ALICIA VARGAAS

1. Why are you running for this office?

God made me to serve others and I am committed to serving my community and love being a part of all of the new and exciting opportunities coming our way. I want to help shape the future of Commerce as we continue to grow and prosper and to keep a close relationship between our school system and local government. Now is the time for renewed leadership to encourage growth in local small businesses in our city, and to prepare the infrastructure we need to make the most of the plant opening and capitalize on the benefits and new opportunities the opening will bring. No one will work harder for the people and businesses of Commerce!

What are your main platform points?

• Creating a strong bond between our school and local government - As our community continues to grow, and as new and existing developers create housing it is of utmost importance to have a direct and real link to our Commerce City School System. We have a great school system that we are proud of because our values and commitments prepare Commerce’s children for productive, healthy lives. I want to be that link.

• Looking for new income sources - We should see what it would take to expand advanced fiber optic cabling to Commerce, opening up doors for choice and access to the internet, cable and VOIP. We have run some fiber optic already. If we continue this project, it will strengthen our local business community as well as provide increased choice which will result in better service and less cost in the residential sector as well. Investing in infrastructure that creates revenue long term is always worth exploring.

• Smart/Structured Growth - As businesses come to our city and residents of the Atlanta suburbs buy homes here to get away from clogged highways and overcrowding, we must be very deliberate in our decisions that affect growth in Commerce. We must put plans in place that not only cover the next 10 years but master plans that go out at least 20 years, in order to make sure that our infrastructure can handle the growth. With those plans in place, we will then need to carefully consider requests concerning zoning/rezoning that will benefit our community, but not overload our infrastructure, and sharply change the benefits and lifestyle we all love here in Commerce. Growth is about balance and it is hard to have balance over time without smart advanced planning.

• Code Enforcement - I fully support property owners’ rights and believe that they are essential for communities to thrive. I believe in government allowing its citizens to contribute their ideas to ordinances before passing and enforcing them to avoid disengagement and distrust from our citizens. I believe it is time to begin doing away with ordinances that no longer create a benefit to our residences and/or our community. I do not support property owners who allow their property to fall into a state that leads to code violations and general disrepair. I believe that this negatively affects the property values of neighboring properties and leads to blight in our community. To combat violations like these, including illegal dumping and other trash issues, I will propose that we form a group of subject matter experts to review the issues and report back to the council to determine the next steps to correct existing issues and prevent future problems. I further propose that this group/committee include subject matter experts from Jackson County, since the city boundaries of Commerce include so many “islands” where non-incorporated properties are abutting incorporated properties; however, this plan must also include support for those property owners who want to do the right thing but have fallen on hard times, particularly the elderly and our veterans.

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

The city council must engage in developing a master plan that provides for smart growth. We can’t expect to be successful without a “roadmap” for our leaders to follow in the tough, but necessary, extremely important decisions that we face now and in the future regarding our infrastructure, zoning designations, residential, commercial and industrial growth, and revitalization projects. I am very excited about the revitalization and rejuvenation of downtown Commerce that I see happening every day as a local business owner; however, there is so much more to be done. Through our combined efforts, we will keep the town that we all love alive and thriving for years to come. It is also key to include our school system in all our decisions on growth as it is our school system who has the job of educating our future Commerce residents, workers, leaders and business owners. We need to look at different ways to make our infrastructure and growth plans income-producing so that investments and expenses such as running cable lines for internet, TV, and VOIP are structured and do not increase the tax base. Finally, I will request a Task Force be appointed to review our water plant and related water pipe issues throughout Commerce. We need to have a long-term strategy to get ahead of our currently serious issues with our aging pipe system.

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?

• Growth - See my prior answers for how I would address this issue.

• New Income Sources - Creating infrastructure that creates revenue

• Economic Development - SK Innovation is coming to Commerce and I look forward to watching the benefits of their arrival to our community in the form of exceptional career opportunities for our residents, increases in revenue to our local businesses, and substantial investments in our schools. The city council should continue to be at the table when other organizations seek to locate their businesses on the portion of the I-85 corridor that runs through our city, and should always be mindful of master plans for growth in the city to assure smart decision making is always the goal.

