Five Questions With Rebecca Chase Williams, District 1 Candidate

Patch interviews the candidates for Brookhaven mayor and city council.


Editor's Note: will take place on Nov. 6, 2012, with runoffs set for for Dec. 4, 2012.

Patch has contacted every candidate for mayor and city council, asking them to participate in our popular 'Five Questions With ...' series. We will publish their answers, unedited, in the order their responses are received, from those who choose to participate.

And now, Five Questions With Rebecca Chase Williams, candidate for city council district 1.

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? 

Williams: As a journalist for 35 years, 20 years at ABC Network News, I am well aware that being a candidate for public office can open  a person to scrutiny.

I believe I have earned a reputation for honesty, integrity, fairness and listening to all sides. I have also resigned from reporting from the Dunwoody Crier to avoid any conflict of interest.  

I also consider the fact that I am a small business owner an asset. I ran a health club in Dunwoody for 20 years and my husband, Dick Williams and I have owned The Crier for 16 years.

As DeKalb residents for 27 years, we have raised our college-age daughters here and have deep roots in Brookhaven. I have been a leader in my neighborhood and community for most of those years and believe I bring a better knowledge and understanding of the issues facing the new city than any of my opponents. We only get one chance to launch a city, and I want to make sure we get it right.

2. What do you think separates your candidacy from the other contenders?

Williams: Not only have I had a front row seat, reporting on the creation of Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Brookhaven, but I have also been in the trenches working on behalf of my community for two decades.

I was president of the Byrnwyck Community Association for more than a decade, co-chaired the Zoning committee of the Ashford Alliance for three years, served two terms on the Board of Trustees at St. Martin's Episcopal School, chaired numerous committees at Marist School and St. Pius X High School, and been an active volunteer at my church, All Saints Catholic Church, as well as my daughter's sports teams, Girl Scouts and local charities.

I served on the board of Citizens for North DeKalb, the group that commissioned the feasibility study for the new city. For the last two years, I have served on the DeKalb Zoning Appeals Board as an advocate for the district. 

As a community leader, I have worked to protect our property values, opposing development or road widening that threatened our single-family neighborhoods.

As a business owner, I understand finances and understand the importance of a strong commercial base that creates jobs and enhances our city. I don't have all the answers, but I know how to get them. No one has worked as long and hard as I have to understand our issues and make a positive impact.  

3. With a newly incorporated municipality, is one responsibility (i.e., police, zoning, etc.) more pressing than some of the others? 

Williams: There are many important decisions the city leaders will have to get right from the start, from passing ordinances, to hiring a city manager and city attorney. While hiring a police chief and starting our own police chief is at the top of the priority list, the council will be reviewing bids immediately to determine which performance-based partnerships will deliver the various city services.  These are important decisions that require careful analysis, scrutiny and transparency.  

I am dedicated to a first-rate, responsive police force, excellent parks and recreation centers, well-maintained roads and sidewalks and zoning that protects our quality of life. None of this will happen overnight, but this first year will lay the foundation for creating our new city and I'm determined to make Brookhaven the most successful new city yet.

4. Moving forward, what do you envision Brookhaven's relationship with DeKalb County to be?

Williams: I expect Brookhaven's relationship with DeKalb county to be similar to cities like Decatur, Stone Mountain, Chamblee, or Dunwoody. We are still DeKalb residents and will continue to support the county with nearly 90 percent of our taxes. In return we will continue to receive important services like fire, water, sanitation and libraries from the county.  

And of course, we are still part of the DeKalb school system.  As we continue to invest in and improve Brookhaven, keeping property values strong and being a magnet for business, DeKalb wins as well.  

As DeKalb Commissioner Elaine Boyer's representative on the DeKalb Zoning Board of Appeals, I have a strong relationship with her. I know our other commissioners well as well as the members of the DeKalb board of education and look forward to working with them for the benefit of our city and county. 

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?

Williams: I will work to keep taxes low and be a good steward of the taxpayers' money, always operating in an open and transparent way.

