Seven candidates vying for three seats on Loganville’s City Council fielded questions Thursday night during a political forum. The Walton Chamber of Commerce hosted the nonpartisan Q&A at Loganville City Hall.
The Loganville forum was the second event, following a forum held earlier in the evening for three candidates hoping to fill two seats on the Between Town Council.
Past Chamber Chairman Lee Garrett moderated the two forums, asking each candidate the same set of questions.
During her introductory remarks, incumbent Loganville City Councilwoman Anne Huntsinger dove in and addressed a decision she made nearly two years ago that she is still being criticized for today.
“It was a mistake,” Huntsinger said, referring to her vote to approve a $180 million mixed-use redevelopment project that was rejected by a majority of the council in March 2020.
“In the past 18 months I’ve learned a lot,” she said. Huntsinger said the process the city took on the proposed downtown revitalization project was “backward” when it partnered with the development firm of Connolly. She said the city should have first determined a vision for downtown based on the citizens’ wants and needs, and then found a developer to realize that vision.
Candidate Melanie Long said no one is opposed to revitalizing the Main Street corridor; rather, candidates have differing ideas of how to accomplish that goal.
Long said the city should draft a master plan for all of downtown and suggested the city sell some of its property to help fund revitalization.
“I make two promises,” she said. “I will never vote in favor of apartments and I will never vote for eminent domain to take someone’s home.”
Candidate Terry Parsons said he, like Long, fought against the Connelly project. Parsons said he was involved in the Citizens Advisory Council survey that welcomed residents’ input on development issues. The survey, he said, will help shape plans for the city’s future.
“This upcoming election is the real survey,” Parsons said.
Candidate Rosa Steele, a political newcomer, said too many residents are left out of the decision making process.
“You have a large section of citizens that feel they are not being represented,” Steele said. She added that the city should make a greater effort to inform residents about what goes on.
Candidate Shenia Rivers-Devine suggested the city become more inclusive, of both people and businesses that choose to locate to Loganville. She said if elected, she would work with fellow council members to find the “common denominator” in every situation.
Candidate Branden Whitfield is vice chair of the Loganville Development Authority and helped plan Battle of the Bands and a business summit for local entrepreneurs. Born and raised in Loganville, Whitfield said the city should manage growth in a way where it can still retain its historical identity.
“We’re being crushed by growth,” said candidate James Wilson, who lives on the Gwinnett County side of Loganville. Wilson said Loganville is getting hit with sprawl from Snellville.
“In the next few years we’ll probably be larger than Monroe,” he said.
All the candidates said downtown should be more accessible, pedestrian friendly and have boutique shops, restaurants and green space that would draw visitors and residents alike back to Main Street.
Most Loganville candidates agreed that traffic was the top challenge elected officials should address, but conceded it is an issue the council does not have the authority to fix. The power to improve traffic conditions lies with the Georgia Department of Transportation, they said.
Huntsinger said the city’s No. 1 problem is that the citizenry is fractured. Many residents do not trust their local government, she said.
“My goal going forward is to build that trust,” Huntsinger said.
Early voting begins Tuesday, Oct. 12 and ends on Oct. 29.