By John Schaffner
Four candidates have qualified for the Nov. 6 election to fill the District 1 Sandy Springs City Council post vacated in August by Dave Greenspan, who moved out of the city to accept a new professional position.
The four candidates are: Elizabeth Huffner, 46, a substitute teacher and homemaker; Douglas MacGinnitie, chief operating officer of a small business; Mark Thomas, 55, a business consultant and certified chef, and Vicki Willard, 56, a trainer at the Verbal Judo Institute.
One person who did not qualify by the Sept. 21 deadline was Robert Inman “Trey” Ragsdale III, who announced immediately after Greenspan’s resignation that he intended to run for the post. He had been endorsed by both Greenspan and District 4 Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins but apparently decided not to run for family reasons.
For profiles of the four candidates, see page 9.
Huffner, who resides on Roberts Drive, has been a resident of Sandy Springs for six years. She and her husband, Don, have two children.
Huffner taught middle school for many years, most recently at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic School in Sandy Springs. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati and a master’s degree from Otterbein College.
Over the past two years Huffner has been involved in major re-zoning issues in her neighborhood. “I learned all the inner-workings of the process from how to work with city council, to galvanizing the neighborhood,” she said. “This experience really impressed upon me how important it is for your neighborhood to have strong representation on city council. As a city councilwoman I will make sure that I am there for my district’s neighborhoods, whatever their needs may be.”
Huffner has been active throughout the Sandy Springs community, volunteering for the Community Action Center, Childrens’ Restoration Network and Senior Services of Fulton County. She is a charter member of the National Charity League, Dunwoody Chapter, and is a past-president of the Christ Child Society of Atlanta. She currently serves as the treasurer for the Home and School Association of Blessed Trinity High School.
A long-time Sandy Springs resident, MacGinnitie and his wife Missy, an Atlanta native, have two sons and a daughter and reside in Nesbit Downs. He attended Austin Elementary and Marist School and is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Dartmouth College, where he studied history and played on the soccer team. In 1988, he was honored as the Ivy League Player of the Year. He is a graduate of Emory School of Law where he was a Woodruff Fellow.
Following law school, Mr. MacGinnite served as a clerk for Judge Stanley F. Birch on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, as an associate with Alston & Bird, and then as chief counsel for Georgia Pacific, and general counsel at Hobbs Group. Later, he co-founded and served as chief operating officer and a director of Beecher Carlson, a commercial insurance brokerage firm headquartered in Atlanta. He currently serves as COO of Grassroot Soccer, a non-profit organization that utilizes soccer to educate youth in southern Africa about HIV and AIDS. He is also a board member of the Truancy Intervention Project, a non-profit based in Atlanta.
In discussing his reasons for running, MacGinnitie said: “I believe I have the experience and perspective to ensure that the great idea of Sandy Springs as a city also becomes a great reality for our residents and business owners. Guiding a $100 million dollar enterprise like Sandy Springs requires smart, experienced people who know how to both listen and make decisions.”
Mark D. Thomas
A thirteen year resident of the Sandy Springs community, Thomas was a vocal community advocate prior to the city incorporation. He lists his credentials as being a community leader, successful businessman, University of Georgia instructor, and former fire fighter-paramedic.
Thomas and his wife of 26 years, Deborah, have resided in the Spalding Lake subdivision since relocating to Georgia. He has been actively involved in the Spalding Lake Homeowners Association for over 10 years and currently serves as its president.
Thomas served on a committee that drafted the Alcoholic Beverage Ordinance now in effect. On this committee he worked closely with Council members Tibby DeJulio, Diane Fries and Ashley Jenkins. He looks forward to continuing work with the Mayor and the entire Council.
Thomas is president of M.D.T., Ltd., a business consulting company located in Sandy Springs since 1998. The company specializes in fixing broken companies and starting new ones, working with some of the smallest and largest companies in the United States. He focuses on restaurants, hotels, clubs and food and beverage manufacturers.
As a certified chef, Thomas also reaches into the academic world, where he is an adjunct faculty member at The Culinary Institute of America, teaching a course in Developing New Menu Items. He also teaches at the University of Georgia in the Masters in Food Technology program and is a visiting instructor at St. Joseph’s University. He is the research chef for the Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center located at the University of Georgia.
Willard has been married for 23 years to State Rep. Wendell Willard, who also is Sandy Springs’ city attorney. They have lived in Sandy Springs for more than 20 years and reside in the River Gate community.
“A large reason we chose to live in Sandy Springs is the great quality of life we enjoy,” Willard said. “Our city council addresses vital decisions regarding our public safety, home values and neighborhoods. We fought for years to have control over these issues, and I am asking for voters’ support so that I can be our area’s voice on these important matters.”
As for specific issues in need of attention, Willard said she will focus on zoning standards, easing traffic congestion, green space preservation and installing new sidewalks. She said careful attention is required to keep short-term decisions from producing long-term negative results.
“I am a strong believer that widening Mt. Vernon Highway will turn the roadway into a completely commercial corridor, which is not appropriate,” she said. “And I will keep our homes zoned to one-acre lots or larger as a means of preventing high-density ‘spot zonings.’”
Professionally, Willard is a training instructor for the Verbal Judo Institute, where whe provides government and law enforcement agencies and private businesses training to resolve verbal conflicts in volatile situations.