2017 Voter Guide: Cherokee County

4:49 p.m Friday, Oct. 20, 2017 Atlanta News
Voters cast their ballots at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, the largest precinct in Cherokee County. The next countywide election will be the May 24 primary. BOB ANDRES BANDRES@AJC.COM

We asked candidates running in next month’s city, school and municipal elections to explain why you should vote for them. In addition to asking them questions about their experience and their stand on prominent issues, we asked some candidates to tell us which television character with whom they most identify. See where candidates stand on important issues, and who has a lot in common with Batman. 

Canton

Name: Sandy "Sandra" McGrew (i)

Age: 65

Residence: Ward 1

Profession: Retired

Sandy "Sandra" McGrew

What experience will help you in office? As the incumbent I realize that every issue is different with its own brand of challenges. Flexibility and ability to communicate with people are key.

What issue got you into this race? My desire to continue the projects we've started in Canton and see them to completion is my focus for re-election.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Ah, if only there was time for television.

Name: Bill Grant (i)

Age: 55

Residence: Historic E Main Street Neighborhood

Profession: Graphic ddesigner / brand strategist

Bill Grant

What experience will help you in office? I have served the Canton City Council well in my first term, taking the lead in new initiatives. As a designer, I offer creative problem solving, and my experience in developing strategy is essential. Based on my experience as councilman and my future goals, I have published a plan on my website - grantforcanton.com. My plan is designed to move Canton forward as a vibrant, connected and active city.

What issue got you into this race? I am running for re-election because there are several large-scale initiatives that I want to see to fruition. We have important, game-changing projects in historic downtown Canton, as well as critical infrastructure issues such as our future water and sewer needs. I am also interested in creating a master plan for the Etowah River, one of our greatest assets. I advocate QUALITY over QUANTITY when it comes to smart growth.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Maybe Chef Vivian Howard, host of the PBS documentary "A Chef's Life". Her move to Kinston, N.C., to open a restaurant that resurrected a small Southern town inspires me. Cooking is my hobby, and I admire someone who uses their passions to benefit their community in a positive manner.

Name: Susan C. Stanton

Age: 65

Residence: Cherokee Street, Canton.

Profession: Recently retired

Susan C. Stanton

What experience will help you in office? I have been a homeowner in Canton for nearly 12 years. I have a law degree and worked in juvenile court systems for 20 years; I can read the law. As Canton city clerk I’ve spent nearly 11,000 hours tending to City Hall business; attended some 200 Council and committee meetings; managed the city’s records; and I suspect, am known for telling it like I see it, sometimes to my own detriment.

What issue got you into this race? The issue that got me into this race is the fact that at this time there is no Canton City Council member who has the courage to stand up and say… “wait a minute, this isn’t right.” That’s a sad state of affairs for the residents and certainly puts any meaningful representation by council members in doubt. To quote Bill Torpy of the AJC, “Quiet government isn’t necessarily good government.” So it stands in Canton.

Which current television character do you identify most with? I really don’t do that much television. But I do watch one program religiously and I can definitely relate to a “Jeopardy!” contestant right now… sometimes you have the answer, sometimes you don’t.

Name: Nick Estes

Age: 38

Residence: River Green

Profession: VP finance

Nick Estes

What experience will help you in office? As a finance executive, I am a solutions oriented business leader. I will leverage my experience to collaborate across the city, listen to feedback and drive actionable results as it relates to delivering on the overarching strategy for sustainable growth for the City of Canton over the next 4 years.

What issue got you into this race? We are fortunate to live in a part of Atlanta that is experiencing some of the fastest growth across all of Cherokee County. I believe as a city council, we can continue to position our city appropriately to get our fair share of growth, but we need to maintain balance and need to make sure that we have the right kind of growth. I will work to drive sustainable growth focused on economic development, residential growth, support for infrastructure (including transportation, water / sewer and schools) along with maintaining the preservation of charm that makes our city unique.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Michael Scott from "The Office". As a business leader, I approach work and life with a "work hard, play hard" philosophy. I believe in making things fun while driving results.

Name: John R. Rust (i)

Age: 73

Residence: River Green

Profession: Retired, member of Canton City Council since 2014.

