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Clarkston hires new manager for planning and economic development

Business Clarkston

Clarkston hires new manager for planning and economic development

Clarkston City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Clarkston, GA — The Clarkston City Council introduced the city’s new Planning/Economic and Development Manager, Katherine Hernandez, at their work session on Jan. 3.

Hernandez will take over the position formerly held by Shawanna Qawiy, who became the Clarkston City Manager in June 2022. Clarkston is also in the process of re-forming its Downtown Development Authority.

Hernandez said that she recently relocated to the Atlanta area from Honolulu, where she worked as a long range and special planner.

“I am excited to be with all of you. I’m doing my best to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can about Clarkston, DeKalb County, and Georgia in general,” said Hernandez.

The council also discussed election of a Vice Mayor, the reappointment of several city officials, and the appointment of council members to various committees. In addition, the council discussed a maintenance and landscaping project, rezoning, and a list of improvement projects that will be partially funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The 2023 Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant for Clarkston provided by GDOT will be in the amount of $93,532.50. The city will match 30% of the funds at $28,059.75, bringing the total project budget to $121,592.25.  City staff provided a list of 14 possible projects including road resurfacing of several streets, guard rails, and a crosswalk on College Avenue.

Mayor Beverly Burks urged the council as they considered the list of projects to be mindful of how those projects were spread across the city and which neighborhoods needed the most attention.

The council is considering a plan to rezone a number of properties along Woodland Avenue from light industrial to neighborhood residential community development [NRCD]. The included properties extend from 572 Woodland to 616 Woodland.

Councilmember Jamie Carroll said that the plan was consistent with previous land use decisions that the council has made for the area to be a mixed-use development zone.

Councilmember Laura Hopkins said that she had spoken to a landowner who had a buyer lined up for a parcel of land to put a car wash on, and that he was concerned about any change in the zoning. Hopkins also questioned whether NRCD allowed mixed-use developments without extensive variances.

Qawiy said that she had spoken to the landowner and that he was mainly concerned with being able to financially benefit from the sale of the property.

In response to a question from Burks, city attorney Stephen Quinn said that if the council does not feel that NRCD meets the requirements of what they want for the area, they can select a different zoning designation. However, that would require starting the zoning process again.

Resident Brian Medford said that the current plan had passed easily through committees and that currently the land is an abandoned junkyard. He pointed out that the property was a gateway to the city and in its current form he considers it an eyesore.

The council also discussed awarding a right-of-way maintenance and landscaping project to Russell Landscaping. The project will cost $242,022.

Public Works Director Rodney Beck said, “We spent $9 million on a streetscape project, and we want it to look like $9 million all the time.”

Hopkins nominated councilmember Debra Johnson for Vice Mayor. Councimember Susan Hood nominated the current Vice Mayor Awet Eyasu. The vote for Vice Mayor along with other matters that the council is considering will be conducted at the council’s regular meeting January 10.

“The city is always better when we have people to step up for leadership positions,” said Mayor Burks.

The council discussed re-appointing Stephen Quinn as City Attorney and David Will as Municipal Court Judge, as well as re-appointing Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC as auditor.

In response to a question from Councilmember Y.T. Bell about a raise in his hourly rate, Quinn said that his 2022 rate of $240 per hour is a substantial discount from what he would charge a business. He is requesting a 2023 rate of $250 per hour.

All the appointments were placed on the consent agenda for the council’s regular meeting on January 10.

The council discussed appointing members to the city’s standing advisory committees.

Bell and Eyasu will continue as chair and vice chair of the Public Safety and Legal Committee, while Carroll will continue to be a member.

Eyasu will be chair, Hopkins will be vice chair, and Hood will remain a member of the Transportation and Environment Committee.

The Housing and Infrastructure Committee will retain Carroll as chair, while Hood will be the new vice chair. Johnson, Burks and Bell will stay on the committee.

Johnson will continue to be chair, and Bell the vice chair, of the Community Development and Civic Innovation Committee;

Hood will be chair and Bell will be vice chair of the Business and Economic Development Committee; Johnson and Burks will remain on the committee.

Equity, Inclusion, and Opportunity Committee will retain Johnson as chair. Hopkins will be chair, while, Eyasu, Burks, and Bell will be committee members.

All committee appointments of council members will go on the regular meeting’s consent agenda. The city will take applications from residents to serve on committees on the City of Clarkston website.

In other news, the Clarkston mayor, council, and staff annual retreat will be held Feb. 10 at the Georgia Municipal Association offices.

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