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Dear Decaturish – In support of District 1 Decatur City Commissioner Kelly Walsh

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Dear Decaturish – In support of District 1 Decatur City Commissioner Kelly Walsh

Kelly Walsh is a candidate for the Decatur City Commission district one seat. Photo submitted by Kelly Walsh.
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Decaturish invited all candidates running in the Nov. 2 municipal election to submit up to three letters on their behalf. One of the letters could be written by the candidate. Here are the letters in support of District 1 Decatur City Commissioner Kelly Walsh.

Dear Decaturish,

I endorse Kelly Walsh in her re-election campaign for City Commission. I have known Kelly Walsh for many years and have always appreciated the passion that she brings to any endeavor before her.

This enthusiasm is essential for a successful member of a city government. She is a tireless advocate for the City of Decatur. Her positions on the various issues before the City Commission are informed and inspired by the preparation and integrity that she brings to every vote. She has the personality to bring people together to make our city even better than it already is.

One important area in which I have had the opportunity to work closely with Kelly Walsh is in the planning for the future use of Legacy Park. When word came out that the United Methodist Childrens’ Home was interested in selling the property now known as Legacy Park, one of the first people I discussed this with was Commissioner Walsh. This was even some time before she was elected to the Commission. A group of us had a vision that this property, the last large parcel of land anywhere near the City of Decatur could be a green and beautiful urban oasis for active and passive users for many generations to come.

It was through these grassroots efforts that I saw for the first time the passion Kelly Walsh brings to city issues. As a result, I was not surprised when she announced she was running for office in 2017. Through her first term in office she has not disappointed. She continues to push for quality of life issues in Decatur, whether to protect greenspace, calm traffic, or make the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists. We are an active family that uses the roads and sidewalks across Decatur for transit and to stay healthy. Ourchildren are all students in the City Schools of Decatur and are athletes who have thrived because of the access we have to shared spaces such as our parks, fields, and greenspaces. Kelly priorities these things and that means a lot to me and my family.

I plan to vote for Kelly Walsh and would ask you to do the same.

Thank you,

Matthew Carlton

Dear Decaturish,

Our community’s articulated desire for affordable housing is not a new concept. The need to ensure housing is available for everyone in our community has been included in every strategic plan since 2000 – back when Decatur had substantially more naturally occurring affordable housing units than today, and the cost of housing was considerably lower. We must realize it will take sustained effort for years to truly solve affordable housing in Decatur. Working with her fellow commissioners, city staff and engaged Decatur citizens, Commissioner Walsh has actively helped move the needle in measurable ways, and with her continued commitment, further progress is possible.

I’d like to tell the longer story of Decatur’s path to create and preserve more affordable housing across our city.

While the public desire was evident throughout the last several strategic plans, for years the political will was not so apparent. Even with clear public desire, work related directly to affordable housing wasn’t reflected in the budget or even a clear priority for our Commission – that is, until recently. Collectively, we started turning the corner in 2017.

That same year, Kelly Walsh launched her inaugural campaign for the City Commission, and repeatedly acknowledged the intrinsic linkage between equity, diversity, and affordable housing. She held it up as one way she would contribute as a commissioner. She had most recently served on the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee that worked in 2015 to update the city’s ten-year strategic plan at its midpoint. During that update the appetite to address this crisis was again elevated.

Fall 2018 marked our first large-scale community gathering on the topic with the Affordable Housing Summit. Out of that day-long learning journey came a new list of community priorities including the recommendation to form a task force and the need for dedicated city staff focused on this endeavor. We also recommitted to the desire to create diverse housing for diverse incomes, with a laser focus on workforce housing.

In January 2019 at its annual planning retreat, the Commission committed to having an Affordable Housing Task Force (AHTF) in place by mid-year. Twenty-six citizens, including myself, and supported by fifteen city staff, worked diligently for months to create a comprehensive report with ranked recommendations to help retain and bring more affordable housing to our city. The list, to be accomplished over a period of several years, was extensive as many different approaches will be required to tackle this complicated situation. In a parallel track in 2019 our city embarked on a deep dive on affordable housing related to the Legacy Park Master Plan. After considerable public input, the Commission adopted the Affordable Housing Addendum at the end of 2019, paving the way for future workforce and inclusive housing at Legacy Park.

