Sandy Springs City Councilmember Steve Soteres says he will not run for reelection, guaranteeing the District 2 seat will have a new representative starting in 2022.

Soteres said he semi-retired at the beginning of last year, and fully retired this year. He wants to free his time for his family and other interests.

District 2 City Councilmember Steve Soteres, joined by family, was sworn into office Jan. 2, 2018. (John Ruch)

“It’s somebody else’s turn to take a swing at it,” he said. “It sounds like we have a lot of good candidates.”

So far, two candidates have joined the race: Jason Hamilton and Melody Kelley. Both are new to politics and see diversity and inclusion as an issue for the city.

Soteres said he’s heard “under the radar” that other residents are considering entering the race, so the District 2 race should be a good one.

When Soteres ran for election in 2017, his District 2 race never made it on the ballot as he ran unopposed and the city chose to cancel voting, citing cost savings. 

Soteres said he never intended to serve more than one term, so this will leave him more time to spend with his wife and two boys. He plans to spend more time hunting and fishing and training his new hunting dog. And he’ll spend more time down on his farm.

Soteres was among the members of an advisory committee his predecessor, Ken Dishman, formed several years to find ways to spark redevelopment in the city’s North End. Dishman won the seat in 2013, ousting an incumbent, on a platform of replacing the current apartments and shopping centers with “higher-end” development.

But since then, the concept of spurring North End redevelopment has become more controversial and open to debate about such concerns as housing affordability and displacements of residents. Hamilton and Kelley, the currently announced candidates for the District 2 seat, have said they advocate for affordable housing. Kelley said she is on the leadership council for Sandy Springs Together, a group formed to advocate for more affordability and against displacement in the North End plans. Hamilton said the city needs to “continue with the battle of affordable housing for all classes of income.”

The city has made North End redevelopment a priority by developing concepts to redevelop four shopping centers into mixed-use developments its own consultants said would be tough even for the city’s workforce of teachers, firefighters and police officers to afford.

The city’s recent Housing Needs Assessment study showed many lower-income residents in District 2 are being forced out by increasing rent costs. Nearly 1,800 renters earning less than $50,000 have left the city in that time. A 38% rent increase since 2011 outstripped the income growth for renters without a college degree at 22%.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.