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Elections and Politics

A Talk with Mary Robichaux on Education, Public Safety, Expansion of Healthcare and Peachtree Corners



On this episode of Peachtree Corners Life, Rico interviews Mary Robichaux, current Representative of Georgia House District 48 and candidate for re-election. Listen in as Mary shares her experience as well as her views on topics like healthcare education, TSPLOST, public safety, and much more.

Mary’s Website: https://www.electmaryrobichaux.com/

Timestamp (Where to find it in the podcast):

[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:12] – About Mary
[00:03:12] – Why Mary Began Running for Office
[00:07:55] – The Expansion of Healthcare
[00:15:20] – Updating the Education Model
[00:17:57] – High School Vocational Training Programs
[00:23:06] – Changes in TSPLOST
[00:25:14] – Opinions on MARTA Transportation
[00:29:18] – Working with Entrepreneurs and Startups
[00:32:27] – Community and Police Safety and Wellbeing
[00:38:51] – Mary Asks for Your Vote
[00:41:36] – Outro


“When we talk startups, we have to have a workforce educated and ready to go for these different new things. We’ve gotta make sure that they want to stay here… We’ve gotta make sure they stay here and that Georgia is the best place to run your business for various reasons. That you have a viable workforce, that you can get the investment capital you need, that your tax rates are gonna be appropriate. We can get this done.”


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Podcast Transcript

[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. Before I introduce my guest today, I just want to say thank you to our sponsor of these shows, podcasts, and supporter of Peachtree Corners Magazine. And that’s EV Remodeling, Inc. Eli has been a great supporter of ours. He’s a Peachtree Corner resident. A great company, does good work out here. So check out his website, EVRemodelingInc.com. Thank you, Eli, for supporting in the shows that we do. Now, let’s get into it. We have another candidate today. Actually she’s an incumbent. Mary Robinshaw, Robichaux, let’s get that right. Mary Robichaux. Thanks for joining me, Mary. Appreciate that.

[00:01:12] Mary: Thank you, Rico. Thank you for having me. And again, I’m fine with my pronunciation of my name. I know it’s not the most common name here in Georgia. Although we’ve lived here in Georgia now 34 years.

[00:01:23] Rico: Oh, wow.

[00:01:23] Mary: So I’ve been in either Alpharetta or Roswell, so I do not live in Peachtree Corners. But so we’ve been here for those 34 years where my husband and I have been, actually in November we’ll be married 45 years. So met in high school and dated all through college. Married, I have twin sons that we’ve raised here in Georgia. Again, for us, it was over in Fulton County. They’re graduates of the Fulton County School System. So they’re now actually again next month they’ll be 41 years old. And now I have two beautiful granddaughters. It’s much more fun to be the grandmother, sometimes. My background’s healthcare, in my professional career. Again, 40 plus years in healthcare with a lot of different, both clinical and management level experience. Then what I did right before I won election in 2018, it was the first time I ever ran for office in my life. So that was kind of an interesting time for us. I actually was the vice president for the American Heart Association for the Division of Quality for the Southeast. So I did work with about 700 hospitals across the southeast making sure that we had good cardiovascular care delivery systems. And then we designed statewide systems of care that actually are still in place in a lot of states today. So very happy with that kind of concept. So that’s kind of my background, to give you a little bit. My husband, his background is IT with large corporations. But then probably about 20 years ago, he became what I would call a serial entrepreneur. So he likes to start companies and invest in companies. Some he keeps, well, mostly he’ll sell. Some have not been as successful as some of the others, so, but that’s life too, I think so.

[00:03:10] Rico: Sure.

[00:03:11] Mary: That’s kind of who I am.

[00:03:12] Rico: Well, what got you into running? I mean the original first office you landed in?

[00:03:18] Mary: Well, the first office I ran for was this office. I currently do represent what’s called House District 48. Which currently is actually majority Roswell, Georgia. Just over to your west and then I cover a little bit of Alpharetta. Redistricting will be taking place. So while the number stays the same, the district is shifting a little bit to the east. So that’s where now it will cover Roswell, Alpharetta, Johns Creek, and a small portion of Peachtree Corners.

[00:03:47] Rico: Right. I’m putting that map up actually. So that’s the new district that takes into Johns Creek, and then the portion of Peachtree Corners. Mostly west of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, I think.

[00:03:58] Mary: Correct, toward John’s Creek, up toward the river.