At the Commission retreat in early 2020, affordable housing was again a clear priority for the year ahead. Kelly and her fellow commissioners accepted the AHTF plan, catalyzing multiple actions including hiring a Housing Fellow, passing the inclusionary zoning ordinance, forming the Decatur Land Trust, as well as several other specific goals from the AHTF list. Once again, we could see clear and demonstrable movement in the right direction. The commissioners have continued to demonstrate political will by implementing these recommendations, and more work is on their plan relative to zoning updates to encourage affordable housing. Read more about the implementation progress on the city’s website.

Most recently in summer 2021, affordable housing was yet again elevated by our commissioners as a priority in the use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The final guidelines are yet to come, but pre-planning has been underway for months. The creation of an affordable housing tracker (what gets measured, gets done) – a much needed tool discussed for years by the Coalition, the AHTF and others – may qualify to be funded with ARPA dollars.

During this four-year period of her first term, and despite the challenges of the pandemic, Kelly deepened her understanding and personal commitment to this complex topic by graduating from the Urban Land Institute Center for Leadership in 2020. She also served on the MLK Everyday Steering Committee for the first six months of 2021 which will result in a permanent year-round program to support senior home rehabilitation in Decatur so seniors can age safely and affordably in place in their current home, another recommendation of the housing task force.

We’re grateful for what has been achieved and look forward to more measurable progress on equity, diversity, and housing for everyone in the community. I, and many others from the Affordable Housing Task Force, support Kelly Walsh for reelection to the City Commission because she is committed to advancing the work of creating and preserving more diverse housing for diverse incomes in our city.

– Paula Collins, member of the Decatur Affordable Housing Taskforce and the Coalition for a Diverse Decatur

Dear Decaturish,

Since I first met Kelly Walsh in 2016, I have been thrilled to call her not just my City of Decatur District 1 Commissioner, but also my friend. Kelly and I first met when I was PTA President at Glennwood Elementary and she had recently been PTA President of Clairemont Elementary, a role she served in for three years. We chatted about kids and school issues and it was clear she understood the parents of Decatur and she is always just a phone call away.

Kelly is logical, measured and thoughtful about what our unique city needs. She is a coalition builder by nature and takes her time to look at an issue from multiple perspectives instead of making knee jerk reactions. Kelly knows Decatur. Pre-pandemic, I saw her everywhere; at the opening of Talley Street Upper Elementary, at DEF events and meetings, at CSD’s facility planning meetings, when she was volunteering as Bulldog Booster as a RMS parent. Kelly could be seen chatting with neighbors at community festivals like the DBA Beach Party or the Decatur Book Festival, and of course, I see her almost every morning jogging around the city. Now COVID has changed so much of our lives and I see her either through my computer screen on the commission or chatting over the phone. As someone who worked in politics early in my career, I have rarely seen an elected official as accessible as Kelly Walsh. This is one of the many reasons why I was honestly so surprised to hear that anyone would consider running against her. Anytime I’ve had a question or a concern, Kelly would always answer my call or reply to my emails.

As a former employee of Decatur’s school system, I witnessed a very healthy partnership between the school system leaders and the city government, even despite the difficult decisions that have needed to be made over the last couple years. I know Kelly has a good relationship with many of our school board members and I trust she will, as well, with the two new members. As a former PTA president and CSD parent like myself, I know Kelly values the relationship between the city government and the school system.

As for equity, it is an incredibly important and complex issue. I’ve personally worked very closely with Dr. Mari Ann Banks at the school system to create our equity website and have seen the intricacies this work takes. Kelly Walsh sees the opportunity to affect equity in our city by creating an environment that encourages it through smart urban planning and land use, offering more diverse housing for diverse incomes and supporting a broad economic base of businesses that reflect a diverse population. I’ve seen Kelly and the City Commission work on these issues by approving the Non-discrimination ordinance, adopting the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance and the Affordable Housing Task Force Report, through funding the Anti-Racism Speaker Series  For more accomplishments during Kelly’s first term please visit her website VoteKellyWalsh.com

Kelly Walsh believes “a city that strives to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive should work diligently to ensure its residents feel welcome, valued, and safe. Operating from an inclusive approach to citizen involvement, all residents should have access to timely information about city projects and programming and feel like full partners in the implementation of the strategic plan.” As a communications professional myself, I deeply appreciate and agree with this. Good civic engagement and transparency engender new ideas. To have equitable growth, we must be sure all voices are heard and I believe the Commission does a fantastic job being open to all our citizens, as well as those who work here and would like to live here. An open door policy and always returning a phone call are two of the many reasons I support Kelly.

