By John Schaffner

The Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce sponsored a candidate forum Sept. 21 that turned out to be a “let’s get acquainted” session between 10 candidates in four contested races — for mayor and District 1, 3 and 5 City Council seats — rather than a heated discussion of issues and who is better qualified.

Of the four candidates for mayor, Donnie Bolena jokingly told the 65 SS/PC members and guests at the morning Bagels & Business meeting at the Westin Hotel, “There’s a recession and I need a job.”

Becoming more serious, Bolena said that at age 44 he is the youngest person in the mayor’s race. “I get to relate to a younger audience and an older audience at the same time.”

Bob Brown, owner of Red Baron Antiques on Roswell Road, praised the present administration and said he didn’t have any major changes up his sleeve. “I’m running for mayor, not magician,” he said.

Brown made it clear during the question-and-answer period that the reason he is running for mayor is that “Sandy Springs is not known as being business-friendly.” He said the city needs to turn around the business environment. “There are too many empty buildings. … Code enforcement is out of hand.”

Warren Hull, who has lived in Sandy Springs 54 years, said, “I just thought about this a couple of weeks ago.” He had not given any thought to running for mayor before that.

Mayor Eva Galambos decided to tell a story about city efficiency rather than dwell on her background.

She said she got a call from a resident about a tree that had fallen across the road at her home, blocking her in. She called the city and two hours later the tree had been cut up and removed from the road, but the pieces were sitting on her lawn. Within another two hours, a city crew had come by and removed the debris. The woman wanted the mayor to know how pleased she was.

“This is the way our city answers the needs of our constituents,” said Galambos with a tone of pride in her voice.

The mayor said one of the biggest issues facing the city is the 21 percent surcharge residents pay for water they receive from the city of Atlanta’s system. She urged everyone to attend a public hearing on the issue at Sandy Springs City Hall, Oct. 20 at 6 p.m.

Bolena, Brown and Hull all said they would get rid of CH2MHill as the company staffing the city’s departments and services (except for fire and police) each saying the Denver-based company has no vested interest in the city.

Galambos pointed out that the Sandy Springs model is fostering competition. The city has “fewer employees and we’re running a tighter shop” than other cities, she added. She told the crowd the city will be re-bidding those services during this year.