[00:04:01] Rico: So very different from what you’re had before.

[00:04:05] Mary: Yeah, it’s very different. It changed probably about 70%. So I’m over in the Roswell corner on this. I am on the eastern portion of 400. So why I ran because again, in 2018 at the time there was, in my opinion it was the start of a lot of discourse between parties and between people. And I guess with my background in healthcare and what I did, what I was very good at in the healthcare realm was getting different voices to come to the table and to talk and to try to come up with solutions with the patient being our center of where we needed to make change. And that included doctors, nurses, insurance companies, hospitals, CEOs, all the different pieces that go into providing care in different cardiovascular diseases. So I was very good at facilitating those kinds of things to say, let’s all, we need to talk and we need to put our egos at the door. And sometimes that was a little challenging. But I was good at getting people to talk and come up with solutions. So when some of the discourse and what was going on in the district I currently represent, I felt that the representative at the time was not as willing to listen to others and to talk to all people to come up with those kinds of solutions. And I said, well, I’m gonna run. Because I think I do have that kind of capability to have what I call having those conversations with people. Because yelling and screaming at each other gets us nowhere. I’m sorry. It doesn’t, It never has. I grew up as one of seven children and yeah, we could yell and scream, but ultimately that’s not gonna solve a problem for us.

[00:05:46] Rico: The political landscape has changed quite a bit since 2018, or even before that, really.

[00:05:51] Mary: It has unfortunately, in my opinion. Theres still lot of ways to have those conversations.

[00:05:57] Rico: Yeah. I mean, it’s okay to stir the pot a little bit. That’s what I think happened with Donald Trump coming in to office. Not my favorite candidate, but he did stir the pot. He got people thinking about certain things. Certainly in my opinion, not the best president of the United States that we’ve had. But, the idea of looking at problems in a different way and also because people, to some degree, aren’t being heard. Even within the Democratic Party. I think that’s also the case. I think over the years, I think certain segments of the Democratic Party has been taken for granted, that they’ll be there.

[00:06:37] Mary: I think when we, the way I understand the parties, what’s interesting to me, when I first decided to run. When you looked, you go back and you look at people’s voting history, I was actually, my husband and I were classified as independents. Because we voted both ways, at the time. Now since 2016, I’ll be honest, I probably have not voted many for Republicans for various reasons. But, our histories have been, we voted both ways. Sometimes the system even of running for office is set up, you have to choose. It’s very difficult at the state, at this level. When I looked into it, qualifying to run as an independent would’ve required an exorbitant amount of signatures to even get on the ballot. And I said, well that doesn’t make any sense. So, and I lean more towards the Democratic. I’m probably progressive in more social aspects of governance and probably more fiscally conservative because I am one. I don’t think we should spend money we don’t have. I don’t do it in my personal life. But I do think there are valid things we need to be spending money on as a government and therefore we need to figure out how we’re gonna pay for it. People want to be heard. And I grew up in rural Louisiana, so I understand rural. I understand urban. I think we need to make sure everyone is getting the same types of chances, however we accomplish that.

[00:07:55] Rico: Right. So let’s get into some of the issues I think that you support or that you express. But one of them is sponsoring legislation to expand availability of Medicaid in the state of Georgia. That would add half a million people to the uninsured in Georgia.

[00:08:11] Mary: Correct.

[00:08:12] Rico: So if I understand correctly, the federal government would take care of a decent portion of that budget if we allow it to come in. But at some point the state will probably have to take over a decent portion of that budget.

[00:08:26] Mary: Well the Affordable Care Act currently, if we were to start it today, the federal government would cover 100% of the cost. That’s what’s still in place for at least the next two years, how much longer that will stay in effect. You’re correct. The current match, though, is nine to one. Could that change in the future? Yes. But I think when we just say, well, it’s gonna cost this much. But let’s, what we need to talk about though is what is it costing this state right now not to cover those 500,000 people?

[00:08:54] Rico: Okay.

