How to redevelop Loganville’s decayed downtown area and solve traffic issues were key issues during a Thursday candidate forum.

About 50 residents crowded into Loganville City Hall to hear seven City Council candidates share their plans for the city, located on the edge of Gwinnett and Walton counties. Voters will cast their ballots Nov. 2 for three at-large council seats, following years of public mistrust and contention over the city’s future.

All of the candidates agreed during the forum, hosted by the Walton County Chamber of Commerce, that the downtown area needs to change. But their visions differed when it boiled down to how it should be done.

Melanie Long, a local business owner, said she’d never vote in favor of apartments nor the use of eminent domain for redevelopment purposes. She said she supports selling city-owned property and working with residents to revitalize Main Street with new retail and parks.

“None of us want a city that has been piecemealed together simply for the sole sake of doing something,” said Long, later adding that unchecked growth is the source of most of the city’s issues.

Terry Parsons, also a local business owner, called for a new City Hall, greenspace, rent-controlled shops, loft condos and possibly a new library.

“That’s what I want to see our downtown turn into — a destination place so that people can come to the town and enjoy themselves,” said Parsons, who helped craft a redevelopment survey as part of the city’s Citizens Advisory Group.

Parsons stressed his opposition to the failed Connolly development proposed in late 2019. The $180-million downtown revitalization plan included 600 luxury apartments and 200 senior apartments.

Anne Huntsinger, an accounting consultant and the lone incumbent, said she envisions a walkable downtown of two-story brick buildings with retail or restaurants on the bottom floors and offices or lofts on the top floors. She said she’d enjoy a place downtown to drink a glass of wine.

“After the last two years and all the hits I’ve taken — and some of you out there know that I’ve taken a lot of hits — I haven’t quit. I’ve never given up,” Huntsinger said. “... I will still serve you, whether you like me or not, but I will always give it to you straight.”

Shenia Rivers-Devine, who works in life insurance, said she’d work to make Main Street more accessible. The downtown area needs to be modernized, she said, with local businesses to draw in more tax revenue.

“My desire is to just be a voice, to be able to advocate, to hear what the citizens desire and to be able to bring that to the table and try to come up with a plan that will be suitable for all,” Rivers-Devine said.

Rosa Steele, a retired state government employee, said she wants Loganville to keep its “old town” look but add greenspace and draw in local businesses. She said there needs to be somewhere for families to create memories, like a place to get donuts and coffee after church on Sundays.

“You have a large segment of citizens here in Loganville that feel like they have not been represented over the past few years,” Steele said. “They feel like they’ve been made promises and the promises haven’t been kept. I want to be a voice for those people.”

Branden Whitfield, a business owner, said he envisions sitting on the rooftop patio of a restaurant if his downtown plan comes to be. Downtown needs to be walkable and should bring together the local arts community, he said.

“I want to make Loganville a town that (my daughter) is proud to live in, and a place that she can call her forever home,” said Whitfield, who serves as vice chair of the city’s Development Authority. “To do that, we need to preserve our past (and) build our future.”

James Wilson, who works for the Gwinnett County Police Department, said the city needs to revitalize the downtown area since it’s the “soul” of the city. He proposed building a new library with a media center, a controversial topic among residents.

“We are in a pinnacle moment here in the city,” Wilson said. “We’re being crushed by growth... Unless we’re smart about how we grow, our city will lose its mind, body and soul.”

Many of the candidates agreed that traffic and growth are Loganville’s top problems. They said they’d work with the Georgia Department of Transportation to solve traffic issues on the roads out of the city’s control: U.S. 78, Ga. 20 and Ga. 81.

Huntsinger, rather than listing growth or traffic as Loganville’s most looming issue, said the city needs to prioritize rebuilding trust with residents and overcoming division. She said she and other councilmembers made a mistake by allowing a developer to present his own vision for the city.

“It’s no secret that for the last couple of years most of us in this room have been unhappy with the direction that the city has taken,” said Long, who served on the city’s Downtown Development Authority. “... Main Street has become an overshadowing topic for this election.”

Early voting will be held at the Historic Rock Gym Oct. 12-29. The polls will be open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays. The polls on Election Day will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. For more information, visit

A livestream of the candidate forum is available on YouTube at the City of Loganville’s page.