John R. Rust

What experience will help you in office? Nine years working with City of Canton governance, the last four of which as a elected member of the City Council. Founded and ran my executive search firm for 25 years prior to retirement in 2010.

What issue got you into this race? The current City Council has made tremendous progress on every issue because we work together in a harmonious manner. Our issues are sometimes very significant and complex. We research and discuss them in an open forum, the City Council chamber, and make decisions to keep the City of Canton moving forward. I am running because the next four years will be truly great.

Which current television character do you identify most with? President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet, “The West Wing.” Bartlet started his political career as a city council member in Bartlett, New Hampshire. He believed that was the level of government that was best capable of getting things done. I am of the same belief and have stated the same to my fellow council members in executive session. I disagreed with pure Democratic decisions but really identified with the way he got things done, especially under pressure.

Mountain Park

Name: Don Carlson (i)

Age: 71

Residence: Mountain Park

Profession: Retired, sales

Don Carlson

What experience will help you in office? I've been on council for 8 years. My past experience in sales will help, because that's a people business. I also served on two church boards.

What issue got you into this race? There is no issue right now, but before it was the lakes litigation. We were in court about our lakes.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Joe Kenda from ID, because he cares about people, he wants to make sure everybody gets justice. 

Name: Gladney Cooper

Name: Michelle Dasher

Age: 49

Residence: The City of Mountain Park

Profession: Life coach

Michelle Dasher

What experience will help you in office? Professionally I have worked with and for Fortune 100 companies, being fortunate to be exposed to most disciplines. This solid base of business skills will enable me to understand city operations and work on community driven solutions. 

Being a servant leader will enable me to listen to the community effectively while working towards the goals set by the citizens.

Also: On October 27th from 6-8 p.m. I’d like to invite all Mountain Park residents to stop by the Community Center to share their ideas with me while getting to know me and what we can do together for Mountain Park.

What issue got you into this race? The City of Mountain Park is more than a city, it's a vibrant community made up of diverse and engaged residents. We need leadership who can bring one of our long-standing issues, lake restoration, to a vote. My primary goal is to remain fiscally responsible while bringing the lake restorations to a vote. Prior to a final lake restoration vote, having opportunities for the residents to give input in this crucial issue.

Listening to all citizens while working to continue to cherish and grow the unique characteristic that make Mountain Park great is what drove my passion to run for office. 

Which current television character do you identify most with? Patricia Campbell played by Anne Heche on “The Brave.” She's intelligent and driven, but under that is a compassionate loyal person. A straight shooter who leaves no stone unturned to find a solution.

Name: Linda Dorough Dixon

Age: 77

Residence: Laurel Street Mountain Park 

Profession: Retired, Fulton County commissioner Tom Lowe..

Linda Dorough Dixon

What experience will help you in office? Twenty-eight years Fulton County government .. six years State Representative Dorothy Felton...assisted state Representative Felton with the seat belt law , the first Georgia kindergarten, The City of Sandy Springs charter, etc. 

Opened the first Commissioner’s office in north Fulton in 1987 to offer assistance to the north Fulton community .. Proven problem solver for situations with taxes, zoning issues, road repair, community improvements, etc ...

What issue got you into this race? Infrastructure , absence of communition between City Council and the community, lakes - Cherful and Garrett , revenue for the City ... City zip code ...

Which current television character do you identify most with? I feel each person gives me answers to my Interest and any questions I have..

Woodstock

Name: Elizabeth "Liz" D. Baxter

Name: Donnie Henriques (i)

Name: Dennis G. Conway

Age: 62

Residence: Garden Street- Woodstock 

Profession: Retired SPED paraprofessional and lacrosse coach at Woodstock High School

J King Images
Dennis G. Conway

What experience will help you in office? I’ve lived in Cherokee County for thirty-five years and I have lived in Woodstock for five years. I am a retired special ed paraprofessional. I have been serving 19 years on the Cherokee County Board of Tax Assessors. I have been vice chairman/ chairman 10 of those years. 

While resident of Woodstock, I have seen the city reach record economic growth, bringing many advantages to citizens. However, I have also witnessed issues of public safety, traffic, and parking which are affecting the quality of life for everyone. 