Brookhaven Maven September 07, 2012 at 01:13 AM
To Eric Hovdesven at 4:07pm -- You surely jest! That you would even consider voting for Ms. Chase Williams is a sad commentary on your misplaced judgement. I thought you were smarter than that! In addition, your memory is failing you, my friend. While true that Ms. Chase Williams provided rather appealing responses to the five questions, she is, after all and by her own admission, a reporter by trade. She knows how to write the things people most want to hear, whether she means them or not. Ms. Chase Williams has no real interest in bettering the entire city of Brookhaven, or even District 1. She is only interested in protecting her little walled-in neighborhood, at whatever expense to others. You seem to have forgotten that she sold out the other neighborhoods surrounding HER neighborhood when Georgia Power built their substation adjacent to Byrnwyck's perpetual easement. You seem to have forgotten she rallied the troops FOR allowing Marist to build in the flood plain. (Wonder where her kids go to school?) Ms. Chase Williams claims in her answers that she has "also been in the trenches working on behalf of my community for two decades." More like working against all the other neighborhoods in her community on behalf of protecting her neighborhood. Go back and check the record, Mr. Hovdesven. You will see I don't misspeak. -- The Maven
Brookhaven Maven September 07, 2012 at 01:21 AM
To BahHumBugger @ 2:20pm -- You are SO right on with your comments about Ms. Chase Williams' "journalism" in regards to the biased articles she wrote about the city before the referendum. She and her husband both badly wanted Dunwoody to include their neighborhood when the boundaries were being drawn for our tony city to the north. Why do you suppose she now is so pro-Brookhaven?
HamBurger September 07, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Ms. BM, THANK YOU! Please pass the yellow mustard!
Eddie E. September 07, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Maven, But she shore does talk purty.
Grieg Ericsson September 07, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Brook Mav, I will find it hard to argue with you on this topic. Don't forget her push to get another flood plain with wetlands developed for Concorde Soccer just two parcels downstream on Nancy Creek. She is the antithesis of fair and balanced zoning and planning practices, and you are correct. Both Mrs RCW and her overlord Elaine Boyer both somehow got their kids into Marist. Conflict of interests are abundant with her. Although it says above that Mrs RCW has ceased her reporting with the Crier, this does not excuse the ethical malfeasance she will still be practicing. It is highly shunned upon to be involved in or married to a journalist and run for political office. She knows this and so does Dicky.
Eddie E. September 07, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Grieg, I do believe that 'Deep Throat' had the appropriate concept in mind when he explained to Woodward and Bernstein just what to follow.
Eric H September 07, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Brookhaven Maven, I do find myself often in agreement with you on numerous points, and yes I agree with you on what should have been the outcome with the Marist Fields. But to blame Ms. Williams for that I don't agree with. In the end there was a very strong split on the issue of the Marist Expansion (well according to them it wasn't an expansion). Take a look at the documents section in the www.MurpheyCandler.net website or more directly this link http://mcha.clubexpress.com/content.aspx?page_id=70&club_id=200555&item_id=8788&cat_id=-1 . I posted everyone of those documents. I reviewed everyone and often found them through many hours of work. I and another person wrote most of the opposition brief that was finalized by the attorney hired to oppose the project. Ms. Williams was not on the planning board or the ZBA at that time and to my knowledge was not in charge of a grass routes movement for it. Yes she was writing about it for the Crier, and yes I disagreed with the focus of some of the articles but none of them represented a lack of ethics or untoward activities. One of the crushing blows to the opposition was that one of the key neighborhoods in the Ashford Alliance opposed opposition (was in favor i would say) to the Marist proposal - this was on the Harts Mill area - and not Mike Jacobs but another DeKalb employee had a role. But even that neighborhood not signing on didn't cause the problem. (continued)
Eric H September 07, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Marist's application was successful for many reasons. 1. The DeKalb Tree ordinance's prohibition of tree removal in floodplains is highly unique. DeKalb may have been the only county in Georgia with a prohibition against tree removal in the flood plain. Granted it was there for solid scientific and flood control reasons and it should be the practice everywhere, but unfortunately it was ahead of the curve in terms of citizen support. But yes to this day I still disagree with the Commissioner's disregard of this important ordinance. But keep in mind except for Commissioner Gannon the other commissioners went along with it. And you can't hide behind Home Rule because this basically gutted a countywide provision. This was an indictment of the whole commission. 2. DeKalb Staff over the years had done a poor job of enforcing this ordinance. While the attorney for Marist overstated the exemptions given, some had been given, or the exemptions/permits/approvals given were not adequately documented. And if you don't enforce a rule properly you end up not being able to enforce it at all because its enforcement becomes arbitrary and capricous. This was extremely frustrating for me and major milestone for me in terms of my ability to think DeKalb County was actually interested at all in pursuing sound and sustainable development practices. Even if one disagrees with that provision in the Tree Ordinance, then change the ordinance, don't do it this way.
Eric H September 07, 2012 at 03:55 PM
