Facilitator Shafina Khabani started by asking candidates what their plans are for Roswell’s vacant shopping centers.
The candidates were in agreement that the city needs a better development plan. Willsey said that while surrounding areas are growing Roswell has appeared stagnant.
“We need to prioritize renovating properties and repurposing them and refreshing them wherever possible,” Willsey, adding that this would create a stronger tax base.
Vanstrom said residents believe there’s a lack of business growth in Roswell and the city needs an economic director. He was critical of high density apartments and cited the residential development at Sun Valley Road that was planned as a commercial mixed-use site and the investigation of the Oxbo Road project by a private law firm as failures by the city.
Khabani asked about home values and said there’s a concern in the community that home values in east Roswell are lower than west Roswell.
A new city development code would address home values in east Roswell in the same way the historic district master plan has helped west Roswell, Judy said. “Growth is the major issue since I’ve been elected and before,” he said.
Both he and Willsey said the current city code doesn’t reflect the development that residents want.
Similar to Vanstrom, Hills said she believes Roswell is in need of an economic development director. That person could expand medical and educational campuses, she said, adding that a vacant shopping center could be repurposed for recreational activities such as pickleball.
“I believe creating a sophisticated economic growth arm of the city is paramount,” she said.
All the candidates were asked what they would do to promote inclusivity and racial and social justice.
Freeman said she would encourage people from different professions, such as a physician or a judge, to welcome youth into their offices to expose young people to what they do and the possibilities in life. She would also encouraged the police and fire departments to create a bridge-the-gap program that would allow officers to spend time with and get to personally know the youth in the community.
Morthland and Dal Cerro said inclusivity is a part of their daily life. Morthland said his wife is a first-generation American. Dal Cerro said he is a first generation Italian-American, adding that his father came to the U.S. with one suitcase in 1955.
“I understand how to be inclusive ...through my daily interactions,” Morthland said. “I will apply these principals to the city’s needs ...”