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Tucker City Council District 2 Post 2 candidates discuss importance of representation in government

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Tucker City Council District 2 Post 2 candidates discuss importance of representation in government

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: People wait in line around noon at Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library in Tucker to cast their ballots in the Georgia Senate runoff election between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker during the next-to-last day of advance voting on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.

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Tucker, GA — Vinh Nguyen, Patrice Cosby, and Derik West are running for the District 2, Post 2 Tucker city council seat currently held by Noelle Monferdini. Since Tucker council seats are term-limited, Monferdini is not running for re-election.

The District 2, Post 2 candidates recently attended a forum hosted by Decaturish.

In her opening statement Patrice Cosby said that she has been married to her wife for almost ten years and would like to see the representation in the city government better reflect the diversity of the city’s residents. Cosby said that she is focused on citizens and community, authenticity, accountability, and innovation in how the city approaches affordable housing and growth.

Vinh Nguyen said that he has lived in Tucker for 25 years and graduated from Tucker High School. Nguyen said that his experience in the Marine Corps and working in cybersecurity has given him opportunities to demonstrate leadership in high-stakes situations.

Nguyen said he is focused on affordability, conscientious growth, and economic development. 

“If we want to continue to hold on to our small-town community feel, we need to ensure that all generations can afford to live here, from our elderly residents to the youngest who are just now setting out on their own,” Nguyen said.  At the same time, Nguyen said, business-friendly policies will support the economic development necessary to support Tucker’s growth.

Derik West said that he has enjoyed living in Tucker for 16 years and that he wants to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table and their voices are heard. West said that his priorities are public safety, affordable housing, and the stability of the city’s financial resources.

No matter who wins the District 2 Post 2 race, there will be a person of color on the Tucker city council for the first time. Candidates were asked what that means to them personally and if they think representation is important.

Nguyen said that he first came to the US as a refugee and lived in Clarkston before moving to Tucker. His experiences are very different from people who were native-born in the area but also representative of the experiences of many residents. 

Nguyen said that diversity of representation is important not just to reflect the community but also in terms of problem-solving and diversity of approach.

West said that representation matters because it reflects the growth of the city and the residents of the community. 

“Everyday citizens who are part of the community definitely want to see someone who looks like them being represented when they have issues,” West said, adding that people feel more comfortable going to people who are like them to solve problems.

Cosby said that diversity of representation levels the playing field and makes the community feel that decisions are being made with them rather than for them.

Cosby said that the prospect of having representation by a person of color is exciting because more perspectives will be heard, and that she also identifies as LGBTQIA which brings another dimension of representation to the city council.

“We are now striving to get our voices heard so that we can be a participant in the policies that are being made, not just a recipient,” Cosby said.

Since City Manager Tami Hanlin will be retiring, the next city council is going to choose a new city manager. Candidates were asked what qualities they would look for in a city manager.

West said that he has worked in human resources for 30 years and that the ability to listen is one of the most important qualities for any position and can differentiate someone from a group of candidates with similar skills. West said that experience is also important.

Cosby said that being fair to all sides and keeping a balance within the structure of the city is important, along with experience and a sense of accountability. Cosby said that those traits are already reflected in the requirements that the city has included in its search materials.

Nguyen said that being able to listen is important, but also the ability to make decisions based on data and account for people who may not be as visible.

“Not everybody has the opportunity to show up in the late evenings to city council to make their voice heard,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen also said that the ability to explain complex subjects to a wide audience is essential and that the city council should look at the other cities a candidate has worked with in order to see if they reflect Tucker’s goals.

Candidates were asked what they thought about the city’s non-discrimination ordinance and the process of passing it. 

Cosby said she is unsure how much the city is following through on enforcing the ordinance or how many people who have experienced discrimination are using the process. Cosby said that it’s one thing to have an NDO on the books, and another to hold both the city and community accountable to it.

