Five Questions With Erik Steavens, District 3 City Council Candidate
The candidate says his goals for the new city of Brookhaven can be summed up as S.A.F.E.
1. In this day and age of intense scrutiny, and especially considering the recent, hotly contested debate and vote over Brookhaven municipalization, why are you running for city council?
Steavens: I am running for City Council out of a deep desire and ethic to give back to the community. I have spent most of my life trying to better the communities I have lived in. This ethic was instilled in me very early by my father who was a land surveyor for the City of Albany, GA and further enhanced during my teenage years as an Eagle Scout.
I have had the good fortune to be able to be a public servant having worked in federal, state, and local governmental positions. My experience working in various positions in government has given me keen insight on how to best affect change in government. During the past year, I have left the public sector and am now working for a locally based software company. Now I can give back to the community in a different manner by helping to shape the policies and decisions that one can not make at a staff level.
I am running for City Council to make sure that our new government is on a sound foundation. I see four main goals for our new city. These goals can be summed up as S.A.F.E. -
- Safe and Secure - ensuring we have great public safety as well as having good roads, sidewalks, and drainage
- Accessible and Accountable Government - ensuring that citizens have access and can participate in critical decisions of the City
- Financially sustainable - ensuring that the City is on proper financial footing. I will make sure that we are a financially viable community and work to develop cost effective services and bring new businesses to Brookhaven
- Efficient Service Delivery - ensuring that services offered by Brookhaven are cost-effective and meet the needs of our Community
2. What do you think separates your candidacy from the other contenders?
Steavens: Many of the issues facing our new City are funding and infrastructure related. I have nearly twenty (20) years of experience in the planning, financing, and operating of public infrastructure.
Having worked at the federal level for the United States Department of Transportation, I have worked all across our great country on a varied array of transportation projects such as: the initial planning of the San Francisco Bay Bridge replacement; bringing transit service into Yosemite National Park, and
developing a plan of finance for the Miami Intermodal Transportation Center. I have worked on large complex transportation projects that have multi-million and sometimes multi-billion dollar budgets. These projects require a tremendous amount of knowledge and skill to make sure they can be funded, meet the needs of the public they serve, and do not harm the environment they become part of.
I am very familiar with funding of infrastructure in the State of Georgia and in the Atlanta region. In my work as the Director of Intermodal for the Georgia DOT, I was in charge of fostering the development of transit, rail, aviation, and waterway projects within the State. These program areas receive less than ideal levels of funding and I had to work hard to make sure that small transit programs around the state could still operate despite continual cuts in funding from dwindling state resources. Working with transit agencies, airports, and railroads means working in collaboration to ensure critical services can be delivered.
I also have experience working in local government. My first job was in my hometown of Albany, GA where I worked for the planning commission. I worked on planning and zoning issues as well developing the plans and funding for the transportation programs for the City. I also worked closely with and helped operate/manage the City’s transit system.
My knowledge and experience in government will be an asset to our new City. Knowing how things work and sometimes don’t work is valuable knowledge that will not have to be learned on the job.
3. With a newly incorporated municipality, is one responsibility (i.e., police, zoning, etc.) more pressing than some of the others?
Steavens: There are several issues that are very pressing for our new City. The legislation has put us in a very awkward position of having to play catch up in order to become the City everyone envisions. Other Cityhood efforts here in Georgia had the good fortune of many months, and in some cases years to plan and implement. This will all need to happen in Brookhaven in a matter of weeks.
One of the key decisions that the City Council will face is the selection of the individual to assume the City Manager position. Our newly formed City is based on having a strong City Manager form of government. The City Manager is responsible for the day to day operations of the City of Brookhaven. This person will be responsible for developing, implementing as well as overseeing the day to day services and personnel of the City. We must therefore, seek out and select the person with the appropriate skill set so that the services we all want and feel are critical – police, planning and zoning, public works, etc. are implemented properly.
The City Manager will need to be a person that is experienced in running a City but will also need to be able to manage a workforce that will be highly privatized initially. Experience with performance-based contracting, good negotiation skills, and ability to foresee and balance short-term and long-term issues are critical in the hiring of this position.
4. Moving forward, what do you envision Brookhaven's relationship with DeKalb County to be?
Steavens: We need to ensure that we have a good working relationship with the County. They will be providing many of the services for our residents in the short and long term. It is critical that we are able to get true cost from the County for the services that will transition over to Brookhaven as well as be an advocate for our residents for services that will continue to be provided by the County over the long term.
I find collaborative working relationships are the most optimal. I will reach out to officials in DeKalb at the political and staff levels to make sure that we have the best possible relationship with the County to helps us achieve the goals of our new City.
5. Candidates make promises when running for public office all the time. Can you make just one promise that, with absolute certainty, you will keep?
Steavens: The City Council will in its first years of operation will be facing challenging questions and issues that have not been dealt with specific to our community –
- What levels of service do we want?
- Can we afford those levels of services?
- How do we rebuild our streets, sidewalks, and parks in a timely and logical fashion?
- How we make sure that development is done in a manner consistent with our communities’
- How and when do we transition services from DeKalb County?
- How do we develop a community oriented police force?
There will no doubt be additional questions and issues that no one has yet thought about or will rise-up out of the blue. I promise that I will work with my fellow council members be to responsive and adapt to the situations at hand. We need to be a cohesive and flexible group that meets and effectively
resolves the issues we know and additional ones that will surface as we move forward to build the foundation for the City of Brookhaven.