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Q&A with Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon

Max Bacon succeeded his father as mayor of Smyrna when Arthur T. Bacon died in 1985 with three months left in his last term. Max Bacon has been mayor ever since, for 26 years. In a city of about 50,000, he won the last election with 92 percent of the vote.

Bacon, 62, is about to run for his 7th term at a time when the city has been sharply criticized by some for its $9.5 million purchase last year of a dilapidated apartment complex with plans to demolish it and resell the 48 acres to a developer. And the housing boom -- which for a decade lifted the city until the housing market crashed three years ago -- shows few signs of recovery, putting a strain on revenue to fund city services.

We caught up with the mayor last week and asked him about the state of the city and his tenure in office.

Q: You built Market Village in 2002 as a kind of city center to burnish the image and the reality of the city. But, in this tough economy, occupancies are down. How’s Market Village doing?

A: All things considered the Market Village is holding its own. We are working with the property owners in an effort to assist them as much as we can. Often time folks think the City of Smyrna owns all the property in the Market Village which is not true. The Market Village is actually owned by 6 different owners. Townhomes are privately owned. Some of the buildings are completely full while others are struggling. However, those businesses that are currently open are doing well. Our community Development Department has been working on some incentives that may help the owners of the properties when there is interest in moving to the Market Village area. This would also apply to all areas in Smyrna.

Q: What about Hickory Lake furor?

A: I have actually had more positive feedback from our citizens and law enforcement personnel than criticism. It will be a new beginning in that area of our city, which needed something positive. We had the opportunity to purchase the property at half the value that was listed by the Cobb County Tax Assessor office. If we had not purchased this property it would have remained what it was, and that was a troubled location and a major drain on the city's resources.

Q: The city has not raised millage rates since 1991 and they’ve held steady since 2007. In this economy, how much longer can you hold on?

A: The economy continues to be a struggle for everyone including local governments. We are always thinking outside the box and looking at different ways to improve how we deliver services. We have privatized some departments and will continue to evaluate each department. We have to continue to do things smarter. If we fail to do that it would not be long before raising the millage rate may be an option.

Q: This is a young city. You’re 62. Is it time for a young mayor?

A: I never planned to be in office this long. You sort of blink and 30 years has passed. I was 31 when I was first elected as a City Council member and I still feel I have the enthusiasm to move this city forward. But there is not anything wrong with someone young getting involved.

Q: Have the last four years been the toughest, in this tough economy, of your 26 years in office?

A: Absolutely. We have had some good years, but since 1980 when I was first elected to City Council we struggled but never to the level that we currently face. The Council has been very mindful of the city finances and that is one of the main reason we are keeping our head above water now.