Nguyen said the city did a great deal of work over four years to create and revise the ordinance, and that it has great personal significance to him both as a person of color and a veteran. Nguyen said that he feels that the city council did well in balancing considerations and that it’s a huge symbolic win.

West said that he served on the NDO committee and feels very strongly about it. West said that it sends the message that Tucker will not tolerate discriminatory practices and puts it on a level playing field with other municipalities. 

West said that the next step is to educate people about the process of how to address discriminatory incidents.

Candidates were asked what skills from their regular job would be useful as a city council member.

Nguyen said that in cybersecurity he has to solve novel problems with creative solutions based on data and analysis of facts. Nguyen added that while many of Tucker’s problems are shared with other municipalities, some are unique to Tucker and require the kind of critical thinking and creative problem-solving he is used to.

West said that his experience in HR includes a broad range of industries, and he has also served on a number of committees in Tucker, including the NDO committee, the charter review commission, and the planning commission. West said that his knowledge of the city and leadership skills will be useful for him as a city council member.

Cosby said that she is a virtual assistant for attorneys and contractors and is familiar with handling large budgets and the internal workings of organizations. Cosby said her experience as a mother also has taught her patience and that she is always on duty.

Candidates were asked if they agreed with term limits and if they would try to change them

West said that he is not opposed to term limits but that the purpose of voting is to make sure the right person is in place. 

Cosby said that she favors term limits because they bring in new perspectives on a regular basis and allow the city to adapt to changing circumstances.

Nguyen said term limits are good for democracy and bring in fresh ideas. Nguyen said that because incumbents tend to get the majority of votes by default, they can become focused on power rather than representing their constituents.

Candidates were asked how they would improve pedestrian safety in Tucker.

Cosby said that making sure that walking trails connect and that it’s easy to get around town on foot via both trails and sidewalks would not only improve pedestrian safety but also reduce the city’s carbon footprint and improve community health.

Nguyen said that he grew up walking to school in Tucker without many sidewalks or other considerations for pedestrians and that it was very dangerous. Nguyen said that he is happy that the council and mayor have devoted so many resources to walking paths.

Nguyen also said that any decisions about traffic have to be educated ones and that it’s important to make sure that the public is well-informed. He would also like to see more lighting in pedestrian-heavy areas.

West said that education of the public about the safety considerations that are part of walking path and traffic control decisions, and about the safety features and resources that are available.

Candidates were asked if they are in favor of inclusionary zoning that requires new multi-family developments to set aside a percentage of units as affordable housing.

Nguyen said that one of his major focuses is the affordability of housing.

“I grew up here. There are hundreds of my classmates that have not been able to afford living here. They’ve really been priced out of their own neighborhoods,” Nguyen said, adding that it’s important to keep people who are already invested in the city in Tucker.

Nguyen added that zoning changes and other policy decisions should be made in ways that incentivize developers to build housing while preserving housing quality for residents.

West said it’s important to make sure that everyone has access to affordable housing, and that one way to do that is to provide a wide variety of housing options, including mixed-use and mixed-income developments.

West said the city will need to collaborate with both developers and other government agencies to find a combination of incentives and funding to make sure housing will be built.

Cosby said that she supports the idea in principle but that it’s important to focus on the affordability part and be mindful of displacing existing members of the community when they will not be able to find affordable alternatives.

In her closing statement, Cosby said that she looks forward to being able to make a difference in the community and focus on accountability and innovation.

“I bring about a different voice, a different outlook, a different perspective than what is currently here,” Cosby said.

Nguyen said that he would bring fresh ideas, integrity, and transparency to the table while drawing on his leadership skills.

“I still hold to my Marine Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment,” Nguyen said.

West said that his extensive experience in HR across many industries has given him skills in personnel management, conflict resolution, and strategic planning along with effective communication skills, all of which are useful for a city council member.

West said that his commitment to public service and experience on the charter review commission and planning commission have given him a detailed understanding of how the city works and will allow him to hit the ground running as a city council member. 

“I understand the importance of preserving our city’s unique character while ensuring its growth and prosperity,” West said.

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