Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul announced Jan. 5 that he will not join the race for Tom Price’s Congressional seat. Paul also would not commit to running for re-election to the mayor’s seat this fall, saying he’s undecided, but ruled out running for any other office.
“I came to the conclusion I’m not running for Congress,” Paul, a Republican, said at the annual “Evening with the Mayor” event held by Leadership Sandy Springs, this year at the Newell Brand headquarters on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road. “I may run for something else,” he added. “We’ll talk about that later. One election at a time.”
Asked by an audience member whether he would run for re-election as mayor, Paul said, “I’m thinking about it.”
In an interview after the meeting, Paul clarified that the Mayor’s Office is his only potential candidacy and ruled out a run for any other office, including those that might come open as a result of Price leaving the Sixth Congressional District seat–which includes parts of Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs–to become President Donald Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services. Paul noted that most of his political ambitions already have been fulfilled by previously serving as a state senator, among other positions.
“No, I’m not going to run for any other office” besides possibly mayor, Paul said. “I’ve already been in the Senate.”
“I’ve got to sit down with the family and look at what I’m going to do this fall,” Paul said of a potential campaign to retain the Mayor’s Office, which he won in 2013. “Obviously, I’d love to be able to hold a council meeting in the new facility, but that’s not a reason to do it,” he added, referring to the new City Hall scheduled to open in 2018 as part of the City Springs redevelopment.
Paul said he chose to announce his decision at the meeting of Leadership Sandy Springs, a community leadership-training organization, because it was his first public event on the calendar since he made up his mind. It also happens that Leadership Sandy Springs is run by Jan Paul, his wife.
“My wife told me I needed to end the speculation,” he said.
Jan and other family members had urged the mayor to run for Congress.
“I did suggest that he run because as long as I’ve known him, that’s one passion he’s had,” Jan Paul told the crowd. But, she added, “His heart’s in Sandy Springs.”
Mayor Paul is 64 and said one reason he will not run for Congress is his age, as he said it takes about 10 years for a congressman to gain leadership positions and effectiveness. He also cited the unattractive demands of trips to Washington, fundraising and partisan politics.
“As much as I would love to be able to do it, Mick Jagger’s right—you can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need,” the mayor told the crowd, quoting the rock band the Rolling Stones.
As for the Mayor’s Office, “It’s a challenge, but I love what I do,” Paul said. However, he also noted that re-election can be tough in local politics due to controversial decisions.
“Look around. Tim Lee bit the dust,” said Paul, referring to the recently deposed Cobb County chairman who controversially brought the new Atlanta Braves stadium to the area in a secret deal. Paul was among those who blasted Lee’s decision-making at various times.
In comments before and after the meeting, Paul spoke about nearing the end of his political career, which has also included leading the state Republican Party and serving in the federal government under former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp.
“Forty years. I’m coming to the end of this,” Paul said.
“I’m very much at peace…with the decision” not to run for Congress, Paul said, describing a recent family get-together around a bonfire at their Alabama cabin to discuss it. “I think it’s the right thing for me personally at this stage of my life.”
Besides politics, the mayor talked about many Sandy Springs issues, touching on efforts to rein in traffic and better control redevelopment while positioning the city for continued growth. Asked about his top goals for 2017, he cited the pending completion of the city’s new land use plan and zoning code, and a good start on transportation infrastructure projects. He also spoke about the city’s intent to spur creation of more “affordable,” middle-income housing; pushed for a definition, he estimated that means new houses in the $400,000 to $600,000 price range.