MILTON, Ga. — The Dec. 18 City Council meeting will mark the end of an era for the city when two of the city’s original council members will cast their final votes.
Karen Thurman and Bill Lusk will end their tenures on the council Monday after serving since the city’s incorporation. Thurman announced in August she would not seek re-election and Lusk’s bid for a third full term was unsuccessful in the Nov. 7 general election.
With their terms drawing to a close, both have shared their pride in seeing the city grow from its infancy to the budding, successful municipality it has become.
And for both council members, that process began before the city’s incorporation.
Thurman and Lusk served on the city’s formation committee – Lusk in creating a public works department and Thurman on the budget committee, which sought to declare the feasibility of the city from a financial standpoint.
Thurman said her motivation to see Milton become its own entity was for local control.
“Decisions were being made by people who were not in the area,” she said. “I believe decisions are best made locally.”
That sentiment was shared by Lusk, who said he wanted to see Milton “control its own destiny.”
“The effort was led by a local-rural driving force,” Lusk said. “We could take care of the services that Fulton County was providing under special services and take them over ourselves with no added tax burden.”
Those motivating factors led both to seek seats on the City Council.
“I wanted to be able to continue to make a difference and was working on several initiatives,” Thurman said. “I knew I would get a lot more done as a council member.”
Lusk said he saw the parallels between running a city and his work as a contractor. He said the city could take control of its own projects and hire the proper personnel to see those plans come to fruition and create a unique city.
“The good thing about a brand new city is that you don’t have any preconceived issues,” Thurman said. “You really get to start from scratch, getting to decide what you want the city to be and its priorities.”
Both councilmembers said one of the top priorities was getting the city’s public works and public safety departments up and running.
For Lusk, that meant improving the roads and intersections which he said had long been neglected by Fulton County. He said it was vital to conduct the total reclamation of roads which were paved decades before using antiquated techniques. Safety of motorists was also a driving factor.
“Birmingham Highway and Providence Road was just about the most dangerous intersection in North Georgia,” Lusk said. “To be able to put in the roundabout and decrease the accident rate was a huge step for the city.”
Thurman said the creation of the city’s fire and police departments for increased resident safety is perhaps what she is most proud of during her tenure with the city.
“Public safety is the first and foremost thing we must do,” she said. “It was one of our greatest successes that we could respond much faster than we were used to. Everything we do is important, but life and death is most important.”
In addition to increasing the safety of residents, Thurman said she hopes to be remembered for her efforts in preserving Milton’s rural character through the Greenspace Bond, large lot incentives and design standards.
“Those are the things that are going to make sure that Milton continues to be a very special place to be,” she said.
Thurman is still happy with her decision not to seek re-election, stating she needed time to focus on her health, family and business. And she believes the city is in good hands.
“I feel like I’ve raised a teenager and they’re going off to college for others to work on now,” she said. “I’m sure they will continue to hold the same ideals we have had from the beginning.”
She said she still plans to serve Milton residents, just in a different capacity.
“Going forward, I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’ve been praying about it,” she said.
Finishing his second full-term, Lusk says he believes his service with the city will continue through the Veterans Memorial Markers and the historical markers project. In addition, he says the road improvements, projects at the city’s parks and City Hall will continue his legacy.
Like Thurman, Lusk has a positive outlook for the future of the city.
“I feel good about the fact this project is in the hands of the owner, so to speak, and they’re going to improve upon it as they see fit,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to be proud of in this city. You bring a project from nothing to where we are today, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.”