3. The fact is floodplains are often used for recreational fields. Yes its not as good as a forest for stormwater management its better than putting in building. 4. Working off of point 3 and working off the fact that many parents in the community either send their kids to Marist, are big proponents of sports leagues or are particpants in the Y/Concorde soccer leauge there was strong support for the Marist project and using the flood plain for fields. Keep in mind all the Murphey Candler fields are in a flood plain. We, those of us opposing Marist's application ran into significant resistance from those that supported it. I don't think even Murphey Candler was able to take a strong position one way or the other - I know we didn't officially register one at the meetings. 5. Commissioner Boyer for as long as she has been a commissioner has always stated her belief that athletic fields are appropriate uses for the flood plain. And as I said that a widely held position even in DeKalb which is the only county that prohibits tree removal from floodplains - in other words in any other county you could stop it.
Eric H September 07, 2012 at 04:06 PM
2.5 I need to amend my comments on DeKalb's role, The CEO's office did not provide a legal analysis of the waiving of the tree ordinance because they said it was a commission decision. The legal council for the commission basically said they lacked the resources or ability to do an analysis of the legality. And in the end there wasn't enough money in the community to bring the case to court. So bottom line, yes this approval was against the wishes of many folks - but you know what in all honesty the a significant portion of the opposition wasn't generated by a desire to protect this valuable provision in the Tree Ordinance. And from a numbers point of view there were probably more DeKalb residents supporting it - granted they had conflicted motivations but as I've learned with Murphey Candler Park - parents in an organized sports league are a very politically powerful force. So was I unhappy with the decsion? Yes. Do I think Ms. Williams played any kind of notable role in its approval? No. I never disussed with her if she was in favor of it because she wasn't a key player and I don't think she took a position publicly on it - though yes I assumed she was in favor of it. But as I've stated - I understood why people were in favor of it, and can't say I'm absolutely right and they are wrong. Though I do think the county displayed a huge lapse in how they enforce their zoning and development rules.
Eric H September 07, 2012 at 04:49 PM
I will say that Marist has done a good job with the development. I am impressed with their cutting edge or common sense approach to building a parking lot. The design they used including no curbs that allow storm water to go into landscaped swales instead of being channeled directly into a storm pipe that goes to a stream is something I want to see Brookhaven adopt. It improves water quality and it provides needed water to the plants - why we've adopted a fixation on curbs has been a complaint of mine. As to the GA Power Transfer Station at Perimeter Summit. I wasn't intimately involved in it. I did have some above the clouds discussions with the folks involved but individuals were not discussed. Bottom line GA Power was an issue that even DeKalb County had no control over. The Georgia Constitution or statutes impart insane amounts of authority to GA Power. Basically GA Power is exempt from all Zoning and Permitting rules at the County or City level. Only the PSC has authority over them and as I recall the PSC took the illogical position that they did not need to or were not obligated to govern or watch over GA Power's compliance with community development or zoning standards. We need to elect better PSC members, unfortunately most folks pay little attention to these very important elections. With that said I thought GA Power ended up making concessions for the immediate neighbors though I don't know the specifics of the final outcome.
Eric H September 07, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Sorry for going on and on. Also I made a mistake on on point 5. It should have read, in other words in any other county you could NOT stop it. - I left out the NOT.
Eric H September 07, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Oh and I do need to give credit to the DeKalb staff that worked on the permitting.
Jack of Kings September 07, 2012 at 05:01 PM
HamBurger--when do you get to answer the Five Questions for your candidacy? Or have you already done yours?
HamBurger September 07, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Mr. Phil, you do know that Mr. GuruLikeDrucker who has posted regularly on the Patch is running for office, don’t you? Post your e-mail address and I will send you the e-mail and linkedin file with picture from his neighbors. Or, you may not be interested because this individual was not against the new city as I was, but was a C$ND member and associated with Brookhaven Yes? Naturally, I understand your Brookhaven Yes bias . . . And, your Brookhaven Yes preference to go after me. Please pass the yellow mustard!
Jack of Kings September 07, 2012 at 05:44 PM
@Hamburger, I did not know about GuruLikeDrucker. But I do know that you have NEVER answered my question. So, HamBurger, are you or are you not running for public office in Brookhaven? I promise I will not challenge you-- I will drop this question forever--if you just answer the question.
Eddie E. September 07, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Eric, Good detail on the Marist fiasco. So at least we agree on enforcing (and adopting in Brokehaven) the Dekalb Flood Plain Tree Ordinance and on reviewing the Territorial Act in terms of limiting the absolute raw authority granted to Georgia Power. By the way, do you know who the hands down larges contributor to Ms. Boyer's campaign was in the last two cycles?
HamBurger September 07, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Mr. Phil, refer to our last discussion regarding this matter. Now, if you want information about GuruLikeDrucker, post your email. Please pass the yellow mustard!
Booyah September 07, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Hammy, instead of the gibberish answer about Guru. Answer Phil about yourself. Of course your deflection is an answer in itself. What garbage you spew.
