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Tucker City Council District 3, Post 2 candidates discuss diversity, city manager search during forum

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Tucker City Council District 3, Post 2 candidates discuss diversity, city manager search during forum

Tucker City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

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Tucker, GA — Simone Pacely and Amy Trocchi are candidates for the District 3 Post 2 seat on the Tucker city council, currently held by Mayor Pro Tem Anne Lerner. Since Tucker city council seats are term-limited, Lerner is not seeking re-election.

The candidates recently attended a forum held by Decaturish.com.

Pacely said in her opening statement that she is a financial advisor who helps clients solve problems and overcome challenges. She believes that the city needs someone who can sit down at the table with people from diverse backgrounds and embrace change and the discomfort that sometimes brings.

“Success lies beyond our comfort zone,” Pacely said.

Trocchi said that she moved to Tucker in 2006 looking for a diverse, welcoming community where she could raise her three children, be active, and know her neighbors. Trocchi said that she has held leadership positions in a number of volunteer organizations focused on education, sports, and the arts.

Trocchi said that as some of the original city council members are reaching the end of their term limits, it’s time for residents to think about what kind of representation they want as Tucker moves forward.

Both candidates were asked if they felt that diversity and inclusion are important in city government, and what they would do to promote diversity and inclusion if elected.

Trocchi said that saying that those things are important is a drastic understatement.

“There’s no way that you should have a council or leadership or decision-makers without feeling like you are getting the voices of everyone represented,” Trocchi said.

Trocchi said that women are strongly represented on the current board and that at public hearings she sees a wide variety of people who represent the diverse communities that make up Tucker.

Trocchi said that a way to extend that diversity is to involve different socioeconomic groups and different generations.

“We have a lot of young people moving to Tucker and they’re busy with their young families and their kids and their work, but they’re the future of our community,” Trocchi said.

Pacely said that diversity is critical and that a phrase that One Hundred Black Men uses is “what you see is who they’ll be.” Pacely said that children in Tucker need to see themselves reflected in the city’s leadership, and that she is happy to see the diversity in the candidates running in all three city council races.

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

Pacely said that most people understand that the mayor doesn’t run the city, the city manager does. She said that it was important to find someone who would build on the foundation that Hanlin has set down, including the city’s comprehensive plan.

Pacely said that she felt that Hanlin was sometimes prevented from making decisions as quickly as she could or should have been able to and that she would support a future city manager’s decision-making power.

Trocchi said that she would look for someone who would show Hanlin’s openness and integrity while being, in the words of the brochure sent out by the current council, a forward-thinking thought leader.

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

Trocchi said that she was a very strong supporter of the NDO and that not having one made Tucker stand out in a negative way.

“I’m glad that the current city council was able to get it across the finish line,” Trocchi said.

Pacely said that she felt that the process took too long but that she is glad that the law is on the books. Pacely added that while a law can’t change people’s mindset, it can give someone recourse when they are discriminated against.

Both candidates were asked what skills from their regular jobs would be useful as city council members.

Pacely said that as a financial advisor, she is used to listening to people’s fears about how they will be able to take care of their families. Pacely says that many families have been struggling in various ways since the financial crisis in 2008 and that her skills will allow her to help the community navigate upcoming changes.

Trocchi said that she has worked in the software industry for 25 years and also works in healthcare operations. Trocchi said that she is good at taking in information and translating or interpreting it for the appropriate audience.

Both candidates said that they support term limits and would not seek to change the city charter.

When asked how to improve pedestrian safety in Tucker, Pacely said she appreciates the traffic improvements that have already been made, in particular to Chamblee-Tucker Road.

Pacely said that widening sidewalks would make them more usable, and she would also like to see a shuttle similar to the one that the city of Decatur has.

Trocchi said that the changes to Chamblee-Tucker Road have been controversial but she agrees that they are an improvement. She added that she is a frequent user of the new sidewalks.

“We know that metro Atlanta people are not going to give up their cars, but we can at least try to reduce the local traffic,” Trocchi said.

Both candidates were asked how they would engage with constituents and keep them in the loop about decision-making.

Trocchi said that communication is her strong suit and that she is comfortable with email, open forums, and social media.

Pacely said that she’ll use the social media resources that are available but realizes that some people shy away from it because of the level of contentiousness. Pacely said she would have a regular forum and also offer her own summaries of city council meetings that focus on her district.

