Editor's Note: This article was originally posted Oct. 7 at 2:25 p.m.
For the upcoming Snellville City Council election in November, Patch is running questionnaires answered by the candidates.
Three seats are open on the council: Post 3, 4 and 5. Candidate Barbara Bender has challenged incumbent Mike Sabbagh for Post 5.
Name: Barbara Bender
How long have you lived in Snellville? I’ve lived in Snellville for 20 years. Previously, I lived in Centerville and I grew up in Lilburn. I’ve been in Gwinnett County since 1971.
Educational background: BBA in Accounting, Georgia State University; Parkview High School. Certified Public Accountant
Family: I am married to Greg Bender for 29 years. I have two children: Nick, who just graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in Film and Video, and Katie, who is in her first year of nursing school at Georgia Southern University.
Military background: None
Occupation: Certified Public Accountant and business advisor, Vice President of Hamilton Financial, PC
Have you ran/served for the council before? If so, when? I was first elected to the City Council in November 2005 and was re-elected in November 2009. I resigned in July 2011 when I ran for Mayor.
What inspired you to run? Through my membership in the Snellville Commerce Club, I got to know about the issues going on in the City. I also learned about a study that was done in 2003 that provided for a downtown area that could be created in Snellville. I was very interested in seeing that project happen.
What are some of the notable projects you've helped or spearheaded in the past? I was on the founding committee of the Snellville Farmer’s Market (voted No. 1 in the country!); I worked with Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts to form the Snellville Tourism and Trade Association and I am currently the Vice President of that organization. I helped start the Snellville Spirit magazine and am currently on the Editorial committee that produces it. I was Treasurer of the Snellville Commerce Club from 2005 -2011 and it is still going strong as a part of the Tourism and Trade Association. I am on the Community Garden Committee. I am Secretary/Treasurer of the Snellville Community Foundation which is handling the Snellville Veteran’s Memorial project. I am also President of a new non-profit organization, the Snellville Entrepreneur Council, and we are providing free or low-cost support to entrepreneurs in the City. I led the effort to update the City’s Towne Center plan, which now incorporates the new intersection design for Hwy 78 and Hwy 124.
What are some of the immediate projects you want to work on if you win the council seat? How would you accomplish them? I would begin with working on the ideas and projects developed by the City in its Strategic Action Agenda, which outlines ways the city can grow its business base and bring jobs to the community. Supporting business, like I am doing through the Snellville Entrepreneur Council, can help Snellville be known as an Entrepreneurial community and be attractive to people who want to invest in the City.
The Council also needs to focus on the intersection improvement that the State is currently working on. This is a tremendous opportunity for the City to make great strides in creating a walkable downtown area, but, at the same time it will create a hardship for businesses located in or near the intersection. We must act now to help the businesses plan for the transition and offer viable and affordable alternatives for them to stay in the City.
What are some of your long-term goals for the city? How would you accomplish them? I want to keep the community spirit that we have rekindled through the many community events of the Tourism and Trade Association. We had lost that spirit for several years as the city grew and we have found ways to bring it back through events like the Snellville Farmers Market and the Snellville Spirit magazine, which keeps all our neighbors informed of the many great things happening.
I want to see the Snellville Arts Commission really take off because a vibrant arts community is an essential part of any successful community. The current commission has some great ideas and it will need the backing and support of the City and community.
I want to keep a strong police department since keeping our
community and neighborhoods safe is one of our highest priorities. If people do not feel safe while they are
here, the rest of this just doesn’t matter.
I would also like a re-assessment done of our roads, sidewalk, parks and greenway plans to prioritize these projects and determine funding sources for them.
And, of course, I would love to see our Towne Center start to come alive. This will take a tremendous amount of effort and coordination with our local community, County and State officials.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing Snellville, and how would you approach it? One of Snellville’s biggest challenges is that it is changing. It grew up as a bedroom community where people worked in town and drove a long way home. Traffic congestion is a natural by-product of this type of development and people are no longer willing to work in town and sit through traffic to get home. We need to provide an opportunity for residents to work here where they live and leave the long commute behind. When people live, work and play in the same community, they have to opportunity to be more engaged and involved in community events that bring us together. We need to provide an environment to allow this type of change to occur. I believe this is the type of change we can all live with.
Do you want to add anything? I believe my accounting skills and business background are an asset and I aslo have an excellent understanding of the issues that face Snellville. I can work well in a group and am open to others opinions and perspectives. I would welcome the opportunity to once again serve the citizens and businesses in Snellville on the City Council.