Rey Martinez

Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez addresses a meeting of the Walton County Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 18, 2020, in Monroe, Ga.

This Thursday at the mid-meeting mark of a regular Loganville City Council meeting, outgoing Mayor Rey Martinez will turn the gavel over to Mayor-elect Skip Baliles.

Baliles, 74, had previously served on the City Council from 2012-20.

Baliles, who ran unopposed, will be sworn in along with incumbent Loganville Councilwoman Anne Huntsinger and newcomers Melanie Long and Branden Whitfield. The three incoming council members beat out four other candidates for three at-large seats on the council last November.

Last year, Martinez announced his intention to run for state House District 114. State Rep. Tom Kirby, who currently serves that district said he would not seek reelection.

But since the Georgia legislature redrew its district maps, Martinez will now run to represent the newly configured District 111, which includes the Dacula area in Gwinnett County stretching into western Walton County and covers the city of Loganville.

Martinez was elected mayor of Loganville in 2017. He is the first minority mayor Walton County has had.

The Walton Tribune caught up with Martinez by phone last week. The outgoing mayor reflected on his service to the city, and shared his aspirations for a seat in the state House.

Martinez said he fulfilled his promises to Loganville voters and helped kick-start a public conversation on downtown redevelopment, admittedly through controversy.

Several years ago, Loganville had partnered with developer Connolly on a proposed $180 million revitalization project for the downtown corridor.

The City Council nixed the planned project in March 2020. The vote to halt the project came after numerous citizens, including Councilwoman-elect Long, voiced their concerns with the proposed building of rental apartments as part of the project. Project organizers had also recommended expanding public parks and greenspace, improving public infrastructure and providing a new city hall, library and retail spaces.

“I am an optimist and, believe it or not, all of the controversy that rose out of that situation will, I believe, be good for the city in the long run,” Martinez said. “I also promised residents that I would work to beautify the city, and as a testament to that promise, we organized citywide cleanup days.

“I promised the citizens we would work toward addressing the traffic situation in our city,” he continued. “Of course, I have come to realize this was a very lofty goal to try and accomplish in four years. But we will be wrapping up our comprehensive traffic study here in a few months and I believe again this will prove to be very beneficial to the citizens in the long run.

“There are a lot of things that were accomplished, but perhaps what is most important to me is that I served the citizens with honor and integrity, doing what I believed was in the best interest of the city as a whole, despite what borderline libelous statements were made about me.”

Martinez said he is confident a vision for downtown will take shape in the next year or two, and as a city resident he is willing to do what he can to make that vision a reality.

He also said his successor, Baliles, will bring a wealth of experience to the mayoral office.

“I know that Skip will serve the people well, and the only advice I could give him is to serve all of the citizens, not just a vocal minority, and to maintain honor and integrity no matter what obstacles lay ahead,” Martinez said. “Skip is going to do great. He’s got a good council too.”

Baliles moved to Loganville in 2005.

“My friend, Chuck Bagley, got me interested in politics and I began to attend the council meeting to see what was happening and if I would be interested,” Baliles told The Tribune via email. “I discovered a new passion in life over the eight years [I served] on city council.”

Baliles said he see the mayor’s role as a “teacher, guidance counselor and facilitator to help the council move in the appropriate direction.”

“We must begin to work together to get things done without regard to who gets the credit,” the mayor-elect said. “Our residents deserve it.”

Looking ahead

Martinez, whose campaign for the state House is already underway, said he has built trust and respectful relationships with numerous officials in Gwinnett and Walton counties, on both sides of the political aisle. He said the mayors of Walton’s cities, numerous Gwinnett County elected officials, most Walton County commissioners, Commission Chairman David Thompson, Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman and Alcovy Circuit District Attorney Randy McGinley have endorsed his intended state run.

He said as a city official, he had been to the White House four times, to discuss infrastructure and the community’s needs.

“What the citizens of the district should expect from me is to work hard preserving the conservative values that I believe make Georgia the greatest state in the country,” the declared state House candidate said.

“I believe there are a number of things that are important to all residents: public safety, education, good job opportunities and healthcare. These are just a few things I believe are where we can find common ground to start building a good relationship on moving forward.”

As for whom Martinez may endorse for the Georgia governor’s seat, Georgia secretary of state and U.S. Senate and House, he said he would wait until qualifying is over before sharing his preferred candidates.

Martinez strongly encourages his fellow Georgians to vote.

“Voting is one of the most important acts we can do as Americans,” he said. “It is a right I enlisted and served in the Navy to defend. I personally have not seen any evidence to create a doubt in my mind about the integrity of Georgia’s elections and will proudly be casting my votes in 2022.”

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