[00:08:54] Mary: I would phrase it in a lot of different ways. Number one, we have to understand our federal tax dollars, even though we live in Georgia, goes into the pool that covers Medicaid across this country. So our dollars have left this state for that program in Kentucky, in Florida. So those are our dollars that have left this state already. I think we should bring those back. That’s number one. Number two, in my experience in healthcare, when we talk about the concept of what happens to those that are uninsured. Some people think, well, we don’t need to worry about them, it’s up to them how they get care. But we have to understand people who do not have insurance, typically the way they’re going to get help when they need healthcare coverage, it’s going to be at the point at which they’re gonna go to an emergency room. Now, sometimes they’re going there because they are so sick. That their cost is gonna be very, very high to cover them. Other times they’re going to that emergency room maybe because they have a sore throat and they can’t talk you know, I mean, they don’t understand. We have to understand in healthcare economics, covering care in an emergency room is one of the most expensive ways to deliver care versus preventative care models. So if we had a system that people had good preventative care access, it would prevent that. Because when that person goes into that emergency room, you and I are still paying for that. By law hospitals have to treat any patient who comes in their door, and that’s a federal law. We can’t change that. So, and then besides the concept of just covering people, we also know there are studies that show that when people have health insurance, their work productivity goes up. Anywhere from one to two percent overall. That to me would be a great boom for our economy, especially right now when we’re having issues with getting workforce in certain parts of the state. And then of course, we’re talking about the number of new jobs you know, the expansion of medicaid would do for this state. And I appreciate, and I think we should invest in places, companies like Rivian. The state’s putting in close to 1.2 to 1.6 billion dollars, which is fine to bring in an industry that’s gonna give us about 7,000 jobs. Healthcare, Medicaid expansion if done well and correctly in all the other things that need to happen. Which, that’s why I know how I do things. Lower estimates are talking about 60,000 new jobs in this state. It’s an investment. And again, I’m gonna say one last thing, and I know I talked too much.

[00:11:33] Rico: No, no.

[00:11:33] Mary: I was at a meeting with the president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce the other week. And he stood up there and said, we are at the point now we need to consider healthcare as infrastructure. The government supports and pays roads. We’re doing broadband expansion. We do utilities. In a lot of ways healthcare is infrastructure. How are we going to do that? We need to fix our infrastructure of healthcare, period.

[00:12:00] Rico: I agree. Part of that problem is that I think that people don’t understand really, is that especially in the age of Covid, when people are sick like that. Number one, a lot of people that would use Medicaid are lower income people that don’t have that insurance, that are working hourly jobs, that have to leave that job to be able to go to get medical coverage. And if they have contagious diseases like Covid or like others because they may not have been vaccinated, that’s a worst case scenario for the rest of the population. So that’s the way I look at it also, that it, it’s not good community security to allow half a million people, let’s say, without insurance like that.

[00:12:41] Mary: Right. And I think it’s part of our workforce that I think is untapped. Because if you have a chronic disease that basically you cannot get care for, a lot of times you’re unable to work until you can get care. So it’s this you know, chicken before the egg concept. I’m not against people working, but sometimes if you can’t work because you’re so sick, we’re not going to give you healthcare until you can work?

[00:13:06] Rico: Yeah, and I can, I can understand the budget part though. Where the federal government is paying all that money. But at some point that money may go away and the state has to pick up that budget and where do they fund that from? I think that’s part of that program.

[00:13:20] Mary: Right. Again, we fund education, we fund healthcare now. We just have to decide how we’re going to do it. And I’m not saying Medicaid expansion in and of itself is going to fix our entire healthcare systems. There’s other things we need to do. Let’s all be honest. You know, reimbursement rates need to be adjusted. We need to look at opportunities to expand private pay and, or to force private insurances to live up to what they’re telling the people who have insurance they’re going to cover. So we need to clean up a lot of things.

[00:13:51] Rico: For sure.

[00:13:52] Mary: And to figure out what, I would call out of the box thinking ways to cover people that doesn’t always have to be Medicaid. So like I was talking the other day to some members of the Police Benevolent Society of Georgia. I didn’t know this, because I mean, up here we have great police forces and first responders who their healthcare coverage is done by our municipalities. We have the funds, they can buy in. There are municipalities in Georgia, they are so small, their police officers do not have healthcare coverage. Because the municipalities are so small they can’t afford it. My thought was, and I’ve already, okay, so Georgia State troopers have an insurance form policy. Why can we not as a state, figure out a way at an appropriate prorated model to allow those same police officers who are serving their communities to buy into the state plan? I’m thinking those are the kinds of things we need to identify. Where can we expand that, make it better, but yet still cover all? And the 500,000 that we do need to cover probably with Medicaid. And I would think sometimes that that number of Medicaid recipients as they go back to work, as we make it better for them, their numbers are going to drop off of Medicaid. Once you get that full time job because your health has improved and things look better. You get that job that you can get some private insurance.

