Braselton Town Council District 3 member Tony Funari will face challenger Jim Joedecke in the upcoming Nov. 5 election.

Funari and Joedecke recently responded to Mainstreet Newspapers' candidate questionnaire. Read their responses below.

TONY FUNARI (I)

1. Why are you running for this office? What are your main platform points?

Most of my working career I did not have any opportunity to be involved with the communities I was living in. I had a fight with Cancer for 3 years and during that time the members of our community, family and church were very helpful to Teresa and me. As a result of the support along with prodding from community leaders I began attempts to pay back and have been doing so for the last 17 years. Experience in local government is crucial currently in our growth especially in dealing with four counties and all the cities in our area. Dealing with our citizens' concerns and wishes, maintain good quality growth, while protecting landowners’ rights, within proper zoning and ordinances are very important.

We must offer the services our town is so proud of and continue to do so without a town property tax. Local elected officials must take the time necessary to interact with other cities and county officials and be willing to take courses to better handle our responsibilities on the Town Council.

2. How do you think growth in your town or school system should be managed in the coming years?

Our community is unique and fortunate to be located on the I-85 corridor even though it is split by I-85 as well as between Winder and Athens east of us and Gainesville west we benefit in many ways from an economic standpoint and do not have to fund the cost of highways. Traffic is our biggest challenge now as in most fast growing towns. The good news is we work well with the DOT and help make things work smoothly. Our land use and comprehensive plans are being reviewed now and as usual should be useful in improving decisions regarding growth and types of business growth. We must continue to make our historic area downtown a viable area for commerce, education, and community entertainment. Downtown also needs housing to allow for the live, work and play opportunity.

We do not have a school system we are responsible for, but we appreciate them, and it is one of the benefits of being part of a four-county area.

One challenge is that we seem to have four main areas, downtown, Hwy. 211, Hospital and Spout Springs. This is fine but we need a better feeling of one community, because we are a Great Community.

3. What do you consider the top challenges your local government will face in the next 10 years? As a city council or school board member, what would you do to address those challenges?

Controlled quality growth and maintaining services without local property taxes. Improve traffic conditions of Hwy 53. Create a by-pass around Downtown Braselton. Help finish the widening of Hwy. 211 and Spout Springs and make the use of the Life paths safer and expand them as possible.

4. Please outline a brief biography and resume of yourself:

Tony and Teresa Funari have lived in Braselton (Chateau Elan) for 26 years. Prior to moving to Chateau Elan, they lived in Alpharetta. They moved to Braselton to be near friends and liked the easy access to I-85, the beautiful winery and resort, and the fact that it is a golf cart community. They decided to build a home in The Legends of Chateau Élan. They also have a son, Adam, who now lives in Honolulu, HI.

The Funaris have not always called Georgia their home. Tony was born in Winter Haven, FL. Teresa grew up in Opelika/Auburn, AL, and roots for the wrong team – “War Eagle?” “Go Dawgs!” – sorry, I couldn’t help that. They met while working for Belk. Tony was an executive for Belk for 38 years, and Teresa was a buyer for women's apparel at Belk stores.

Tony left Belk to take a sales manager position with Perry Ellis Golf and Resort Apparel.

Many may know that Tony is a cancer survivor. In 2001, Tony was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Tony was a pioneer in the stem-cell therapy world. Their friends, family, neighbors and church members helped them endure the fight. He fought cancer for three years, and every day someone was there from our community to support the family.

Tony is the owner of Funari Realty, has served as President of Rotary, has served as Foundation Chairman for Braselton Hospital and now serves on the Board of Trustees for Northeast Georgia Health System. Tony has served the town for 17 years. He has been involved with Parks and Recreation, the Overlay District Planning, Land Use Planning, Chairman of Zoning Board of Appeals, Local Option Sales Tax Negotiator and Life Path Committee. He has served as part of the town council for 12 years.

Tony and Teresa have enjoyed living in Chateau Elan because of all the activities offered and the friendships made.

JIM JOEDECKE

1. Why are you running for this office? What are your main platform points?

Since moving to Braselton 13 years ago, Steph and I have been blessed with three young children, Elizabeth (7), Jimmy (5) and Carmela (4). When I look at them, I think about my childhood, growing up in a small town not unlike Braselton. I grew up going to parades and tree lightings, not unlike those we have here. My hometown was a safe place that had a strong sense of community. When I see my son, Jimmy, smiling with his friends at a birthday party or soccer game; or my daughter, Elizabeth, at a neighborhood swim meet; or Carmela heading off to preschool at Celebration Academy, I think about my own childhood. More than anything, I want my own children and their friends to grow up in a safe place with a strong sense of community.

