Candidate Q&A – Tim Martin, Post 1A, City Commission
In an effort to help voters prepare for the Nov. 7 elections, Decaturish sent questions to candidates for the Decatur City Commission Post 1A, which is being vacated by Fred Boykin. Early voting begins Oct. 16. To see the City Commission district maps, click here. Decaturish will also be hosting a candidates forum at the Decatur branch of the DeKalb County Public Library on Sept. 25. For more information about that event, click here.
1) Why are you running for the Decatur City Commission seat?
The short answer is that I love Decatur, and I care about its future. I’ll elaborate:
I was raised to believe that when you see a need, you step up to help. The great advantage of this conviction is that it enables you to meet people where they are. You get to know them as neighbors and gain a better sense of just how diverse our individual priorities can be.
Decatur has some unique needs. We’re at a crossroads. Decatur has successfully navigated a period of decline and disinvestment, and we’re now tasked with a new set of challenges — the challenges of success. Safe and efficient mobility around town. Housing affordability. Downtown livability. Responsible use of tax dollars and sharing of resources. These are areas where there’s no shortage of opinions and priorities among our community. I can help bridge different views.
Through community projects, involvement with my children’s schools, and my years serving on and leading the Decatur Business Association, I’ve been successful in bringing folks with different positions and viewpoints together to make good things happen in our community. It would be an honor now to commit my time, energy, and resources to doing that on a larger scale — in the service of the wonderful citizens and neighborhoods of Decatur.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
It’s my ability to earn trust rather than just request it and my experience managing a $50M financial portfolio for nearly 20 years.
I’ve built a wealth management practice, and every day I help people attain their goals. I stick with my clients — not just through good times but through the hard ones — to make sure we get the job done. I earn their trust by speaking honestly and following through. That commitment to helping is what has always driven me since I was young. Growing up, there wasn’t a night of the week that I didn’t have a practice to go to or a church service project to work on. All manners of serving others and being a part of a team.
Decatur is my team now and I’ll roll up my sleeves to help alongside anyone willing to do the same. Listening and building consensus — keys to successful leadership — are part of my DNA.
3) What do you think is Decatur’s greatest strength?
Without question, Decatur’s greatest strength is its people.
It has been a year since I decided to run for city commission. During that time, I’ve met the most amazing people with many different perspectives, all committed to this city we share.
Through the 1980s and 90s, metro Atlanta had many communities facing similar challenges, yet Decatur overcame them and flourished in ways now referenced as model practices. It was made possible by steadfast leadership and Decatur’s people through their commitment to the city and their commitment to each other.
There’s a cohesion here — a unique community spirit – a special Decatur energy I share and am committed to building upon.
4) What do you think is Decatur’s biggest challenge?
As I’ve already mentioned, Decatur’s biggest challenges are those caused not by decline but from Decatur’s successes.
For many years, Decatur battled a dwindling population and crippling loss of investment. Law enforcement was overstressed, and there were serious concerns about how to pay for the things we value. So much so that the prospect of dismantling our school system and folding it into DeKalb County was suggested.
That might seem unfathomable to recent newcomers. That’s because in years past, the Decatur community met those challenges head on and tackled them. Today, we enjoy a high quality of life, but we also face a new set of challenges that’ve come with it.
For example, our commitment to a local, thriving school system has reaped tremendous rewards. But it’s also brought enrollment pressures and accelerated housing costs. For many, it’s now too expensive to become or remain a part of Decatur. Our seniors have limited options for downsizing. Our grown children can’t find starter homes. Our city and school employees can’t afford to live in Decatur. My wife is a teacher in City Schools of Decatur. I get it because Melanie and I have lived it.
This problem chips away at the wonderful diversity underpinning Decatur’s strong fabric.
5) How would you address what you feel is Decatur’s biggest challenge?
We need strong schools. That’s a given. But we also need concurrent leadership to manage the issues stemming from Decatur’s desirability and rapid growth.
On the housing affordability front, I understand the economics of property development and the need for creative new thinking. As Commissioner, I’ll help enable viable market solutions and support the excellent work of the Decatur Housing Authority. I’ll also lend my support to the city’s emerging Community Land Trust to increase workforce housing for teachers, emergency personnel, service workers, and so many others key to a diverse and well-rounded community.
On the mobility front, safety is key. I’ll continue and build upon downtown and neighborhood efforts to ensure more people have more choices in how to get around — in ways in which each user is safely accommodated. The more kids (and others) walking or biking safely, the fewer being driven, and the fewer cars competing for space. I’ll further target our areas of greatest challenge, particularly the Scott Boulevard corridor to ensure safe access and use for all.
Finally, on the resources front, I’ll work closely with our schools and city departments to ensure all residents benefit from our collective investments. For example, the city’s United Methodist Children’s Home property holds tremendous potential — not just for surrounding residents but for the broader Decatur community, both those with kids in our schools and those without. I’ll commit myself to a wide-ranging public visioning and implementation process to ensure we all find ways to benefit.
I recognize and respect the school board’s autonomy. They make the decisions that impact education in Decatur, but that doesn’t mean the city commission can’t contribute to CSD’s success. My commitment as a Commissioner is to an ongoing and increasingly healthy and supportive relationship between the two bodies, and to the bridge-building, particularly with regard to any annexation considerations.
6) What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as a commissioner?
As I mentioned above in Question #5 and reference on my campaign website at www.timfordecatur.com, my top priorities are: confronting housing affordability; enhancing downtown livability with creative approaches to greenspace and infrastructure; taming the Scott Boulevard corridor; and managing shared city resources in budget-conscious ways in which the most residents benefit.
7) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
Yes, 100 percent. I work with other people’s money in a highly regulated sector. I know of no other way to operate other than unshakable transparency and ethics. I’ve demonstrated those principals via the success of my business. I hold myself to a higher standard with my clients and will continue to do so as an elected official.