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Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett looking forward to implementing city’s strategic plan in next term

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Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett looking forward to implementing city’s strategic plan in next term

Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett is up for reelection in November and she is the sole candidate running for the District 2 City Commission seat. Photo submitted by Patti Garrett.

Decatur, GA — Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett is running for reelection and has qualified for the Nov. 2 election. Garrett represents the District 2 seat on the City Commission and has served for 12 years. She was first elected as a commissioner in 2009 and has served as mayor since 2016.

Garrett is the sole candidate in this election. In the city of Decatur, mayoral candidates run for their district seat on the City Commission and then the board selects the mayor.

The District 1 City Commission seat is also on the ballot, and incumbent Commissioner Kelly Walsh and Katie Bell are running for the position.

“I’m really proud of the way we’ve governed during the pandemic,” Garrett said. “I also feel really excited about some things that are just on the cusp of what we are getting ready to do in the city with our strategic plan, the real focus on equity and racial justice, on climate change, and the pillars that we’re looking at as part of the strategic plan with transportation and mobility, economic development, affordable housing.”

She added that she wants to be part of some of the things she was a part of starting and wants to see those efforts flourish.

Garrett has taught nutrition, provided nutrition counseling services and worked as a clinical dietitian at Georgia State University and Emory University Health Services. She is interested in health policy, particularly related to access to healthy foods, equity, environmental policies, active lifestyles and the role of local government in fostering healthy, equitable and vibrant communities, according to the city’s website.

“I’ve always been interested in policy. Health policy in my profession, and I guess also working for the collective good and collaborating and trying to work with others for positive outcomes. So I thought running for [the] City Commission offered that opportunity as well,” Garrett told Decaturish.

Garrett also serves as the chair of the board of the National Civic League and on the board of the Georgia Municipal Association, where she is a member of the federal policy council and environmental and natural resources committee. Garrett is on the community resources committee and the regional housing task force at the Atlanta Regional Commission, Welcoming America’s One Region Initiative Steering Committee, and New American Pathways’ Advisory Council, the city’s website states.

In her campaign announcement, Garrett said that throughout her time in office, she has done her best to hear residents, represent the collective interests of the community and to remain true to her own principles. Her priorities are based on the community’s priorities. She looks forward to seeing the top priorities from the city’s strategic plan.

The strategic plan is the sum of the community’s ideas and ambitions, and Garrett is committed to making them a reality. She added that the relationships she has built, as a neighbor and elected official, will be key to doing so.

“I think we’re seeing some of those already,” Garrett said. “Our Clean Energy Plan I think is going to give us a little bit more direction. I think we’re spending a lot of time on trying to get our tree ordinance to be what we would like for it to be, to protect and grow our canopy. I think that’s definitely a priority and is definitely on the work program for this year. Then the affordable housing piece, I think, is another [priority].”

Garrett told Decaturish she wants to see the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance come to fruition and see affordable housing built at Legacy Park.

Equity and racial justice was the overarching theme to come out of the strategic planning process. During the public participation process for the strategic plan, the consultants from TSW and city staff heard that many people generally supported the action items, but wanted more ambitious goals for clean energy targets and equity.

Garrett said she’s still learning what it looks like to promote equity and racial justice in the city as she continues to broaden her knowledge and perspective. She plans to support policies that embrace the ideals the city has talked about and support the Better Together board and other partners. Garrett wants to look to them for assistance on figuring out how the city moves forward and find out how she needs “to broaden the lens so that I’m not leaving someone or something out,” she said.

“I’ve learned a lot from participating in different types of training activities and what are some of the kinds of things that we can look for and types of behavior and actions that we can promote for being a more racially just and equitable city,” Garrett said.

Garrett is excited about the work the city is doing to make sure that what the city is doing, top to bottom, has that equity lens, she said. The City Commission recently discussed the city’s purchasing policies and looking at ways to get more companies involved in the process that may not be the lowest bidder but might be able to do the job and need the support.

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 and advocating for a lower millage rate.

“That is a conversation that we had before we voted on this budget and I think there is a desire to … [see if there] are there things that we need to do to assist homeowners,” Garrett said. “I think we wanted to get through the pandemic. We wanted to get through what were our collections going to be, our tax collections going to be, and see things shake out a little bit in a budget.”

The millage rate and property taxes vary from property to property. An individual’s taxes are based on their property value.

“We felt like it was premature to try to do that without knowing kind of the impact of the pandemic on the city’s finances. That’s a conversation that we continue to have and how do we balance city services and pay our employees fair wages and also recognize the needs of the residents,” Garrett said.

There is assistance for those on the lower income end of the spectrum, Garrett said, adding that she’s concerned about the people in the middle as their home values go up, and they don’t qualify for the senior tax exemption or other subsidized exemptions.

“I want those people to be able to not feel like they have to sell their homes and leave Decatur,” Garrett said. “I think it’s something that I want to take a look at as we go into the next budget season and see what do we need to be doing to try to level out things so that those who are impacted in sort of that middle area feel like they can pay their taxes and live here.”

Garrett also looks forward to continuing the city’s partnerships with City Schools of Decatur and the Decatur Housing Authority, as well as DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners and the DeKalb County legislative delegation. Conversations with Congresswoman Nikema Williams and Congressman Hank Johnson have also led to the inclusion of Decatur projects in proposed infrastructure funding, according to her campaign announcement.

“I appreciate the confidence and encouragement that people have shown to me throughout the years, and it’s truly an honor to be able to serve as an elected official in the city of Decatur,” Garrett told Decaturish. “It has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve really every done in my life, so I’m very appreciative for the opportunity to continue to do that for several more years.”

More information about Garrett can be found on her campaign website.

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