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Five Questions with Russell Mitchell, District 2 City Council Candidate

Mitchell says transitioning DeKalb County codes to Brookhaven codes will be the most important initial step in the incorporation process.

 

1. Why are you running for office?

Mitchell: During the cityhood process, I never had intentions of running for City Council in Brookhaven. However, after the success of the incorporation efforts, I began to be approached by many of my neighbors and friends in the community and encouraged to run for office based on my local government experience in finance for a startup city in DeKalb County.

I’m the only one running for Brookhaven office that has local government experience and I can hit the ground running like no other candidate. I understand the issues, challenges, and opportunities a newly incorporated city faces. Aside from serving as the Financial Analyst for Dunwoody during its startup years, I have experience in banking and non-profit, and I currently work in Financial Management for a Fortune 500 company.

I’m passionate about serving my community and setting a good example of public service to my young son, Ryder. Over the past two years, I’ve spent hundreds of hours volunteering as the treasurer for C4ND and as secretary of Brookhaven Yes. In these positions I studied the newly formed local governments in the Atlanta area and more specifically, the potential revenue and expense streams for Brookhaven. In the past, I’ve volunteered with the IRS preparing tax returns for low income families and offered financial counseling. Currently, I help manage a community garden where all produce is given to the food bank and distributed to families in need. I’ve proven I’m not self-serving in any way, I have the dedication to commit to my promises and perform, and that I have the passion to make Brookhaven the best place it can be.

 

2. What do you think separates you from other contenders?

Mitchell: In addition to the fact that I am the only candidate in any of the Brookhaven positions who has actually worked in local government previously, my experience in public finance for a start-up municipality will prove to be invaluable to the Brookhaven community.  I vow to establish a fiscally conservative budget and millage rate that is truly representative of the fiscal demands necessary to initiate the incorporation effort.  Having a BS degree in Finance and a MBA also separates me from my contenders in District 2. My education gives me a competitive advantage over my counterparts in the start-up process in that a significant amount of the issues faced by the inaugural City Council will be specific to public finance and sound policy development priorities. 

 

3. With a newly incorporated municipality, is one responsibility more pressing than others? 

Mitchell: In light of the complexities of creating a new municipality essentially overnight, it is difficult to highlight one city service over another in terms of its relative importance when each department has critical demands that will be called upon in establishing an effective organizational structure for our local government.  Based on the nature of imperativeness in the other start-up municipalities in north Fulton County and in Dunwoody, the importance of transitioning DeKalb County codes to Brookhaven codes will be the most important initial step in the incorporation process.

The hiring of experts in municipal law and city governance respective to a seasoned City Manager, City Clerk, Finance Director, City Attorney and Police Chief, cannot be understated and should be a top priority in the start-up effort in the weeks/months ahead.  These technical professionals will provide the foundation for policy development that will help secure the city’s success in the early months of incorporation and assign programs that protect the community’s interests now and into the years ahead. 

 

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

Mitchell: As my experience tells with the City of Dunwoody in their transitioning of county services to city services, the first three to five years will likely be strained in light of the millions of dollars in tax base funds that will shift into the City of Brookhaven that were previously allocated for unincorporated Dekalb County locales.  This will be specifically evident in the Parks & Recreation Department, where funds previously dedicated for operations and future improvements could be potentially redirected into other county resources outside the municipal boundaries. This reality makes it imperative for the City Council and Brookhaven residents to reach out to the County Commissioners and our state legislators to ensure funds dedicated to the Brookhaven area are protected for the future, because a portion of our taxes are still going to the county for necessary services.  As a Brookhaven City Council member, I will work diligently to maintain a good relationship with DeKalb County and their leadership to ensure funds programmed within our municipal boundaries are dedicated to the community’s future.

 

5. Candidates make promises running for office all the time.  Can you make one promise with absolute certainty, you will keep? 

Mitchell: As I stated previously, I vow to run the City of Brookhaven in a fiscally-conservative manner that will ensure governmental services operate at optimal performance levels in an open and transparent manner.  Drawing from my finance background, I will seek to establish key performance measures for managerial staff and contract service providers where performance is reviewed on annual basis. 

I promise to ensure that our Police Chief will hire a police force for the City of Brookhaven that protects the quality of life for all our residents and recruits officers with diverse talents that can be utilized in various capacities, while not creating a bloated organizational hierarchy. If there is ever a need for additional officers in certain law enforcement disciplines, I am open to reasonable increases in the force as demands dictate, but I do not feel it is financially prudent to hire additional officers unless the need can be justified by the Police Chief and agreed upon by City Council. 

I believe we can bring together a group of elected and appointed officials that will work together to achieve a new vision for the Brookhaven community. This vision is certainly on the horizon with the right leadership in position, and I seek to be at the forefront of this successful organizational structure as your District 2 representative.

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