ROSWELL, Ga. — Fourteen council candidates crowded the stage at High Meadows School Oct. 11 to speak out to their supporters and answer questions about their platform.
In what is probably one of Roswell’s biggest elections in recent years, a total of four council seats along with the mayor’s seat will be up for election Nov. 7. No incumbent is seeking re-election. That means only two councilmembers will retain their seat – Mike Palermo and Marcelo Zapata, who have both served two years so far.
The forum was hosted by Roswell NEXT in conjunction with Positively Roswell and the Roswell Woman’s Club.
During the forum, candidates answered three questions each. Topics covered traffic, affordable housing, studies, revitalization and the role of council members, but one of the most discussed issues was over where Roswell should continue to invest in its now national award-winning parks system. The question was posed only to Post 3 and 5 candidates.
Post 3 candidates Hanny Alexander, Sean Groer and George Vail all agreed that maintenance was important and more connections between the parks, especially on the river, could bring east and west Roswell together. Bassem Fakhoury, however, said it was more important to perfect what the city has before eventually connecting the parks or acquiring more parkland.
Mike Nyden likewise said he wanted to improve east Roswell’s parks to make a destination place on that side of the city.
The city green was also a focus for Joe Piontek, who said that the city could go beyond park maintenance and look to create connections between Canton and Oak Street as well as City Hall.
When the same question was asked to the Post 5 candidates Keith Goeke and Matthew Tyser, both named maintenance as a priority. However, Tyser said he hoped to acquire more parkland as well, while Goeke said he did not support moving the war memorial as outlined in the City Green project plans.
The Post 4 candidates differed when asked about economic development and whether they support Roswell Inc. Meg McClanahan said the organization is doing great, but she wants to see them be more of a stakeholder in zoning.
Marie Willsey pointed out that Roswell Inc has the tools to talk to and approach businesses in a way that the city cannot and that it is an “incredible asset.”
Andrew Leonardi added that Roswell Inc gets paid from hotel/motel taxes and “their return is great.”
Post 6 candidates were asked about the balance between the studies the city commissions and the action that results from the reports. All candidates agreed that the city needs a better plan for its future. Karen Parrish said that a city planner would be perfect for such a vision, while Matt Judy added that Roswell needs to focus more on the future than dwell on the past, before suggesting a comprehensive study of the east side.
Gus Hadorn said he supported finding the best practices in urban areas around the world to see how they handled similar issues and find ways to adapt them.
To see the full video of the forum, visit the Positively Roswell Facebook page at facebook.com/proRoswell.