[00:15:20] Rico: That makes sense. So let’s move on to education. We’ll wanna be able to cover a couple of issues as well. Education, obviously in the city of Peachtree Corners, we have a couple of private schools. We have a great public school system here. Simpson Elementary, Pinckneyville Middle, Norcross High School. And there are a lot of involved parents in these schools also. Peachtree Elementary. I mean, there’s a score of schools around here. Wesleyan is a private school. But speaking about the public model, I think one of the things that you spoke about is updating the 30 year model for state funding of public schools.

[00:15:56] Mary: Right.

[00:15:57] Rico: Tell me a little bit about what that would mean and then let’s get quickly after that into high school vocational training programs, which I’m big for. That makes sense to do that.

[00:16:07] Mary: So specifically the QBE formula, actually the Gwinnett County Public School Systems is one of the ones that is being the most disadvantaged right now with the old model. It’s based off of your total population of students in the system, but it also comes into what your tax base is there within your county and some other formularies. But what’s built in there too is if you are a much smaller county, the percentage of the state dollars that you get is much higher than the percentage that say a Gwinnett or a Fulton County gets. So in effect, and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do it up to a point. But I think we need to review that to say, so why should Gwinnett, and Gwinnett is actually the highest one. I think you’re getting only about 82 cents on the quote-unquote QBE dollar, which helps subsidize some parts of rural Georgia and other parts of Georgia that are receiving 130 plus percent per student cost. Now I just think we need to re-look at that. We need to balance it based on local tax base, but I think we need to understand why are we doing it based on something that’s 30 years old? Let’s review it. Let’s understand that there are opportunities that maybe Gwinnett needs to come up to 90 plus percent of that. There’s just some opportunities there.

[00:17:38] Rico: Right.

[00:17:39] Mary: Especially in the areas where of our state, as you probably know, we’ve had a reduction in population. Versus in this area we’ve had such an increase in population. So some of this is based on, oh, population, new population. So there’s a lot of things we need to look at and readjust in my opinion.

[00:17:57] Rico: Okay. What about the high school vocational training programs that you advocate for? That public partnership or public-private partnership?

[00:18:05] Mary: I think that is a great opportunity. You know, I’ve had conversations with business owners. A lot of them car dealerships, places that they can’t find people to work as, mechanics, although now I would call them computer technician mechanics. Because I mean, let’s face it, our cars nowadays. And other opportunities, and again, in this area we have Gwinnett Tech, we have those kinds of things. But we also have, one of the things since I’ve been serving, I was able to visit down in South Georgia, there’s actually a true apprenticeship program. Which is different than an internship. The apprenticeship program, you have a private manufacturing company pays a portion along with the state in that students are recruited in the 10th grade. And it becomes part of their high school curriculum. They go and they work X number of hours in this manufacturing plant learning computer skills. They’re not allowed to operate big chainsaws and dangerous equipment per se, because of age requirements. But they start in 10th grade, they then learn some more skills such as computer designing. Some of these 3D printing manufacturing companies are doing it. In 11th grade they start to get a salary, and I think it’s around $9 an hour. But they’re still going to school full time. I mean, it’s a part half. 12th grade, I think it goes up to $11 an hour. But what happens, and it’s done through a program model actually, through a European model. So when they graduate from high school, they get a high school diploma. They get a two year associate degree diploma from the university system of Georgia, and they get a guaranteed job starting at approximately $60,000 a year. And they get an international certification in their specialty. I think we need to be doing that all over the place in different areas, not just manufacturing. You know, and here in Roswell, our schools, we started in elementary school, a program through my Rotary Club. We do Home Builders of America. We have groups that we go in, in high school, and it’s an elective kind of an after school program. At first in elementary school, we go in and we teach them how to build a frame structure. In Middle School, we go and we build the structures a little bit bigger and they learn how to put electricity in it. And then in high school they’re learning something else. So they come away with some skills, whether or not they’re going to be electricians, plumbers, whatever. My plumber makes a lot of money and my electrician. Think about finishing high school with a skill set that you could be certified in. And then if you choose to become an electrical engineer and go to college, you could still work. 60,000 plus a year to start right out of high school. I think that’s a pretty good job personally.

[00:20:55] Rico: Yeah, I totally agree. I would hope the state could take some leadership in that to be able to help bring that across. Because I agree with the apprenticeship, done in Europe and other parts of this country, like Michigan, is really important, right?

