JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — For those who have wondered how to increase interest and involvement in local politics, the answer may be found in craft beers.
At least that seemed to be the case Oct. 16, when hundreds turned out for the Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce’s Candidate Meet and Greet at Six Bridges Brewing. The turnout for the event, an opportunity for voters to talk to candidates in a casual setting, exceeded expectations.
“It’s been beyond our wildest dreams,” Chamber CEO Kent Davies said. “We’ve had several hundred people come through to meet the candidates.”
Six Bridges is Johns Creek’s first and so far only craft beer brewery, opened less that a year ago by a local father and son. In Technology Park, not far from the new City Hall, the brewery frequently hosts events from trivia and cornhole competitions to charity nights.
All 10 candidates running for Johns Creek City Council were at the event: Royce Reinecke, Dilip Tunki and Brian Weaver for Post 2; Kent Altom, Marybeth Cooper, Councilman Chris Coughlin and Adam Thomas for Post 4; and Erin Elwood, Judy LaFave and Issure Yang for Post 6.
Additionally, there were some candidates getting an early start on 2020, including current and potential members of the State House and Senate.
“The rule was you can’t put any of the other candidates down,” Davies said. “You don’t have to prepare anything, just mix and mingle with the voters.”
With three seats up for election and only one incumbent on the ticket, this race could completely reshape the dynamic on City Council. Davies says chamber members are looking for the candidates that will carry through on their campaign promises to be business friendly.
“The questions we’re asking are: Do you support business?” Davies said. “Do you truly understand how business can help the community? What will you do to turn around the city’s reputation as a place that’s not great to do business?”
In a survey conducted by the city earlier this year, fewer than 40 percent of residents thought that most new businesses in Johns Creek do well. The city has double-digit vacancy rates for both retail and office space, according to the 2018 Comprehensive Plan.
Davies suggested he’d like to see the City Council do more to attract and support businesses in the city.
“There are people who say, ‘We just want to be a premier residential community,’ but we’re already so much more that that,” he said. “We’re premier arts, premier schools, premier diversity, premier faith. Why would we want to go backwards? We’ve got to keep taking us forward.”
Davies also highlighted the Legacy Center project, an initiative to build a high-quality performance venue and multi-disciplinary arts center in the city. Davies serves on the Legacy Center Task Force along with Chamber Executive Director of Membership Services Robin Buckley, several businesses leaders and City Councilman Jay Lin, who is stepping down after this year.
Business leaders have argued the Legacy Center could help generate tax revenue, attract new businesses and help create a greater sense of place for Johns Creek. Though the council has passed a resolution of support for the project, there has been no promise of financial backing from the city.
Early voting for the City Council races is underway, and Election Day is Nov. 5. For early voting, voters can cast their ballot at any location in the county. For a full list of those locations, visit fultoncountyga.gov/rae-home. To check your registration status or find your Election Day voting place, visit mvp.sos.ga.gov.