I respect what Kelly and the rest of the commission has accomplished. I’m proud that we live in a city where masks have been required for the health of our citizens. I believe that decision made it easier for our school system to also require masks even though many in our state’s leadership were opposed it. I am so grateful for that smart, science-based decision.

Kelly’s work is not done. The priorities of her second term are to encourage the development of affordable housing by promoting the goals of the Affordable Addendum to the Legacy Park Master Plan, the senior housing rehabilitation program and supporting the continued work of the Better Together Board.

The City of Decatur needs Kelly Walsh back on the Commission to keep her working towards these goals. We know and trust Kelly. I know she listens to her community and will work together with her constituents to come up with creative and achievable goals that will better our entire city.

I wholeheartedly support re-electing Kelly Walsh to a second term on the Decatur City Commission, and I encourage my Decatur neighbors to vote for Kelly on November 2.

– Sarah Hagenbush Jones

More information about voting in the Nov. 2 election: 

Editor’s note: Decaturish and the Tucker Observer have published an Elections Guide, a 76-page e-edition featuring Q&As with nearly every candidate running in our communities. To see it, click here. This special e-edition features candidates running for public office in Decatur, Avondale Estates, Atlanta City Council District 5, Clarkston Tucker and Stone Mountain.  There is a PDF version of this, which you can see by clicking here, but due to the format of this e-edition, we strongly encourage you to use the e-reader version.

All elections coverage can be found at Decaturishvotes.com and Tuckerobservervotes.com.  

Election Day is Nov. 2. Early voting will begin on Oct. 12 and will end on Oct. 29. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 4. To register to vote, click here.

To see a list of important dates in the 2021 election year, click here.

Voters in DeKalb County are eligible to apply for an absentee ballot as of Aug. 16. 

To apply for an absentee ballot:

— Visit the Georgia Secretary of State website.

—  Complete the absentee ballot application using the state’s official paper form. Use black or blue ink only.

Applications can be mailed to the county elections office at this address: DeKalb County Election office, 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032-1239.

Applications can also be submitted by fax, 404-298-4038, or email, [email protected]

Voters may send an absentee ballot request for multiple people who live in the same household in the same envelope or email.

If an absentee ballot is not mailed to you, call DeKalb Elections office, 404-298-4020. You may still vote in person, either early or on Election Day.

An absentee ballot application must be received by Oct. 22.

In accordance with SB202, a new voting bill signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in March, a copy of a voter’s ID is required to apply for an absentee ballot. A Georgia driver’s license, Georgia state ID, Georgia voter card, U.S. Passport, U.S. military ID, employee ID issued by any branch of the federal or state government, tribal ID, or a document verifying a voter’s name and address – including a paycheck, utility bill, or bank statement – are accepted forms of ID.

Early voting begins Oct. 12 and ends Oct. 29. The hours for early voting are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will also be weekend early voting on Oct. 16, 17, 23 and 24. Call your elections office for hours.

Beginning Oct. 12, you can participate in early voting at the following locations: 

– Bessie Branham Recreation Center (2051 Delano Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30317)

– Lynwood Recreation Center (3360 Osborne Road NE, Brookhaven, GA 30319)

– Berean Christian Church – Family Life Center (2197 Young Road, Stone Mountain, GA 30088)

– DeKalb Voter Registration & Elections Office (4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300, Decatur, GA 30032)

– Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library (5234 LaVista Road, Tucker, GA 30084)

– Stonecrest Library (3123 Klondike Road, Stonecrest, GA 30038)

– County Line-Ellenwood Library (4331 River Road, Ellenwood, GA 30294)

– Dunwoody Library (5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road., Dunwoody, GA 30338)

For the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding early voting times and locations, visit Decaturishvotes.com and Tuckerobservervotes.com or call 404-298-4020.  

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