I do not believe the above happens by accident. Braselton is at a crossroads. Braselton is at the beginning of a development tempest that will wholly transform it in the next 10 years. We have major development projects being announced virtually every month. Are we equipped to handle this influx? It is vitally important that our Town Leaders respect existing homeowners, and have the patience and wisdom to encourage quality development that will strengthen our community and property values as opposed to development simply to expand our tax base. I believe I can offer a fresh perspective on the Town Council.

Armed with these basic guiding principles, areas of particular focus are as follows:

• Comprehensive Town Transportation Plan. We need a transportation plan that will be incorporated into the plans of each of the counties in which Braselton sits. The time for guessing what traffic will look like in Braselton 5, 10 or even 25 years from now; or relying solely on the developer du jour to tell us what effect a major project will have on traffic, must end.

• Maintenance of Roadways and Right of Ways. Exit ramps, rights of way, golf cart paths, sidewalks, lifepaths, etc. should be maintained in a PRISTINE manner. One day recently, I drove by a mattress on 211 that had been there for weeks. Our walkways and rights of way are littered with trash and frankly, embarrassing. Towns like Suwanee and Duluth either maintain these areas, themselves, or work with neighboring municipalities and/or County and State agencies. Why can’t we?

• Strengthening our Development Code. Our current Development Code is overly simplistic to address the development boom in Braselton. Our PUD ordinances need to be strengthened, among others. The procedure for submitting zoning applications and variance requests needs to be reworked. Additional staff and expertise is needed in the Planning Department. We should insist that any new project enhance the character of our Town.

• Uniform Sign Ordinance and Enforcement. Tasteful wooden signs with uniform uplighting, as opposed to the blinking neon and LED free-for-all we have now, would enhance our Town. Existing sign ordinances must be enforced.

• Attract Non-Minimum Wage Jobs. Distribution centers typically attract mostly minimum wage jobs. There is certainly a value to this to a point, however, we need to focus on attracting more non-minimum wage jobs. As I understand it, these jobs support lifestyles that will always be below the poverty level. We should look at zoning classifications or other options to require some light industrial or manufacturing amongst the distribution centers, as these jobs usually pay more.

• Public Art Installations/Landscaping in Areas other than Downtown. These concepts bring a sense of community and character and enhance tourism, among other benefits. Suwanee has had great success in this area with public/private partnerships. We can do the same. Beautification and maintenance must move beyond just Downtown.

• Duncan Corners. Because of Braselton’s unique shape, it seems that this area can be easily forgotten. Apartment projects and liquor stores are the most recent development projects that have been approved. More could be coming. Neighborhoods like Reflections, Clearwater Plantation, and Dell Webb @ Chateau Elan need greater protection. We need to better address signage, landscaping and storefronts in this area in particular.

2. How do you think growth in your town or school system should be managed in the coming years?

See above. In short, proposed development projects must fit the character of the existing community. With so many new projects, businesses and people moving to the area, maintenance and code enforcement must be a priority beyond just Downtown.

3. What do you consider the top challenges your local government will face in the next 10 years? As a city council or school board member, what would you do to address those challenges?

See above. Implementing transportation and maintenance plans; strengthening an outdated Development Code and application process; implementing and enforcing a uniform sign ordinance; and working to attract non-minimum wage jobs. Most importantly, Town Leadership having the patience and wisdom to wait for quality development projects that make sense and fit the character of the existing neighborhoods.

4. Please outline a brief biography and resume of yourself:

I grew up in Katonah, New York. I attended and graduated from Emory University and University of Georgia Law School. I have practiced law in Georgia for over 23 years, mostly at Andersen Tate & Carr, P.C. in Duluth, Georgia. I married Stephanie and moved to Braselton almost 13 years ago. Since then, I have been proud to participate in parades, river clean-ups, tree lightings, hospital celebrations, 5K races, book drives and other local events too numerous to count. I am a member and past President of the Braselton Rotary Club and a past member of the Braselton Ethics Council. I presently serve on the Executive Board for the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia. As a past graduate of Leadership Gwinnett and an attorney/partner who has practiced law at one of the premier law firms in Gwinnett County for over 20 years, I am plugged in with community leaders and have seen what works and what doesn’t work. A fresh set of eyes and perspective on the Town Council will only “Make Braselton Better.”

This is where I have chosen to raise my family, and I plan to live here a long time. In conclusion, I hope to help make Braselton a place my family and friends are proud to call home for years to come.

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