With a new mayor and four new city council members poised to be elected Tuesday, change is assured in Johns Creek. The growing, affluent city incorporated in 2006, but the 11 candidates vying for the five positions atop the city’s power structure have different ideas on the city’s direction.

Mayor Mike Bodker, who was elected the city’s first mayor, will leave office in December. Also leaving are incumbent Councilmembers Stephanie Endres and Larry Zaprowski.

Councilman John Bradberry and former councilman Brian Weaver, who resigned his seat in July, are running for mayor while nine candidates are competing for the four open council seats.

Disagreement exists on topics ranging from affordable housing to COVID-19 vaccines.

In recent debates, moderators asked contenders about their political party affiliation and let candidates challenge their opponents, as well as others running for a council post. The political climate has turned more heated as blog and social media posts have become a place for like-minded residents to strategize and build momentum, candidates have said.

Candidates mostly agree Johns Creek needs a city center to connect the community and give residents choices for things to do. But contenders are divided on how to approach progress on affordable housing and public safety.

Affordable housing

There’s a range of opinions from candidates on whether there should be affordable housing in Johns Creek.

Bradberry said he opposes subsidized affordable housing as a consideration at the new town center.

Weaver said the city could consider buying older homes and converting them to rentals. He also said the city should expand a monthly stipend to police officers living in Johns Creek to help with the expense.

“We need to expand the program to healthcare workers and school teachers,” Weaver added.

Candidates Rashmi Singh and Stacy Skinner are competing for the Post 2 seat. Singh told the AJC that she is an advocate for affordable housing for teachers, public safety personnel and employees of local businesses.

“City Council should just look into it, be open and see what the options are,” Singh said.

Similar to Singh, Skinner said there’s a need for housing for the city’s workforce but added that current residents must support the concept. The Johns Creek’s 2018 comprehensive plan doesn’t call for apartments or workforce housing, she said.

“It’s a 10-year plan,” Skinner said. “Any changes you have to get the buy-in from residents that live here.”

Candidate, Larry Dibiasi, who is running for the Post 5 seat against Pablo Cecere, said the question of affordable housing is difficult because Johns Creek only has six pieces of available land left to build o

“As council, we cant control pricing, we can only control zoning,” he said, adding that he believes City Council wants to be inclusive. “We want to bring people into the city and want to grow.”

Cecere agreed and said Johns Creek isn’t affordable for everyone.

“I would love to have people to be able to live close to where they work,” Cecere said. “When we are talking about people making $15 per hour wanting to live in Johns Creek, it gets really complicated.”

Public safety

All of the candidates have said they support law enforcement, but differ on how much scrutiny should be directed at police officers.

Johns Creek police have had their share of controversy. In 2020, former Police Chief Chris Byers resigned after an investigation found he violated sexual harassment and conduct policies. At the time of the investigation, Byers had also posted a long social media comment criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement and local church leaders. That sparked a city forum and reaction from residents of color who complained about treatment when stopped by police. It also resulted in low police morale, according to city officials.

Post 3 candidate Bob Erramilli said he doesn’t think officers should have to worry about whether residents believe they are doing the right thing and the “one or two incidents have been addressed.”

Erramilli added that he doesn’t believe officers see color or culture. “We know when we call, these guys respond,” he said of police. “They don’t ask questions (such as) ‘Are you this or that,’” he said.

His opponent, Cassandra Littlejohn, said supporting the police includes supporting accountability and her opponent’s dismissing of the concept has been concerning.

“I’m talking about the number of times we see the (police) shootings (nationally) and there is no justification,” she said. “People think because you want this (accountability), you want to live in a lawless society.”

Another Post 3 contender, Anthony Shorter, said peaceful protests in Johns Creek during the summer of 2020 fueled his run for City Council. Shorter said he volunteered to serve on city boards in the past but wasn’t selected by the mayor.

Shorter said Johns Creek’s diversity is forcing change in the city.

“(City) leadership ... can’t agree on anything,” he said. “I think I can bring collaboration ... (and) cohesiveness and as (true) nonpartisan, stay neutral and unite and bring about change.”

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