,” Miller said.
Asked about her goals, Miller said she has goals, but first she will be about listening and working collaboratively. Then, she will set about her tasks:
** Making Johns Creek the premier residential community.
** Working with businesses to grow jobs and bring revenue to the city.
** Create an identity for the city that is known throughout Georgia and the Southeast.
Her main priority, however, will be the purse strings.
“The budget is always at the top of the list. Anything we do must have a viable cost-effective plan. The whole message is listening and working together,” Miller said.
Does that mean the council is not working together right now?
“Clearly, it’s not working together right now. You have to work collaboratively and not divisively – you need trust,” she said. “When we were just starting, it was exciting.
“We got behind the leader, and that leader was Mike. Somewhere along the road, that eroded. It was about a couple of years in. We need to get that back. I’m not saying we all have to agree all of the time. But we need to be working together, bringing plans forward – have plans people can embrace,” Miller said.
The city has its 2020 Plan, but it has to move forward, and it needs to stay on the plan. She said obviously you make adjustments along the way, but no one going off on their own to do something different.
“Once everybody gets back together, it will be good. Drill down to see what is good or bad, then move forward collectively,” she said. “Teamwork and openness has been missing awhile.”
Miller said there is no “conspiracy” about the investigation. She doesn’t even like the term investigation.
“It’s fact-finding, that’s all,” she said. “There have been allegations, and now there is the fact-finding to get at the truth. If anything about this had been political, then nobody would have run [against Bodker.] It’s politically charged, but that doesn’t mean it is for political reasons.”