Decatur City Commissioner Kelly Walsh qualifies for Nov. 2 electionKelly Walsh is a candidate for the Decatur City Commission district one seat. Photo submitted by Kelly Walsh.
Decatur, GA — Decatur City Commissioner Kelly Walsh is seeking a second term and has qualified for the Nov. 2 election. Walsh represents district one. She has been on the City Commission since 2018.
Katie Bell is also running for the seat.
“We have accomplished a great deal as a governing body over the last few years, and despite the pandemic, the city is still very resilient and on a path to full recovery,” Walsh said in a press release. “Now more than ever, our city needs a forward-thinking leader with experience and integrity, and a resolve to implement policies that offer the most benefits to the most residents.”
Walsh is a graduate of Leadership DeKalb 2018 and in 2020 graduated from the Center for Leadership at the Urban Land Institute of Atlanta. She has lived in Decatur for 16 years, and she and her husband pat have two children. She’s currently a full-time Realtor with Keller Williams, located in downtown Decatur.
Before being elected, Walsh received the Decatur Hometown Hero Award in 2015 for her service on boards such as the Decatur Active Living Advisory Board, the Clairemont Elementary PTA, as well as being a part of several non-profit boards.
Those nonprofits include Girls on the Run, Atlanta Track Club, and most recently, the Decatur-DeKalb YMCA, her campaign announcement says.
“I’m excited to see our Destination 2030 Strategic Plan through to adoption and getting off to a rapid start,” Walsh said in a statement. “Working on a team like the City of Decatur Commission that fully agrees on the common values of making Decatur a welcoming place, with opportunities for everyone to be healthy and thrive, is really the best job I can imagine having.”
She’s looking forward to some of the intersectional work that comes out of the strategic plan as equity and racial justice is the backdrop for the issues the City Commission will look at.
“That means a lot to me because I do think making these long term changes, the lead up to that does take time. We try to accelerate it as much as we can, but that’s sometimes just the reality,” Walsh told Decaturish. “I think it’s the intersectional work of where there’s crossover in our community’s concerns and desires that can have the most impact.”
For Walsh, that comes through efforts in housing. She said that when the city makes an impact in housing, it is also affecting equity.
“When you talk about intersectional policymaking, I think a lot of what we’ll continue to work on is affordable housing and that’s embedded in smart growth strategies,” Walsh said. “It’s up to us to put ourselves in the driver’s seat as a city and a city that’s embedded in a big growing county, in a big growing metro region, and say how do we want to be in the driver’s seat and have policies that help us with smart growth?”
For example, that could be mandating inclusionary housing in new development or developing around transit stations, which could be areas where the city can have an impact on affordable housing, Walsh said.
“These are things, first and foremost, we need people to live here and live here affordability and that creates this foundation of more diversity. I’d call that then equity too,” Walsh said. “So I start with housing [to promote equity].”
She added that to promote racial justice and equity there’s work to do that keeps people in conversation and the city continues to fund anti-racist speakers.
“I think coming out of the pandemic, we have to be really purposeful about how we rebuild community in person,” Walsh said. “That can include things like how we do festivals, how we do events, how we activate our green space, always having this equitable, inclusive lens.”
She added that the city has to be partners with the school district to address equity. The city is also only equitable when all members of the community feel welcome, valued and safe, Walsh said.
“We will want to hold our public safety to the highest standards of community policing and having the type of environment there that reflects our values around high empathy and seeing people before problems,” she said.
Another priority for Walsh is walkability and making the city safe for those who walk and bike on city sidewalks.
“I ran a campaign in 2017 on walkability and if I go truly to my comfort zone and what I still see during a pandemic that resonates is our ability as residents of Decatur to be outside, to be safe on foot and on bikes and to find community on our sidewalks,” Walsh said.
If elected, Walsh hopes to continue implementing aspects of the 2018 Transportation Plan, particularly around traffic-calming efforts and sidewalk expansion.
“I think there’s a very strong appetite across our city to have the safest roads possible, within reason, that still have throughput, that still allows for the transit needs of a city embedded in a larger metro area but where we can still be on the street and on the road on foot and on bike and feel very, very safe,” Walsh said.
She’d also like to see the city add a citywide circulator bus to offer north and south loops that connect residents to stops throughout the city, according to her campaign website.
Walsh would additionally like to continue supporting citizen-led efforts to calm Decatur, further pedestrian and cycling interests, and complete a feasibility study next year on the city taking over traffic signal control from DeKalb County.
In a second term, Walsh would like to get the community more involved in land use issues. She wants to see the city find ways to meet people where they are, so they feel like they’re a part of the decision-making process around developments, she said.
“As one of my second term priorities, it’s really about strengthening involvement between neighborhoods, volunteer boards, the business community and the city government through targeted education about land use, zoning, urban planning,” Walsh said. “I think we should use citywide outreach, communication and smart technologies that we may not have all in place yet. I could see us partnering with a local organization.”
In terms of seeking more public participation, Walsh would like to offer accessible and useful information to residents about how the city government works and how people can impact the way things get done. She’d additionally like to retain virtual options for meetings.
In June, the City Commission adopted the millage rate, which is set at 13.92 mills. The rate was unchanged from 2020, but it still resulted in a 2.81% tax increase. The issue garnered some social media comments of homeowners saying their property taxes increased significantly.
The millage rate and property taxes vary from property to property. An individual’s taxes are based on their property value.
Walsh said there’s an opportunity going forward for the city to look at lowering the millage rate, and she’d be opening to considering lowering the rate.
“I think we run a very financially conservative government, and we have a healthy fund balance for reserves that demonstrates that we are fiscally prudent and conservative,” Walsh said. “So it’s only in that environment that we could even consider it. It’s something we obviously have to make as a collective body and with guidance from the architect and the person who manages our budget, which is our city manager. But I’d say it’s not inconceivable, and I think I’d like to do, as a leadership group, what it takes to respond to those needs of our community.”
More information about Walsh can be found on her campaign website.
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