Five Questions With Gaye Stathis, District 3 City Council Candidate
Stathis says the mayor and council need to work to improve roads, parks, and zoning.
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?
Stathis: After living in Brookhaven as a homeowner and taxpayer for 14 years, I have had the unfortunate experience of witnessing at best, benign neglect by our county officials of services for this part of DeKalb County.
I have been a very vocal advocate for my neighborhood in my attempts to get problems solved for our neighborhood by DeKalb County’s Board of Commissioners.
As a result of the frustration I’ve experienced firsthand on behalf of the homeowners association that I’ve been president of for ten years, I decided that I could do a better job than the current elected officials for DeKalb County. It is out of concern for my community that I decided to put my experience and skills back to work.
I believe I have the background, expertise and interpersonal skills to be an effective, productive member of the new city council. At this point, it doesn’t really matter whether any of us was for or against the incorporation of the new city of Brookhaven, it is now a reality and will go forward, hopefully guided by level headed, sound fiscal policies.
At this point in my life I have the time to devote to this job, the experience to make a meaningful impact and the personal interests of my family and neighbors at heart. I am highly confidant that I am qualified to do this job and do it well. I am not interested in being a politician, but I am very interested in making sure that the new government represents the interests of the residents of Brookhaven, rather than taking them and their tax revenue for granted.
2. What do you think separates your candidacy from the other contenders?
Stathis: Each of us is unique and therefore different from each other.
However, I can only speak for my qualifications which include 20 years in a corporate lending capacity working with corporate borrowers, 6 years as a Trustee of St. Martin’s Episcopal School on the Finance and Investment Committees, 10 years and still acting as President of Club Commons Circle Homeowners Association, currently Treasurer of the Marist Arts Guild.
Over all of these positions I have gained deep financial experience and expertise: analyzing budgets, engaging lawyers, accountants, appraisers and auditors in the process of structuring and administering loan facilities for large corporate borrowers, interviewing and reviewing performance of employees, managing a departmental budget in excess of $30 million annually, analyzing financial statements and making decisions regarding millions of dollars on behalf of the banks, borrowers, schools, and homeowners’s associations that I have worked with.
These roles have required that I work together with people with different agendas to achieve a common goal and to be sure in the process that I represent my constituency to the best of my ability.
I have often had to negotiate and resolve differing opinions in sometimes heated situations with a deadline staring me in the face in my banking career. I have a lot of experience in stress testing budgets and projections. I am good at juggling many balls at once and delegating when necessary.
Believe it or not, I enjoy that kind of pressure and have worked well in that type of environment in the past. Most importantly, I have experience working within budgets and getting the job done without having to go outside the limits of the budget given to me.
I think this will be critical to the success of the new city. I will approach this job with a waste not, want not attitude and a determination to do the best job possible for District 3 and the council as a whole.
3. With a newly incorporated municipality, is one responsibility (i.e., police, zoning, etc.) more pressing than some of the others?
Stathis: The initial responsibilites involved in the start up of the new city will be very pressing and demand a much higher degree of focus, energy and time on the part of the mayor and the council than that required a year down the road.
Developing the initial budget for the city and staffing the new police force will be the most important job for the first few weeks/months of the mayor and council.
It is a high priority to get off to a good start and not create stumbling blocks in the framework of the operations of the new city. Each of the responsibilities impacts the others on some level so I think it is very important to get it right on all issues from the beginning.
As a resident, I think I would be most concerned that we have adequate police coverage, one of the issues that gave rise to the vote for cityhood in the first place.
In short order, the mayor and council need to begin working to improve the condition of our neglected roads and parks, and simultaneously we need to put sound, logical zoning ordinances in place to protect the value of the beautiful community of Brookhaven.
4. Moving forward, what do you envision Brookhaven's relationship with DeKalb County to be?
Stathis: Ideally it will be a cooperative partnership for the benefit of the residents of Brookhaven.
We now have the opportunity to be a model for local government in DeKalb County and Georgia as a whole and I will work my hardest to see that Brookhaven is a success. We will make Brookhaven a model for fiscal efficiency and accountability to our residents, in oppostion to what we have experienced at the county level.
Working on behalf of our homeowners association and in my capacity as a Trustee of St. Martin’s Episcopal School, I found the county officials to be non responsive to simple requests for road resurfacing, safety issues, and zoning matters. It was extremely frustrating at times.
It may be difficult working together with DeKalb County as there is likely resentment of the formation of the new city, however, many other cities have long operated within the DeKalb County environment, so it obviously can be done.
DeKalb County government is not efficient, is nonresponsive to the needs of Brookhaven and cannot be counted on to deliver the services that we are entitled to as residents and taxpayers. If they are unhappy with the vote that approved the new city, they have only themselves to blame. After years of neglect, the voters have decided to take matters into their hands and get the job done, so let’s get on with it.
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?
Stathis: You can count on me to give the responsibilities of the office of Council Representative my undivided attention and wholehearted effort to make Brookhaven a fiscally sound, beautiful place to live and work.
In addition, I am very aware of the value of the contributions and quality of life impact that the independent schools and Oglethorpe University, located in Brookhaven, have on all residents and businesses.
I would like to see a more dynamic relationship between city government and the people who run those schools. The mayor and council members should invite and develop a strong relationship with these organizations, vital parts of our community.
The presence of Marist School, St. Martin’s Episcopal School and Our Lady of the Assumption School in addition to Oglethorpe University make Brookhaven special and we are very fortunate to have them in our footprint.