The candidates were asked if they thought the city was spending money fairly on parks and recreation, and if not, what they would do to fix it.

Pacely said that parks are the reason that most people move into Tucker, and that after commuting for work they want to be able to reach a park or sports for their children easily.

Pacely said that she doesn’t think that the current director has the entire community’s interests at heart or uses the resources of the department equitably. She said that she would make sure that everyone in the city is represented in the choices of the parks and recreation department.

Trocchi said that to the regular citizen, parks are the most visible aspect of what the city does, and that many of the parks needed a lot of work at the beginning. Trocchi said that she would like to understand how the department makes decisions about which park gets attention next.

“In general, I think the transformation that they’ve made to our parks and facilities and offerings has been amazing,” Trocchi said.

Both candidates were asked how the city can reduce its carbon footprint.

Trocchi said that it goes back to the issue of transportation.

“If we enable people to be able to travel around Tucker without having to get into a car to go one mile down Lavista, then our area will benefit from that,” Trocchi said.

Trocchi said that the city can also place some requirements on developers both in terms of construction and replacing any trees that are removed.

Pacely said that she agreed with Trocchi that it was not possible to get people to give up their cars.

“But we can reduce the many trips they take,” Pacely said.

Pacely said that she would like to see a shuttle service and also an expansion of “Walk to School” days to include the entire community.

Candidates were asked if they agreed with the city’s policy of outsourcing many services to private contractors, or if the city should turn more of the work over to city employees.

Pacely said that public-private partnerships were how many newly incorporated cities start out, but that eventually they tend to hire employees to do the work.

Pacely said that she thinks it’s a matter of when not if, but that due to shortages of qualified staff the city may not be able to hire a full staff for some services any time soon.

Trocchi said that the existing model works for now but that it should be reviewed by the new city manager to see if that changes.

Candidates were asked how they would work with other city council members to manage Tucker’s growth while preserving its character.

Trocchi said that there is a lot of room for transformation and growth in Tucker without seeking to expand its borders too much, although she is in favor of honoring requests for annexation from connected neighborhoods.

“I think there’s a lot of room for improvement within what we have in Tucker,” Trocchi said.

Pacely said that her street was annexed into Tucker two years ago and that she had lengthy conversations with her neighbors about it. She values local control and the improvements that she’s seen in her neighborhood facilities since annexation. However, she also doesn’t think the city should expand for its own sake or aggressively.

“I don’t want to be Brookhaven,” Pacely said.

Candidates were asked how the city can help DeKalb County schools improve education for residents.

Pacely said that going to school in your community is very important, and that support of local schools is vital but works primarily through parent organizations.

Trocchi said that for better or worse, city leaders don’t have an official say in how the schools are run and that her first experiences in community service were in a parent-teacher association.

Trocchi said that working with DCSD can be like working with the DeKalb County government in that it’s vast and serves a huge array of needs.

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.

Trocchi said that she feels that it’s one of the key steps in getting more affordable housing.

Pacely said yes and she would also like to see more multi-generational housing to accommodate families who are caring for elderly family members. She said that she would also like to see a stronger county housing authority.

Candidates were asked what the city can do to help seniors living in Tucker.

Pacely said that she is a long-distance caregiver for her parents but that there’s no substitute for in-person advocates. She would like seniors to be able to come to the city and find someone to advocate for them.

Trocchi said that like Pacely she is taking care of her aging parents while taking care of her children. Trocchi said that it’s important to make sure that information is conveyed in ways that will reach seniors who don’t necessarily navigate online spaces.

Trocchi said that the recent housing study showed that there is zero vacancy for senior housing in Tucker and that she feels many people who are retiring would prefer to move out of the larger houses they raised their children in but don’t want to leave Tucker. Trocchi said that the city needs to find ways to make housing available for people in that situation.

In her closing statement, Trocchi said she felt that her empathy and communication skills are good for a city council member to have and that after her years of community work she feels ready to level up and work for the city as a whole.

Pacely said that she has worked with the city and school system and as part of the Maroon and Gold club is currently raising money for the sports facilities within the Tucker school cluster, starting with the high school sign off of Lavista Road.

“I am a candidate who always prioritizes community over individuality,” Pacely said.

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