Sandy Springs will have a city election so quiet, they almost didn’t have one at all.
Two candidates — Le’Dor Milteer and Jody Reichel — vying for the City Council District 4 seat make for the only competitive race and the only one that will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot, the city says.
No election will be held for all other, noncompetitive races. That means Mayor Rusty Paul and four incumbent councilmembers will remain in office without a vote, and newcomer Steve Soteres will automatically win the District 2 seat for which he is the sole candidate.
The lack of opposition to any incumbent comes at a time when the elected officials are overseeing enormous — and often hotly controversial — changes to the city: the new City Springs civic center, the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz USA corporate headquarters; traffic-altering and property-acquiring road projects; massive, high-density redevelopment on Roswell Road and the former historic Glenridge Hall site.
Unchallenged re-election is sure to be taken as a sign of public support. In an email, Paul expressed enthusiasm about seeing through some of those major planning efforts, as well as a promised challenge to the city of Atlanta’s management of the local water system.
“I’m honored and delighted that I’ll be able to finish the tasks I’ve started: City Springs, TSPLOST-related transportation initiatives and overseeing implementation of the Next Ten [new land-use plan and zoning code] rollout that gives the city much better tools for managing development in Sandy Springs,” said Paul, who will enter his second term. “Going forward, I hope we can make real progress on a regional transportation/transit plan, upgrade Roswell Road with a more boulevard look and feel, and, most importantly, ensure that we have more control over water service and costs for our citizens.”
However, that lack of opposition came with a footnote — the four-day mayoral candidacy of businessman David Crim, who rapidly withdrew from the race, citing the time commitment and a desire to not cost the city money by holding an election.
Crim said he filed to challenge Paul due to concern about large redevelopments and city spending, which he said many longtime residents also worry about.
“The city was founded pretty much on … having local control over apartment development and stopping the apartment development that was occurring,” Crim said. “It’s just a total reversal of the whole reason we were founded.”
But on northern Roswell Road in District 2, massive redevelopment is a priority of many voters — and of future Councilmember Soteres, a construction executive. Incumbent Ken Dishman, who did not run for re-election, citing family and work demands, won the seat as a redevelopment advocate, and Soteres has pledged to carry that vision through.
Returning incumbent councilmembers include Andy Bauman, Chris Burnett, Tibby DeJulio and John Paulson.
The District 4 race
The only Sandy Springs citizens to have a ballot choice Nov. 7 are those in City Council District 4, in the north-central part of the city, where incumbent Gabriel Sterling is leaving to run for Fulton County chairman.
The race is between Milteer, a TV host, and Reichel, a real estate developer and landlord.
Milteer is a journalist who says she wants to improve the council’s communications and diversity. She is vice president of broadcast at the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists. There, she produces and hosts “In Contact,” a public affairs TV program for the African-American community. If elected, she said, she would continue to host the program as part of her civic outreach.
“I think it goes hand in hand” with council service, said Milteer, whose campaign theme is “connecting the community to the council.”
Milteer says it is important that both District 4 candidates are women and that she is African-American.
“We are a diverse group here in Sandy Springs,” she said. “I think having a diverse group of people involved in making decisions matters.”
Milteer formerly ran two local salons along central Roswell Road. She has participated in the Sandy Springs Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy and volunteered on Leadership Sandy Springs’ Movies by Moonlight event.
Reichel is a 25-year resident of the city who has said she is focused on improving the quality of life.
“If I am fortunate enough to serve our community, I would focus my time and energy on important issues such as traffic challenges, smart business development, and continuing efforts to make Sandy Springs a walkable city,” she said in a campaign announcement statement.
She owns 21 rental properties and serves as treasurer of the Mount Vernon Woods Homeowners Association.
Her twin children graduated from North Springs Charter High School, where she served as Parent Teacher Organization president in 2013-2015. Reichel is founder and operator of the Holiday Gift Program at Jewish Family and Career Services. For 22 years, the program has helped families of all faiths that are in need over the Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa holidays.