• Revitalization - Some experts in the field call revitalization a necessity in giving residents a “sense of place.” As a member of the council, I will continue efforts to work with staff and the development community to encourage revitalization projects in downtown Commerce. I think that staff should look to municipality-based organizations for assistance from their experts in the field, as well as grant opportunities and any funding mechanisms available for consideration by cities as possible sources to continue these very important projects. There are significant resources we can tap into and have already (CHIP Grant) but we still need a strategic and unified approach to start gaining these existing resources for Commerce.

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

I was born and reared in Georgia, grew up in Bostwick with my Pepaw, my parents, and four siblings. Graduated from Elbert County Comprehensive High School where I moved to with my parents, who still reside there. I met my husband of 17 years in Elberton while I worked for the City of Elberton where I managed all occupational taxes (business licenses), utility agreements, payments, police citations, interpreted for Municipal Court, State Court, the Elberton Police Dept. and the Elbert County Sheriff's Office, etc. My husband and I moved to Maine where we started our first business, El Cancun Mexican Restaurant. I began working for the City of Portland, the largest municipality in Maine. During my time at the City of Portland, I managed the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program and served as a supervisor for the Family and Adult Shelters. I managed HUD grants, CDBG grants of over a million dollars in funds, was able to help over 1,000 household members, worked with homeless vets and the VA, and served as a case manager for Preble Street Resource Center. I have a BA in Human Services Delivery and Administration from the University of North Georgia and am currently seeking my Masters in Social Work. My husband and I moved back to Georgia and chose Commerce to open a new business. Georgia is home and where all of my family lives (Go Dawgs). We opened El Parian Downtown Commerce (voted best restaurant in Jackson County 2018) in August of 2012. I began working with Commerce City Schools about six years ago and immediately fell in love with it. I spent a year working with Jackson County Schools running their Migrant Education and EL program. I’m currently at Commerce City Schools as a system-wide Family Engagement and Community Outreach Coordinator. Being a resident of this great city, owning a thriving downtown business, being at school every day helping Commerce’s next generation, volunteering and serving the Boys and Girls Club, coaching our varsity soccer team and serving on our local Georgia Initiative for Community Housing GICH team, has made me realize that I am 100 percent invested in Commerce, completely engaged in our community and committed to our future. I hope to bring our city, our people and our schools together to create a community that engages everyone and encourages business ownership and stewardship among all our residents.

MARK FITZPATRICK (incumbent)

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

I am seeking re-election because I would like to keep serving the citizens of Commerce. This is my home. I am a lifelong resident and have a great interest in the future of our City. My platform is to focus on public safety and the growth that is coming. We can’t stop it, only do our best to control it.

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

Jackson County is one of the fastest growing counties in the country. Growth is going to happen and our only option is to control the WAY we grow. We do this through our planning and zoning and we are blessed to have a great group of citizens giving their time and talents serving on this board with the knowledge of how to grow in the right way. They are not only looking at the new homes but protecting the current property values as well.

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?

The top challenges are all byproducts from growth. Services such as power, water and sewer, gas and police and fire protection. As we grow so does the demand for these services. The city is in great shape because of the decisions made 20 years ago and our focus must be a long term focus. We must plan now for the future generations that will call Commerce home. We address these challenges by securing our utilities and services and expanding them to accommodate the growth.

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

I am a lifelong citizen of Commerce. I graduated from Commerce High School in 1982 and have served as Ward 3 councilman for 16 years. I served 6 years on the GMA board of directors and am currently serving on the Electric Cities of Georgia board of directors, I have served as chairman for this board for 2 years. The City of Commerce is a member of Electric Cities of Georgia and we use them for the training of our lineman and for Economic Development that brings Industry and jobs to our area. I am a member of the Commerce Athletic Booster Club and Maysville Baptist Church.

Locations

(2) comments

Christopher Jones

One primary example of why the city shouldnt be in the services business. Right now windstream wants to upgrade Commerce to fiber my brand new subdivision being one of the areas. The city wont give them a permit. Thats right the city wants to run lines here and not allow compation. This is not free market, if you can provide a service for cheaper and better you wouldnt have to force it on people. As for me and my family were voting for anyone against these programs costing citizens so much money.


Christopher Jones

Commerce should not be in the water, power or internet business. We the property owners are getting hosed on these socialist services. We should have options there should be a mandatory compation policy that requires 2 options of service. I have a new house I just bought in commerce my power trash and water sewer is over $300 a month. My other house 5 miles away in backs county run under $200. We dont need more socialism in commerce we need more free market.


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