Brookhaven Maven September 07, 2012 at 09:16 PM
To Eric Hovdesven at 12:50pm -- Nice narrative, Mr. H., but totally unneccesary. I already knew all that, and more. I'm not sure just why you decided you had to spend that much time and ink on so many details about Marist. Was it to explain what transpired to other readers? It really does not matter why you wrote such a lengthy response --- you clearly were trying to deflect negative attention from Ms. Chase Williams. Let's get back on point. Since you brought up the NBNC in your earlier remarks, let me remind you of a very strong COMMUNITY advocate who helped to found that group. Her last name was Seltzer or Setzer or something similar. SHE --- not Ms. Chase Williams --- was the NBNC participant from Byrnwyck who brought the most to the table. She tirelessly worked on behalf of the greater community, and often in direct opposition to Ms. Chase Williams, who specifically represented and tried to protect only Byrnwyck. Let me give you another example of this protectionism, Mr. Transit: When MARTA first wanted to put the Medical Center Station between St. Joseph's and Byrnwyck, which of those 2 ladies came out in favor of that plan? Which one was adamantly opposed to it? As it turns out, it was one of the better location decisions MARTA ever made. The letters NBNC wrote to MARTA and the meeting minutes are a matter of public record. I again encourage you to look it up, if your memory fails you. -- The Maven
Eddie E. September 07, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Eric, See above, I hit the wrong reply button.
Eric H September 07, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Yep Eddie. Though I would like to see adoption of the tree ordinance also. One issue especially when it comes to stream buffers and cutting trees in flood plains is the issue existing uses. Most people in general will agree with the principles but if adequate flexibility is not included for existing homes you'll get some vocal oppositions from homeowners who fear they will not be able to ad a deck or something. As to DeKalb I wounder if they can enforce their ordinance in light of how its been ... or not been enforced in the past. Re powers of utilities, that would seem to be politically possible since its the republican subdivisions that often get ticked off by the utility easements. i don't know, though I'm surprised she would even need to make much of a fund raising effort. And don't get me wrong there are many things I like about her. I think she and her husband are good people. Though I even like her chief of staff and he's a royal pr*ck......lol sorry, I joke, though it is kind of true, I mean when he's not pissing me off he's a great guy to talk to.
Eric H September 07, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Joan Smeltzer was her name, and yes she was the leader of NBNC and a great ally of mine. I am sorry she moved. Yes I went on too long but when I looked at all those documents I had uploaded or prepared to the website something I had put behind me came flooding back. So I did it in part because I think it could offer insights to others as to how county and city decisions get made but also in part because I just wanted to. As I said my apologies for going on and on. It could have been worse you could have been stuck in a room listening to me blabber on and on. I don't recall Joan talking about the issues you raised, though that didn't mean it didn't happen because Joan wasn't that type of person. Our civic discourse would be so much better and productive if there were more Joans out there. Though I'll admit that my mother who passed away at the age of 55 from Breast Cancer was named Joan so I have a soft spot for people named Joan.
HamBurger September 08, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Mr. Phil, here is a funny article for you, Mr. GuruLikeDrucker has an article in the Patch and he participates in the conversation below. Hey! By hook or crook! http://brookhaven.patch.com/articles/the-brookhaven-name-resonates-with-everyone Special hamburger with thin sliced onions and pickles and yellow mustard coming right up!
don Gabacho September 08, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Ms Rebecca Chase Williams, Given, the U.S. Constitution obviously never having empowered any foreign government to involve itself in our elections and referendums plus the U.S. Constitution binding all public office holders to---first and foremost---protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, what are you going to do about both: 1) bringing the MxGov to task for its incorporation in DeKalb County, GA by successive Secretaries of the SOS of GA as its "Instituto de Mexico" and its being provided, having and using our voter registration forms and 2) not only protecting the right to seek (and obtain) redress of grievance but also those who seek the redress? Note: I'll be asking all appointed to the non-elected commission and candidates for office also.
Mike September 09, 2012 at 09:28 PM
I cannot support any candidate for any position as by default all are city "yes" people, all of whom have a narrow focus of what is only important to their sliver of Brookhaven.
Corey Self September 13, 2012 at 01:40 AM
FYI - There is a candidate forum for District 2 candidates on Thursday September 27th at 7pm at Ashford Park Elementary. I've not seen this published anywhere else yet but Russell Mitchell, candidate for district 2 has it on his Facebook page here... http://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-Russell-Mitchell-for-City-Council-District-2-Brookhaven-GA/150961755044879
Jack of Kings September 14, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Article on District 1 candidates at Brookhaven Neighbor http://neighbornewspapers.com/view/full_story/20124504/article-Candidates-for-Brookhaven-Distirct-1-City-Council-sound-off-on-issues?
Grieg Ericsson September 14, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Phil, Please refrain.
Jack of Kings September 14, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Please refrain from what, GE? Trying to be helpful on where there is more information on candidates? I think not.


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