JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – At the Oct. 23 Johns Creek High School PTSA forum, Mayor Mike Bodker and former Mayor Pro Tem Bev Miller were featured in a separate question-and-answer session. Bodker has been the only mayor the city has known and Miller has served as council’s mayor pro tem since the first council session where she was elected by fellow councilmembers.
BODKER: A native New Yorker, he earned a BBA in accounting at the University of Georgia. He co-founded the Johns Creek-based nexDimension Technology Solutions with his partner. He has lived in Johns Creek since 1998.
He began his career in public affairs when he became president of his homeowner association, The Communities of Wellington. He later became a board member of the Johns Creek Communities Association, a group which became the leading voice for community affairs with Fulton County. In 2005, he was nominated by then-County Commissioner Lynne Riley to serve on Fulton County’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Better Governance.
In 2006, he was the JCCA Citizen of the Year for his public service. As chairman of the Committee for Johns Creek, he led the committee’s efforts to educate local citizens on the advantages cityhood would bring.
In 2008, he was one of eight people to be named by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution “A Hero of Open Government.” He is a founding board member and chairman of the Johns Creek Foundation. In 2007, he was instrumental in founding the North Fulton Mayors Association for the cities north of the Chattahoochee. He served two terms as chairman of the Mayors of Metropolitan Atlanta (MOMA). He has two children and serves on the local PTA.
MILLER: Before her election to the original City Council, she was a founding board member of the Committee for Johns Creek, which led the grassroots campaign for cityhood. She personally lobbied legislators for passage of the enabling bill House Bill 1321 to get it through the House and Senate.
Once elected, she was chosen mayor pro tem and held that office until she resigned to run for mayor. She now serves as chairwoman of the Johns Creek Visitors and Convention Bureau. She is a board member and past-president of the Johns Creek Business Association. She is a charter member of the Rotary Club of Johns Creek – North Fulton and the Johns Creek Civitans.
She began her public service by getting involved with her children’s PTAs. She served two terms as Shakerag Elementary PTA president. In 2005, she chaired the Chattahoochee/Northview Cluster of schools.
She and her husband have lived in the Shakerag community for 19 years and raised three daughters.
Miller is director of community relations for Emory Johns Creek Hospital.
Moderator Russ Spencer alternated questions for the two mayoral candidates and began as he did with the council candidates by referencing the mayoral investigation report:
The report stated that the investigation was stymied by the mayor’s unwillingness to release phone records and personal lease documents. These delays came despite assurances that they would be redacted to protect sensitive phone numbers and eliminate any information that was not relevant.
Why were the records never released?
BODKER: I am the mayor and 100 percent of what I do in public is open to the public. But I have a private life, and what is private is private. People call me with an expectation of privacy, and my and their privacy rights should be private.
The City Council gave the investigator the right to subpoena those documents, and my attorney asked for the subpoena to be served and let a judge decide if it was lawful. But the investigator never did.
MILLER: The rules change when you are elected. The Georgia Municipal Association clearly separates personal cellphone use from public business. The reason is the taxpayers have a right to know what citizen business is being conducted. The taxpayers have a right to know.
The shouting match the city manager was involved in has been a sore point in this election. Under what circumstances should that type of behavior be condoned?
MILLER: Under no circumstance. But once it occurred, if the mayor had called a special called meeting it would not have played out in the press. Instead of issuing a press release, as mayor he should have done that.
BODKER: I was waiting for the councilmembers to come to me. It needed to be addressed immediately. I waited a week for some reaction, but they said nothing. That’s when I called for his resignation.
MILLER: As an employee, he has a right to due process. An executive session could have handled it quickly.
The mayor did accept a week at a developer’s beach house, and he did negotiate a favorable lease for a townhouse from him. Why would he not recuse himself from a vote when the developer had a zoning request before council?
BODKER: I did so once when Mr. Aaronson came before the council concerning the Standard Club, of which I am a member. His request could have favorably affected me as a member of the Standard Club through the dues I pay, so I recused myself.
The other two votes were minor changes on another property that had favorable recommendations for approval from staff and Planning Commission. Since there was no benefit to me, I voted along with council.
MILLER: On a city council you have to be very careful. It’s about perception. There was a gratuity involved. You received a free vacation from him.
BODKER: Rich Aaronson has been a friend of mine for 20 years. My family and I stayed at his house with another family. I paid the cleaning bill and that is all there was to it.
Illicit massage parlors have been a community problem. What can the city do to relieve this social problem?
MILLER: There was a forum at Perimeter Church recently about this. I have three daughters, and the thought of prostitution in this city is revolting. We need stronger zoning laws and stronger police enforcement. The City Council needs to stay out of their way. This is an enforcement issue. But we should support the police with any resources they need.
There are things we can do. Kelly [Stewart] and Brad [Raffensperger] have suggested we become a model city – Champions for Safe Children – that requires our support of tools to remove illicit massage parlors.
BODKER: I would support legislation at the state level. We also need to work cooperatively with other cities so we’re not just pushing the problem down the street.
Redevelopment in the city is an issue. What types of redevelopment do you support? And what about assessing impact fees?
MILLER: There is not enough undeveloped land to make impact fees practical. We need to concentrate on attracting new businesses and retaining our existing ones. Progressive zoning laws with incentives for new businesses would help.
BODKER: One of the new things is to have mixed development with walkable communities. Rental properties realize leases of 112 percent over market, and owner-occupied homes are valued at 160 percent of market value in these types of communities.
There is so much tension on the council right now. What vision will you bring, what will you do to bring the council together?
MILLER: I think my history of working collaboratively proves I can lead even if there are differing opinions. I value openness, honesty and good government. There is a complete lack of trust now on the City Council.
It is like in business when you have the chairman undermining what the board of directors is trying to do.
BODKER: When we started off, we played a role. We were all in this. But every day in office I worked hard. But I would lead with my heart first and my brain second. I will try to work harder with whoever I can.