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Former Norwood Staffer Seeks Sandy Springs Council Seat

(APN) ATLANTA -- Chiteka Jackson, a former campaign staffer for former Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large) in her bid for Mayor of Atlanta in 2009, has announced a bid for the open fourth district seat on the City Council of Sandy Springs.

Jackson served as Norwood's personal aide during the Mayoral race.

Jackson, 38, plans to officially file tomorrow, Monday, morning.

If elected, Jackson would be the only Black elected official to serve on the Council.  All Members of the City Council of Sandy Springs--including John Paulson (District 1), Dianne Fries (District 2), Chip Collins (District 3), Tiberio DeJulio (District 5), and Karen McEnerny (District 6)--are White, in addition to Mayor Eva Galambos.

As for the prospect of being the first Black Councilperson in Sandy Springs, "I haven't given it any thought.  The City was just created in 2005.  We haven't been around for that long," Jackson said.  "I think it's good to have good leadership on the Council, irrespective of color."

Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins (District 4), who served on the Council since Sandy Springs was incorporated as a city, announced her departure with little advance notice on January 21, 2011, to pursue a career in the travel industry.

The Sandy Springs City Council approved a Special Election to take place on March 15, 2011, and if necessary, a Run-off on April 12.

At least one other candidate, Gabriel Sterling, a North Fulton Republican consultant, has announced his plans to enter the race [more on Sterling below].

Jackson is a real estate professional and civic leader.

"A proven problem solver with real-world sensibilities, Jackson seeks to promote economic stability through unmatched consensus building.  Her strong business acumen and proven leadership skills in government relations and human resources will help bridge the diverse interests of the citizens and leaders of Sandy Springs," the statement said.

Jackson’s goals include: "Addressing the ever-increasing water bill issues with the City of Atlanta, brokering a solution to re-development and revitalization of the Roswell corridor, and creating a pro-business and pro-community environment."

“I love Sandy Springs and know that we can build a greater community by working collaboratively to remedy our issues, strengthen our economy and attract new opportunities,” Jackson said.

Jackson is an Atlanta native who moved to Sandy Springs almost 10 years ago.

Jackson serves as the Political Partners Chair for the Atlanta Board of Realtors Government Affairs Committee, and as a member of the Society of Human Resource Managers Atlanta and the Board of Directors Network.  She is a graduate of Leadership Sandy Springs.

Chiteka Jackson and her family are active members of Sharon Community Church located in Sandy Springs.

As for her position on Milton County, "I think both sides have merit.  They do.  That's where I stand right now," Jackson told APN.

Meanwhile, Gabriel Sterling, 40, is a long-time Republican consultant who was active in the initial formation of Sandy Springs.

When Sandy Springs was created, people expected that Sterling, not Jenkins, would run for the seat.  However, Sterling had encouraged Jenkins to run.  This time, with her resigning, she is encouraging him to run.

Sterling is Vice President of Public Relations for political consulting firm, Landmark Communications.  The firm's clients have included Steve Broadbent, the Republican nominee for Fulton County Chairman in 2010; and Ashley Bell, a Hall County Commissioner who switched to the Republican Party in December 2010.  The firm also does political polling.

He moved to Sandy Springs from Atlanta's Virginia Highland neighborhood in 1984.

Sterling serves as Vice Chair of the Sandy Springs Hospitality and Tourism board, was Chair of the Fire and EMS Transition Task Force for Sandy Springs, and was one of five negotiators appointed to negotiate between Sandy Springs and Fulton County regarding the transition of Sandy Springs to a new city.

Prior to Sandy Springs becoming a city, Sterling co-chaired the Referendum Committee and served on the Committee for Sandy Springs.

Sterling is also the founder of Reform Fulton Now, "a group designed to try to find solutions to make Fulton run more harmoniously, structurally and financially," Sterling told APN.

As for Milton County, "I'm in favor either way [keeping Fulton together or re-creating Milton].  If we reform Fulton, it'll help Milton and Fulton.  It'll take heaven and Earth for Milton to pass.  The reforms I want to put in--like term limits--would work either way," Sterling said.

Sterling says he wants to improve the way cities and Fulton County work together.  "We've had a very adversarial attitude," he said, noting several lawsuits between North Fulton cities and Fulton County.

"I want to protect neighborhoods.  We had a big controversy of the location of a technical school.  I was opposed to the location, I was opposed to the process, I was opposed to spending 2.5 million dollars to bring it here," Sterling said.

"The location is part of Peachtree-Dunwoody, [where such a school is] not part of the comprehensive plan.  I don't like the idea of spending 2.5 million dollars.  I didn't like the process.  It was run very quickly.  We got the proposal in November.  There was very little public input, very little time for environmental studies.  This thing wasn't run very well," Sterling said.

"Sometimes you have to stand up to developers.  We have a comprehensive land use plan.  We should stick with it so everybody knows what the rules are and what the playing field is," Sterling said.

Jackson also said she is opposed to the new technical school.  "I have heard the debate on both sides.  I don't agree with the expenditure at this time," Jackson said.

"Ashley Jenkins, before she resigned, laid out a good argument about why we needed to slow down.  Because of the economic environment, I don't think it's a wise use of public funds right now," Jackson said.

Sterling also serves as House District 48 Chairman for the Republican Party, and previously challenged State Rep. Dorothy Felton (R-Atlanta) in the 1998 Republican Primary for what was then District 43 [prior to re-districting].

"She [Rep. Felton] had a bill where she wanted to weaken the Metropolitan River Protection Act, to allow people to construct parts of homes--a carriage house, a boat house, stables--closer to the river... which would have allowed more run-off," Sterling said, noting that he opposed Felton's proposal at the time.

"At the time I had a proposal, I wanted to see if we could take a percentage of state supplemental budgets to go to actual physical clean-up of sites in the State of Georgia, similar to something like a Superfund," Sterling said.

There may be more candidates announcing this week coming up, which is qualifying week, but for now these are the only two in the race.

Sterling said he has been planning on an easy campaign as the only candidate in the race, but in the last few hours since Jackson's qualifying, he had multiplied his fundraising goal by a factor of ten.

(END / 2011)

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