JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – When Mayor Mike Bodker laid down a challenge to his City Council, it only took them until the March 10 City Council meeting to take him up on it.
Friday, at his State of the City Address, Bodker said he wanted to move ahead with creating a city center that would be a catalyst to attract new business and visitors to the city as well be a gathering place for residents.
He also wanted to explore the idea of partnering with the Gwinnett County and Duluth recreation departments to turn the old Rogers Bridge over the Chattahoochee River into a pedestrian bridge – something the previous council refused to discuss.
At the Monday night council work session, Councilwoman Kelly Stewart wasted no time laying the two issues on the table for some “brainstorming.” She had already been prodded by the citizenry asking about issues, so she was ready for the opportunity.
Stewart said the city center and the Rogers Bridge project are two issues Johns Creek should take up right away. The city should be more aggressive with the city center project especially.
“It’s been talked about, but we can’t afford to just let it sit around,” Stewart said. “As for Rogers Bridge, you could not even bring that up with the old council.”
New Councilman Lenny Zaprowski said he was ready to move on the topics. He is concerned the city is losing out on attractive company relocations and other developments as the economy emerges.
“The challenge for us as a City Council is to be more forward-thinking. Our neighbors around us are getting significant projects while we’re doing nothing,” Zaprowski said. “If don’t, we’re just going to be behind the eight-ball.”
He said there is no reason why the city cannot attract top quality restaurants, retail stores or Fortune 500 businesses. He particularly wanted to see movement on the city center.
“We need to involve Johns Creek Advantage. We have talent in this city to do the job,” he said.
Johns Creek Advantage [JCA] is the public-private partnership to centralize economic development efforts for the city.
Councilman Brad Raffensperger also joined in, noting the JCA is just getting started. Its director has been on the job only a few months.
“That is one [of the city’s] steps forward. We’re still a young city; we’re only seven years old,” Raffensperger said.
Bodker added a word of urgency, noting no one is waiting for Johns Creek to walk up to the starting gate.
“While we’ve been talking, they’ve been doing,” Bodker said.
Stewart said she is pleased to see the tenor of the new council’s attitude.
“I am pleased with the dialogue that this new council is having,” she said. “The way it was before, we had a city manager who had an agenda. He would only bring forward drops of information that he wanted to feed the council.
“Then you had a council that wasn’t really taking the lead. You had a council that did what they were told to do,” Stewart said. “This council is not going to sit back and let somebody dictate to us. We were elected to lead. The public has told us if we don’t like the job you’re doing, you will be replaced. And rightly so.”