By Special to the Villa Rican
Anna McCoy is originally from Lauderdale County, Alabama, and received an Accounting Degree from Auburn University. She worked at Kennesaw State University as a governmental accountant for almost 11 years, then at the University of West Georgia for almost two years. She has experience in managing sponsored funding, governmental accounting, and budgeting.
In 2003, she and her husband moved to Mirror Lake where they raised two daughters, and relocated to a larger house in the community in 2016. She said that while she was not born here, Villa Rica is now her home and that her daughters, who attended Mirror Lake Elementary school and swam on the Marlins swim team for some eight years, have known no other home.
Q: Why are you seeking this office?
I am seeking office because lately I have been dissatisfied with the way the City of Villa Rica runs. Years of officials making poor decisions have us in the financial and infrastructure quagmire we see today. I feel the city makes decisions without consideration of the Return on Investment for the city. I foresee overcrowding, continued financial issues, and broken infrastructure. I saw an opportunity to be an agent of change, so I decided to pursue it. I have a fresh perspective and a solid vision that the City so desperately needs.
Q. What are your top three goals for your term if elected?
If elected, my goals are to make reasonable and logical decisions that will benefit Ward 4 and the city, communicate openly with my constituents even when I know I am going to have to make an unpopular decision and find ways to grow revenue and spend efficiently so the budget is secure enough to make the much-needed improvements to the city’s infrastructure. For years, the city and the many iterations of the City Council have been making poor decisions that are hurting Villa Rica. We keep electing the same people, yet we never see improvement.
A current example is that in the next one to two years Villa Rica’s contract for water ends with the Carroll County Water Authority. The CCWA is raising rates and the City is looking for other potential water sources that might be cheaper. But two of the ideas mentioned, recycling the water and purchasing water from Bowdon seem cost-prohibitive. I feel the City should start negotiations with the CCWA while they are looking for other sources. If the contract ends in late 2022 or early 2023, and a decision can be made in the near future, we have a year of planning to be better prepared and have a definitive idea of how we handle the change, then effectively communicate to the citizens so they are aware of the upcoming changes and do not feel blindsided.
The citizens of Ward 4 do not feel that our elected officials are being open and honest with information. We truly feel blindsided by recent zoning and foreseeable overcrowding. We are tired of being blindsided.
Q. What should the city do to manage its inevitable growth?
I think we need to find solutions to our infrastructure problems before we start adding new residents at a rapid pace. There are some in the pipeline like the North Bypass which is in the final planning and design phase before it can go to construction per GDOT’s website. I do feel we are approving zoning and construction without an updated master plan. An updated and accurate master plan really needs to be established and communicated to the public. This would help ease citizens’ concerns about overcrowding and provide a good timeline of development to future residents who are interested in moving to Villa Rica.
Villa Rica has grown in the last five years, and we are already starting to see the seams stretching on the brink of busting. We need to address these issues for the current residents like improved roads to ease traffic, more restaurants, and retail to meet the needs of the established population before we start rapidly approving new residential construction. So as a simple answer, let’s solve the issues for the current residents before we add new problems for future residents. Let’s focus on commercial and industrial then move on to residential.
Let me add context. I do believe we need new residential construction in Villa Rica. I am not proposing that we completely stop new residential construction until all these problems are fixed. I just do not feel like the big picture is being considered when all these new residential housing projects are approved.
Q. Other than growth, what is the toughest issue facing the city, and what do you think should be done?
In the above answers, I’ve touched on other issues like communication and better decision-making and given high-level descriptions of how I would handle the situation. I do think infrastructure (water, sewer, and roads) is an issue, and the first thing we have to do to solve that is finding ways to increase revenue and continue to spend efficiently. A lot of the toughest issues do involve having the funds to fix them even slightly, and in the FY2021 budget, we do not necessarily have them. Above, I mentioned how I would solve the water issue (see question 2).
Another issue is to reduce turnover among City employees, especially with critical departments like police, sanitation, water, and sewer. There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. One of the things I loved at work was flex-time. It helped me have a positive work-life balance with my family and avoid traffic. But the duties related to policing mean flex time is not practical for police officers.
Another solution could be that three additional vacation days be added to the year for city employees. I would find ways to incentivize anniversary years like 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30. We could use an increase in salary or an increase in vacation days as an incentive. This might be a good way to reward the long-term employees while making the pay more competitive in stages.
Public safety is always an issue, we can never be too safe, and right now there is a labor shortage, especially of police officers. The easy answer is more police officers which lead to more police presence. Unlike most of the other solutions, this one cannot easily be solved with more money and better communication. Public safety is such a highly specialized field I do not feel qualified to provide a viable solution.
My most reasonable and logical answer is to talk to police leadership to see what are their biggest challenges, gain insights about the leadership from the anonymous annual employee surveys and any exit interviews, and talk to the community because they need to be involved in the conversation.
The people are part of the equation as much as the officers. What if there is a communication issue? What if the people see something that would be beneficial to the officers, but the people feel it is not worth reporting? I feel engaging with the officers and the community would lead to more safety in the community.
Q. How would you describe the overall “climate” of Villa Rica, in terms of economics, livability, and relations within the community? What areas need improvement and where are we on track?
I’m going to do this by subject, with the climate being rated on a scale of 1-10 with one being the worst and 10 being the best.
Areas on track: While I am concerned about overcrowding, we are finally seeing development in Villa Rica in the second half of the calendar year 2021 and that is positive for economics.
Areas of Improvement: We need jobs, so we need to aggressively focus on Commercial and Industrial before we aggressively focus on residential. We need to get our city finances under control so we have room in the budget to make much-needed improvements in infrastructure to help this new growth.
Areas on track: Downtown Villa Rica and its small-town charm. The events the city organizes for the community. The small and local businesses are the fabric of the city. The sense of community everyone feels.
Areas of Improvement: Zoning that will reduce overcrowding. Continue to encourage and promote small and local businesses. Install traffic signals for pedestrians.
Relations with the Community: 7
Areas on track: I see the city developing ideas to effectively communicate information to the public uniformly among the different departments. The events the city organizes help relations with the community.
Areas of Improvement: Open and honest communication among the elected officials. More specific communication to their particular wards. We need to find ways to get newcomers to the area more involved. The population of residents who were not born and raised in Villa Rica is growing exponentially. We need to find ways to get them involved in the community so they can provide a unique and fresh perspective.