Editor's Note: The following letter was received by Patch late Friday afternoon from Thom Shepard, who is running for Brookhaven mayor. It is an open letter to other city candidates:
Wednesday night, August 15th, I was sitting in the audience of Plywood Presents at the old Buckhead Theatre listening to Doug Shipman, Executive Director of The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and sitting next to Ryan Gravel, who conceived of the Beltline concept in his Georgia Tech Master’s Thesis.
At that moment the final qualification notices were hitting the press wires. It was great to be starting my candidacy listening to stories of historic human rights leaders and then at the next break hearing from Mr. Gravel who has been involved with the Beltline effort from a variety of different perspectives.
He created the concept, has been both inside and outside the official process, worked directly for the organization in charge and now is working for Perkins + Will. I think this gives him a unique insight into public private partnerships and public involvement in the process that will be very valuable for all of the candidates to learn from.
With 26 candidates putting their names in the hat I realized what a fantastic opportunity this is for us to prove the pundits wrong. Conventional wisdom is saying that it is bad thing that there are so many candidates running and that it will interfere with the start-up of our city.
Conventional wisdom says that runoffs are a bad thing. I wholeheartedly disagree. I think that when this many people choose to take on the huge commitment of putting themselves in the public arena to run for public service it shows that in Brookhaven there are no chosen few, that in Brookhaven backroom deals are going to be very difficult to pull off, that in Brookhaven there is a lot of passion to do things differently.
I also know that 26 candidates running does not mean just 26 people committing to an election process. I know that like me, each of those 26 candidates has a substantial network of people standing ready to take part in the process and to add their thoughts, ideas, energy, money and time to their respective candidates’ effort.
This is thus a huge number of people making a major commitment to the formation of the new city.
All of which is in addition to the hard work that has come before by so many, including both those who were pro and con and expressing their most fundamental rights to free speech.
I respect all those who opposed the city in an honest and legal way and who had the courage to speak up in the public form. I can say you start in a very difficult position to try to win my vote or support, but I still respect your courage to stand up for what you believe especially when it might be a view a lot of your friends and neighbors may or may not agree with.
The discussion of the runoff does emphasize one very important point though. This election is not like most. We can’t just resort to typical politics and sort it all out later. We must start working together, all 26 of us, to make sure that no matter which candidates win on Nov. 6 or Dec. 4, we all have as much knowledge, experience and understanding of the critical issues as is possible.
The winning candidates will face tough decisions that will have to be made rapidly so we must focus on the details most critical to the start-up period while still taking time to politic on more general and long range platforms.
I am thus going to ask all of my fellow candidates to join me in a pledge to innovate with our campaigns and do things differently and get outside the typical political box.
I will take the first step. I am going to share with all of you some of my ideas for my campaign, before I implement them, so you have the opportunity to join me, even beat me to the punch.
1. NO typical campaign signs plastered all over and absolutely no campaign signs on public property including all the grassy areas around intersections. Honestly I have always hated them and think they look trashy and detract from the character of a community.
All of my signs will be made with recyclable materials so they don’t become landfill fodder at the end of the campaign. This creates a substantial challenge as they will thus not be water resistant. But this goes hand in hand my desire to not have front yards filled with my name or campaign slogan.
2. I propose we instead focus on block parties, tents, barbeque grills and tables where we can sit and work on the issues we need to be deliberating on. We should make sure there is a lot of technical information available for those citizens who want to dig deep into the issues and challenges we face. When my team organizes a block party for my campaign I will invite all 26 candidates to participate with me, including all of the other three candidates running for mayor.
Obviously many candidates may want to focus on their districts, but when time allows I am sure all candidates will be just as interested in getting to know citizens of other communities in Brookhaven.
If we begin to do things in this way voters can easily find us, and enjoy a bit of dinner at a very reasonable cost, while they learn about issues they want to know more about or be directly involved in. By inviting all candidates and keeping the gatherings non-partisan, we will open the door for a lot of local business to participate in the block parties or to host them at their venue without concern that they might be seen as in favor one particular candidate, while their customers might have different opinions.
I hope other candidates will join me in this effort to make the campaigns for public service in the new City of Brookhaven dramatically different than “politics as usual”. Politics that I believe most citizens are completely sick and tired of, as I am.
Hopefully all of us can innovate and come up with new ideas for our respective campaigns that will as well get all of us in the frame of mind to innovate and find new ways to run the government of Brookhaven.
I personally am not content with Brookhaven being a little better than unincorporated DeKalb. I want Brookhaven to be exceptional. I want Brookhaven to set the bar for all future cities that follow the path of the first 7 new cities. I want Brookhaven to set this standard not just with quality of service, which should be above and beyond the expectations of citizens, but with frugality, efficiency, sensibility, and innovation in public private partnerships as well as figuring out what we can do as a community outside the government to reduce dependence on the taxpayer.
We are incredibly lucky in that we have the benefit of looking at the 6 cities that came before us, and as the leaders of the other cities have already demonstrated, they will work closely with us to make sure we have the benefit of their wisdom and experience.
I look forward to meeting all of you and working to make Brookhaven the absolute best possible city that we can, together, as a team. Being a part of forming a new democratically elected government in a country based on liberty and freedom for all individuals, even if only as a candidate or citizen, is truly an amazing honor that many around the world can only dream of. We thus have a responsibility to them, and to the every citizen of Brookhaven, to stand above the fray and set the standard of what American politics can and should be.
Please call me Thom.
Thom for Mayor, Brookhaven, GA