A day after being elected mayor of Sandy Springs, Rusty Paul invited reporters out to city hall for a question and answer session.
It didn’t have any of the trappings normally associated with press conferences held by elected officials. There was no microphone or podium. It was held in the office of city spokeswoman Sharon Kraun. Paul sat at a small table in front of a whiteboard, wearing his suit and tie, and media dropped in sporadically to shoot the breeze.
Paul said he’s keeping his victory in perspective. He said after a long election night, his dogs woke him.
“The dogs decided they needed to go out at 6:30 a.m.,” Paul said. “They don’t care.”
The Rusty Paul era as mayor of Sandy Springs begins on Jan. 7. On Nov. 5 he easily defeated challenger Bob Brown, winning 80 percent of the vote.
Paul’s style is more casual than that of his predecessor, Mayor Eva Galambos. The interaction with media is one example. Galambos tends to keep her media appearances concise and controlled. Paul’s open invitation wasn’t about any topic in particular, but the questions from reporters focused on the next four years.
Paul jokes that he’ll have “big high heels to fill” if he wants to live up to Galambos’ reputation.
Paul said the support he received and the support Galambos received in previous elections “is a reinforcement of the common vision” shared by Sandy Springs residents.
He said city residents shouldn’t expect big changes. The city’s contractors will remain in place and he has no plans to change the city’s top staffers, like City Manager John McDonough. He will also keep his day job as a lobbyist while serving as Sandy Springs mayor.
Paul will be working alongside several new members. At the end of this term, the only person returning to City Council who has served since the city incorporated is District 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio.
Paul was on the original city council, too, but didn’t seek reelection. He stated involved with the city and served on its charter commission. He hopes to use his experience in government to mentor his new colleagues on City Council.
“At least 50 percent of the council never served on a council before, which I think is exciting,” Paul said. He said the changing roster of council members over eight years is unusual for a city of Sandy Springs’ size.
Some of the new council members will be familiar to Paul. He said he personally recruited Graham McDonald to run in the District 3 race, and McDonald will replace outgoing City Councilman Chip Collins.
Paul said the city’s downtown revitalization project will be the biggest challenge he’ll deal with in the next four years.
“It’s about a vision,” Paul said. “One of the reasons I got elected, I was able to define what the vision will be. We’re in the middle of a process now. We’ll make those decisions as we go through the summer.”
He said he’s not interested in making downtown Sandy Springs a carbon copy of downtowns in other cities.
“You can’t take somebody else’s idea and recreate it somewhere else,” Paul said. “You have to create something uniquely Sandy Springs.”