What issue got you into this race? I have been a Cherokee County resident for thirty-five years. What inspired me to run for city council was my concern about the safety of the citizens of Woodstock.

I have a unique vantage point being in a wheelchair, and see many design flaws others would not. 

In August, I addressed the need to protect Woodstock’s most vulnerable such as the elderly, handicapped, and those with small children in the Cherokee Tribune. The Woodstock community has been shaken by the tragic accident that occurred in September, when two adults and one infant passed away after being struck by a car when crossing a street in our city center. 

Which current television character do you identify most with? Henry Reagan from “Blue Bloods.” Even though he is older than I am, he is also retired but extremely active in the community. He’s “old school” and believes family comes first and makes sure everyone comes home for Sunday dinner. “Take what you can, then make the job your own.”

Name: Warren Johnson (i)

Age: 44

Residence: Woodstock

Profession: Environmental consultant

Warren Johnson

What experience will help you in office? I have gained valuable experience over the last four years as a council member understanding issues facing the city, how the budget process works, and resolving issues for concerned citizens. My project management background, which allows me to multitask, manage large budgets, and bring a project through to completion in a timely manner, has been beneficial to me as we discuss solutions to issues such as traffic and parking.

What issue got you into this race? I ran for office four years ago due to debt, traffic, and parking. We have made tremendous progress toward reducing debt but there is still more work to do. I pushed for an updated traffic plan and the city has contracted with a traffic engineering firm with whom we meet monthly. We have also begun the permitting process for a parking deck. I am seeking my second term so I can keep pushing for progress.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Although not a current show, I most identify with Sheriff Andy Taylor from “The Andy Griffith Show.” He was a patient, level-headed public servant who listened to the facts and calmly provided solutions. He did not get caught up in the politics of the office and treated everyone with respect.

Name: Colin Ake

Age: 31

Residence: Woodstock Knoll

Profession: Principal, Georgia Tech VentureLab

Colin Ake

What experience will help you in office? My year and a half as the mayor’s appointee to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and my time as a member and later chair of the Greenprints Alliance Board of Directors has provided me with a significant amount of direct experience, relationships, and important context in Woodstock. I’ll also lean on my experience as an entrepreneur learning new industries as I learn more about local governance.

What issue got you into this race? As a planning and zoning commissioner, I worked to recommend development that fits Woodstock’s long-term plan, but felt council too often deviated from the process for evaluating developments. We should be purposeful and strategic when it comes to implementing our vision for Woodstock. We should build our city around pedestrians first, work to implement a grid street system, and expand the trail system.

Which current television character do you identify most with? I’ll pick a combination of characters from “Parks and Recreation.” I share Leslie Knope’s enthusiasm for her city and willingness to fight to make a difference. I don’t just share Ron Swanson’s dry sense of humor and love for grilled meats, I share his skepticism that government always has answers.

Name: Judy Davila

Age: 73

Residence: Dobbs Eststes

Profession: Community minded activist

Judy Davila

What experience will help you in office? My many years belonging to and serving as board member of community minded organizations along with serving over seven years on Woodstock Planning and Zoning provided me with the experience and knowledge to serve Woodstock residents. I'm project manager and board member of the Volunteer Aging Council, a nonprofit. I organize volunteers to assist in building wheelchair ramps. I also perform small home repairs and install safety aids for seniors and veterans.

What issue got you into this race? Being active in the community, I listen to the concerns and issues of Woodstock residents. Their main concerns were unsafe pedestrian crossings, traffic and parking.

As an extension of my passion to serve the community, I want to be a part of creating solutions to their concerns.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Amy Reimann, wife of Dale Earnhardt Jr. on DIY Network. She is creative and has a strong work ethic, restoring old homes in a historic old Town.

Name: Robert W. Mueller (i)

Name: Brian Wolfe

Age: 45

Residence: Glen at Kingsgate

Profession: Firefighter/paramedic

What experience will help you in office? As a non-career politician, my experience as a firefighter, officer, and businessman will provide me with the necessary skills to listen to the citizens, hear their concerns and needs, and develop action plans to serve the City of Woodstock's needs as well as the citizenry's needs. 

