MILTON, Ga. — The three candidates vying for the District 1/Post 1 Milton City Council seat faced-off at a forum at St. Aidan’s Church Tuesday, Oct. 12.
The post is currently held by Peyton Jamison, who is running unopposed for mayor.
Attorney Adam D’Anella, small business owner Andrea Verhoff and Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member Jami Tucker are competing for the spot on the City Council.
During the forum, the candidates discussed zoning, public safety and the different relationships Milton has with its businesses, residents and surrounding municipalities.
Each candidate shared an appreciation for Milton’s “way of life,” citing the city’s rural layout and its heavily residential-based environment.
The most recent U.S. Census data shows that Milton grew from nearly 33,000 residents in 2010 to just over 41,000 residents in 2020. All three candidates said they would work to encourage manageable growth while still enforcing zoning regulations which limit high-density development.
“Everyone I’ve talked to going door to door is extremely concerned about overdevelopment,” Tucker said. “I think it’s really important to be good at working with developers as well as working with the landowners. If you can incentivize them and build these larger lots, it’s gonna keep the Milton brand in-tact.”
Verhoff echoed the sentiment, specifically arguing in favor of 3-to-5-acre lot minimums in the zoning code.
“It keeps the rural character of our community in place,” Verhoff said. “It’s also very advantageous for developers. We can market larger homes and larger land lots and bring in quality families into Milton.”
D’Anella suggested that the city should look into implementing growth boundaries around developments before considering making lot size changes to the zoning code. He said that changing the code now would put the property rights of some landowners who have or want single-acre lots in Milton at risk.
“That alleviates the issue of overdevelopment,” D’Anella said. “You’re developing certain things in those areas, and with the … growth boundaries, that solidifies those areas, and that keeps from sewer extension and other overdevelopment of areas.”
All candidates said public safety should remain a priority for the city.
D’Anella said that while he thinks the current setup of the police department and the allocation of officers and resources is sufficient, that might need to be revisited and bolstered as the city grows.
Tucker spoke about reinvigorating the Community Emergency Response Team, which she described as a program that teaches citizens how to provide backup to city first responders.
“It’s an extremely important program that I think would be a great way to invite the community to partake in some of the activities that our first responders have to support,” Tucker said.
While Verhoff applauded Milton first responders, she said she would support providing additional training for mental health calls, noting the rising mental health issues in the country at large and with young people specifically.
“If that is one area where we could receive additional training, not only in our police force, but also in our community, that would be one area I would focus on,” Verhoff said.
Each of the candidates said they would promote positive relationships between the city and its business community.
While Tucker said she would work to develop creative incentives for new commercial enterprises, she said the city’s first responsibility is to its existing businesses.
Verhoff said she is a staunch supporter of the city’s small business community, being a small business owner herself. She said she supports the current development at Crabapple Market and would work to continue to drive more business to the area. Verhoff also said she would support more businesses that will “bring out families” and said she would support bars in the city.
D’Anella said he would work to incentivize more businesses to come to the city’s commercial areas while ensuring these partners are in keeping with Milton’s “brand.” He said the city should view its businesses as part of the Milton community and that he would work to drive revenue and bring in successful and sustainable businesses to the area.
The candidates also discussed the city’s relationship with surrounding municipalities, namely Alpharetta. All three spoke about the importance of collaboration and said they would look forward to working with other city councils.
Verhoff praised the sitting City Council’s work with other cities and said she would follow their example if elected.
Tucker spoke specifically about agreements with Alpharetta’s Parks Department to waive resident fees for programming and the benefits of working regionally.
D’Anella discussed the collaborative nature of government as a whole and the importance of working within the Milton government with the mayor and city manager in addition to surrounding cities saying he would do whatever was necessary to “get it done.”
Each candidate also shared their opinion of what an ideal city-to-resident relationship looks like.
Verhoff said she would have an open-door policy and lead with integrity, working to build trust with residents, highlighting the importance of citizen input.
D’Anella stressed the value in a cohesive relationship built on understanding and supporting the needs and desires of residents. He cited the recent passage of a 20-year comprehensive plan as a great example of city and resident collaboration.
Tucker said listening to residents would be paramount, and he gave props to Milton Communications Director Greg Botelho for sending out regular surveys to collect resident input.
Each candidate closed by sharing their passion for the city and cited their qualifications for office.
D’Anella encouraged residents to be informed voters. He cited his nearly two-decade career applying laws and ordinances as an attorney and helping clients solve problems as chief qualifications for office.
Tucker said she and her family were “blessed” to live in Milton, calling it “an ideal place to live.” She listed her more than 20 years of financial planning and budget analysis experience in addition to her service in the U.S. Navy.
Verhoff talked about her service in the community for more than a decade as well as her experience working in “corporate America,” starting and running her own small business in Milton. She discussed her values and faith and told attendees that she has “no other agenda than a love of Milton.”
Matt Kunz, a former Milton City Council member who helped organize the forum, said the residents were the winners.
“The residents won because they’re the voters, and now they have a better understanding of the candidates and their stances on the issues,” Kunz said.
Appen Media Group and the Milton Herald also helped facilitate the Tuesday evening event, collecting questions from the community for the candidates. The forum was moderated by Appen Media reporter Chamian Cruz.
Early voting for the Nov. 2 election has already begun. For more information about how and where to vote, visit www.fultoncountyga.gov/services/voting-and-elections.