Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said he will run for reelection to finish the priorities that took a backseat to the COVID-19 pandemic, like getting control of the city’s water system, North End redevelopment and finishing the City Springs campus.

“It’s been probably one of the most challenging years of all the times I’ve spent in public office,” Paul said outside City Hall on March 15.

Rusty Paul announced his re-election bid for a third term as mayor of Sandy Springs on the steps of City Hall, inviting his family and Diversity and Inclusion Task Force member Desmond Curry (far right) to join him on March 15. (Bob Pepalis)

“I had originally thought that maybe this past time would be my last run for office,” he said.

Candidates for the mayor’s office can seek to qualify from Aug. 16-20 in advance of the Nov. 2 election. No other mayoral candidate had announced. A candidate must be a city resident for at least 12 months prior to the election date. Qualifying fees are $1,200 for the mayoral race. The city’s six City Council seats also will be on the ballot.

Paul is the city’s second mayor and first won the office in 2013. He was reelected in 2017 unopposed after a challenger dropped out. The election itself was canceled, allowing Paul and unchallenged City Council members to take office without a formal vote.

During his 2017 reelection campaign announcement, Paul said it would “likely be my last campaign.”

With all the issues remaining that were put on hold, Paul said, now is not the time to change leadership.

Gaining control of the city’s water system is his top issue, with finishing the City Springs campus by adding the Cultural Arts Center and North End redevelopment rounding out his top three priorities. The diversity inclusion initiative and getting a transportation special local option sales tax (TSPLOST) renewed complete his main priorities.

The city plans to announce the schedule to reopen city activities at City Springs, including the Performing Arts Center, sometime late this month or in April. Construction of the Cultural Arts Center with its Anne Frank exhibit through a partnership with the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust could begin by this fall, he said. The City Council may vote on the project in April.

The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force has just begun to meet.

“That’s something that we’ve started that I would also be remiss if I didn’t stick around to try and take the recommendations of the task force to complete that process,” he said.

The task force will give City Council its results in about six months, giving him another reason to stay in office.

A renewal of TSPLOST is important for the city’s transportation infrastructure.

“We’ve done five years. We’ve got to redo that again even though congestion hasn’t been an issue for the last year, we know that at some point is going to return, and we have a huge amount of infrastructure work that needs to be done,” he said.

Project remains such as the Johnson Ferry/Mount Vernon intersection redesign and the Grogans Ferry Road project that he said would begin the “boulevard-ization” of Roswell Road. The city’s transportation plan and North End revitalization concepts call for Roswell Road to become more suited for pedestrians and bicyclists, adding landscaped medians and buffers.

The federal government is working on an infrastructure plan now.

“TSPLOST is going to be crucial for our ability to match those funds to be able to get our share of whatever is spent on infrastructure,” Paul said.

He hopes the city will be in a position to match federal transit funding even though the next TSPLOST most likely won’t include transit funding.

North End redevelopment is an area Paul said the city has accomplished a lot over the last four years with studies completed on four shopping centers.

“Now we’ve got to move to the implementation and work with the property owners and the development community to get some pilot projects going up there. And that’s one of the reasons why I want to come back to spend four more years trying to get that off the ground and moving in some avenues,” he said.

Paul said he was gratified to get email from people that he didn’t think were necessarily his biggest fans who encouraged him to run. He made the final decision with his family.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.