What issue got you into this race? I feel I can bring new ideas to the council to promote public safety improvements, improve pedestrian safety, create transportation and downtown parking solutions to foster economic development, and develop our parks and recreation facilities for our citizens to enjoy.

Which current television character do you identify most with? I don't watch enough television to provide you with a character I know and can feel confident I can identify.

Special Election

"Shall a special 1 percent sales and use tax be reimposed in the special district of Cherokee County for a period of time not to exceed 24 calendar quarters and for the raising of an estimated amount of $252,961,892 for the following purposes pursuant to an Intergovernmental Sales Tax Agreement, dated as of July 18, 2017, among Cherokee County, Georgia (the “County”), the City of Ball Ground (“Ball Ground”), the City of Canton (“Canton”), the City of Holly Springs (“Holly Springs”), the City of Mountain Park (“Mountain Park”), the City of Nelson (“Nelson”), the City of Waleska (“Waleska”), and the City of Woodstock (“Woodstock”): (a) capital outlay projects to be owned or operated or both by the County (the “County Projects”): (1) Jail Expansion and Improvements, (2) Transportation Infrastructure, Facilities, Equipment, and Improvements, and Airport Facilities, Equipment, Improvements, & Expansion, (3) Parks and Recreation Facilities, Equipment, and Improvements, (4) Court Facilities, Equipment, Improvements, and Expansion, (5) Business & Economic Development Land Acquisition, Infrastructure, and Facilities (6) Fire & Emergency Services Facilities, Vehicles and Equipment, (7) Animal Control and County Marshal Vehicles and Equipment, (8) Emergency Communications Center and Communications System Improvements, and (9) Law Enforcement Vehicles, Equipment and Facilities; (b) capital outlay projects to be owned or operated or both by Ball Ground: (1) City Hall Debt Service, (2) Valley Street Debt Service, (3) Water and Sewer System Improvements to Include Purchase of Capacity, (4) Law Enforcement Facilities, Vehicles, Equipment, and Emergency Communications System Improvements and Equipment, (5) Transportation Facilities and Improvements, (6) Community Center, Parks, Recreation, and (7) Debt Service for Such Projects; (c) capital outlay projects to be owned or operated or both by Canton: (1) Transportation Facilities (streets, drainage, sidewalks, parking facilities, utility relocation, etc.), Equipment and Improvements, (2) Park and Recreation Facilities, (3) Communications & Technology, (4) General Government Buildings and Equipment, (5) Economic Development (property acquisition, equipment, facility improvements and construction), and (6) Debt service for Such Projects; (d) capital outlay projects to be owned or operated or both by Holly Springs: (1) Transportation Facilities, and Improvements, (2) Public Safety Vehicles, and Equipment, (3) Emergency Communications System Improvements and Equipment, (4) Park and Recreation Facilities, (5) Public Works and Fleet Vehicles and Equipment, (6) General Government Buildings, and (7) Debt Service for Such Projects; (e) capital outlay projects to be owned or operated or both by Mountain Park: (1) Public Safety, Streets, and Drainage; (f) capital outlay projects to be owned or operated or both by Nelson: (1) Government Buildings, Facilities, Vehicles, Equipment and Improvements, (2) Emergency Communications System Improvements, (3) Transportation Facilities, Vehicles, Equipment and Improvements, and (4) Park and Recreation Facilities, Equipment, and Improvements; (g) capital outlay projects to be owned or operated or both by Waleska: (1) Utility Systems Infrastructure, Facilities, Improvements, Equipment, and Related Debt Service for Such Projects, (2) General Government Buildings, Public Buildings and Improvements, (3) Emergency Communications System Improvements and Equipment, (4) Transportation Facilities, Equipment, and Improvements, and (5) Fleet Vehicles & Equipment; (h) capital outlay projects to be owned or operated or both by Woodstock: (1) Communications & Technology, (2) Parking Deck & Other Parking Improvements, (3) Public Works, (4) Parks and Recreation, (5) Public Safety, (6) Water/Sewer, and (7) Debt Service for Such Projects?"

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