Experience I’ll Bring To Decatur’s school board

I have deep experience working with government agencies and representatives to get results for communities. I work in the government affairs practice for the international law firm Dentons. Our clients include DeKalb County, our home; the National Vote at Home Coalition, a non-partisan non-profit working to protect accessible, secure-voting for all; A Committee for a United Atlanta, a community organization working to stop the Buckhead secession movement, and others.

As your neighbor and your school board representative, my priority will always be to serve the children and families of the City of Decatur to the best of my ability. I’m proud to share some of the ways I have supported CSD children as a fellow parent and the community as a resident of my neighborhood and citizen of Decatur:

  • PTA Co-President at F.AVE and Oakhurst: I served 4 years as the Co-President of Oakhurst PTA and FAVE PTO, respectively. As co-president, I planned and volunteered for many school wide events, and with the board was responsible both organization’s budgets. Before agreeing to spend any way, I would always ask myself “How does this benefit the school and all children?” After all that is what parents donated money to the PTA for.
  • Worked to increase green space at Talley: As FAVE Co-President, I assisted community members advocating for additional green space at Talley Street. This was prior to Talley opening. In addition to attending several of their internal strategy meetings, I accompanied them to meet with the CSD facilities director, and when that did not yield any results, to a meeting with the Superintendent. 
  • Decatur Education Foundation Supporters: My wife and I have been long time supporters of the Decatur Education Foundation.
  • Little League Coach: I coached a little league team in the City of Decatur league for several years.
  • Assisting Neighbors: I negotiated a rezoning agreement, on behalf of my neighbors on Mead Road, with the developer of property on the church parking lot at the end of the street.
  • Helped Decatur Seniors reduce their tax bills: I assisted the City, CSD and Decatur state legislators pass the original senior homestead exemption.  I assisted by having conversations with various legislators outside of DeKalb County, who were trying to block the legislation. I did this as a citizen of the City of Decatur, but one who had key relationships at the General Assembly.  
  • Helped Keep Legacy Park for Decatur: I facilitated a meeting between a board member of the former Methodist Children’s Home and a Decatur City Commissioner to advocate for selling the property to the City of Decatur, rather than a private developer. That property is now Legacy Park.

The government relations and lobbying activities I do ranges from monitoring legislation to advocating for the passage or defeat of legislation.  State representatives work part-time and have small staffs. They rely on outside policy experts like my department at Dentons’ to help them make decisions.

The issues we work on include local government, education, health care, and transportation, just to name a few.  Lobbying is part of the political process by its very nature is a political process. My lobbying work focuses on using research and data to argue for certain policies.

I’m fortunate the firm where I work has given me the opportunity to give back and fight for the public good. being a part of the community. Some of the work I’m proudest of includes:

  • Support for Hate Crimes protection: We represented the Anti-Defamation League’s work to pass the Georgia Hate Crimes law.
  • Ending wrongful imprisonment: On a pro bono basis, I’ve represented the Innocence Project and their work to those wrongfully convicted and imprisoned.  I successfully advocated at the state legislature to compensate a Georgia man who was wrongfully imprisoned for murder.
  • Tax relief for Decatur residents: I have also been involved in passing legislation that benefits all homeowners in the City of Decatur.  Many of you may have noticed that your county property taxes have gone down significantly over the past several years. I was the primary lobbyist on the bill that revised the homestead option sales tax and provided for a new one-cent sales tax to pay for infrastructure improvements in Decatur and throughout DeKalb County. By shifting some of the tax burden onto non-residents who use our city and county infrastructure, we saved homeowners on their tax bills while investing in local infrastructure.

My pledge to you: I will ensure that I will never have a conflict of interest if elected to the CSD Board. None of the work my firm or I do are currently in conflict with any CSD policy items to the best of my knowledge.

There might be times when my advocacy for DeKalb County Schools has a positive impact for school districts across Georgia, including City Schools of Decatur. For example, as a government relations advocate I’ve worked and will continue to work to increase state funding targeted to help identify and address the mental health needs of students supports; and increased funding for the college & career pipeline with a focus on creating more opportunities for work-based learning, expanding the career pathways, and expanding learning opportunities for educational enrichment and career exposure.

If the DeKalb County Schools legislative agenda ever includes issues where DCS interests are not aligned with CSD, I will not represent DCS in any capacity on any of those issues. However, I will endeavor to use my expertise to invest in the future of CSD by building stronger working relationships between CSD, DCS and DeKalb legislators.

This brings me to the annexation issue, I had the privilege to work with DCS and CSD on the recent annexation bill.  You can read about that here : DeKalb, Decatur school districts celebrate passage of annexation legislation – Decaturish – Locally sourced news.  I personally believe this bill provides for a fair and equitable distribution of property taxes between the districts, in the event of a future annexation.  Further, it contemplates allowing CSD access to some valuable services and facility uses from DCS.

Based on the agreement reached in this year’s legislation, I am hopeful that DCS and CSD will not be in conflict on this issue going forward.  However, I pledge that I will no longer do any work on the annexation issue for DCS if I am elected, even if that work is not in opposition to CSD interests, to eliminate even the perception of a conflict.

In regard to other clients that I represent, I absolutely agree not to represent any of their interests in regard to CSD.  I have never had any business dealings with CSD in the past, and would be in violation of the CSD Code of Ethics and Conflict of Interest policy if I did as board member.

Along those lines, to provide further assurances to voters, if I am elected, I will absolutely have to and will abide by the CSD Code of Ethics and Conflict of Interest policy.  You can review the detailed policy at Board Policy Manual – Version 1.5 – Approved 09-08-2020.pdf (csdecatur.net). Policy 3.5 and more specifically, subsection (D) on ethics, and especially subsection (E) – starting on page 23 on Conflicts of Interest, will guide how I approach any possible conflicts.  Those policies go into detail on prohibitions about what a board member can and cannot do, including strict financial benefit restrictions.   Further, there are penalties that can be imposed for the violation of any of these requirements. 

If people continue to have questions or concerns, they should contact me directly. I am more than happy to have a conversation with anybody/any group of people, about these issues in any sort of setting.  I would also encourage anyone with questions to reach out to somebody who knows me, because unfortunately in this day and age it is hard to just “trust” somebody, especially if you don’t know them.  I look forward to the opportunity to discuss the issues presented in my platform and others that are important to actually improving the educational experience for all students.