[00:21:09] Mary: So yes, I’m talking to some of the, again, up here in my area we have a Honda Innovation plant, so they’re bringing in interns. But I’m already talking with them. How can we convert that to an apprenticeship? That it’s a private public partnership that makes this happen for our students.

[00:21:23] Rico: I mean, essentially what’s happening is that these kids, some of them are not gonna go on to college. That’s not what they want maybe.

[00:21:31] Mary: Right.

[00:21:32] Rico: They want to get out into the workforce. And there are companies out there that are dying. They can’t find the workers out there. And imagine having that pipeline to be able to fill those jobs.

[00:21:44] Mary: That’s my idea. You know, when my kids were in high school, in Milton they took a semester of shop. Which is fine. But I think again, if students really wanted to learn more nowadays, it’s not just learning how to change a belt, it’s the whole computers and you have to be very highly educated to do these things.

[00:22:02] Rico: Yeah. I think the schools that bring in that, if you’re gonna learn how to do an HVAC system, that should let these kids work on an HVAC system, touch, take it apart, see how it’s working. Those kids are the ones that are gonna be able to take advantage of this type of process.

[00:22:18] Mary: And we you know, this state does have, we have that program, where there are sixteen specific career program paths in the technical college system that students can go to. And it’s a two year program, but basically the state pays 100% of the cost. So with things like EMT, there’s some other different things that we’ve put in place. So I think we need to expand that in a lot of ways. But also look for other opportunities that businesses, you know, to me when a business can identify someone very young, and then to teach them what they really need to know to succeed in their business. That’s the mentorship concept.

[00:22:59] Rico: That’s right. It works well in Europe. I think it would work right here.

[00:23:02] Mary: Right. You know, modifying it how it would work for us. But I think it would be a great thing.

[00:23:06] Rico: Correct. SPLOST. Now The City of Peachtree Corners gets probably the biggest share of SPLOST in this county. Because of the size of the city and stuff. One of the things that you’re, that you have been talking about or on your website is the continued oversight of TSPLOST and programs. Do you see a problem there? Do you see anything that needs to change?

[00:23:29] Mary: I think we’ve made some changes and again, not that the state legislature needs to do the audits, but that the audits need to be done in the contracting process. Sometimes when designs are done and I would like to make sure. And again, I’m in Roswell so we all have that same issue. That the cities or the municipalities that these TSPLOST, as you know, some of it is determined how much is state pay, federal pay versus local municipalities have to be responsible for. And depending on that percentage is who gets control of design of the project. Sometimes it’ll also be two heads butting against each other. So I would like to make sure that the municipalities who are gonna be affected by these changes have as much, if not more, say into those design aspects where appropriate. Sometimes it just is what it is, a bridge has to be done a certain way. And I understand that. But I think there are lots of other opportunities to have more input from local areas into some of these designs and how that money is spent. Since it’s all of our tax money.

[00:24:40] Rico: So more local control?

[00:24:41] Mary: Well, local control slash local input. I think sometimes a lot of municipalities that I’ve had the pleasure of working with don’t feel they’ve had as much input as they should. And that someone’s really listening to them. And I’m not a traffic engineer, I don’t know. But I think most of us are relatively intelligent people that you explain this in a way, you know, you gotta explain it to us in a way that really does make sense. Don’t just tell me it is, it is because the traffic guys say this. I’ll probably want to question that a little bit more.

[00:25:14] Rico: That makes sense. Sticking to transportation to some degree. The big thing here in Gwinnett County has been quite a few times, there’s been votes on MARTA coming in. And it’s been turned down quite a few times. There’s so many times that this keeps coming up. Inevitably I believe that MARTA will be approved eventually down the line. Maybe within the decade. This county has changed demographic wise. Getting people employed here and moving around in the right way needs to change a little bit. So how do you feel about MARTA coming into Gwinnett? I mean, how would you want see that done?

[00:25:47] Mary: Right.

[00:25:48] Rico: With the way that I think a billion dollars a mile doesn’t make sense to me, but.

[00:25:53] Mary: No. And I think, again, so I live off 400. But I’m about six miles from the last MARTA train station. Then we have bus service up in my area on the major arteries. It’s not into the neighborhoods. Again, that’s where to me, the locals do have to have input. I personally do think MARTA is going to be a benefit if it’s designed correctly to meet the needs of the citizens of Gwinnett. To bring people in that could work. People that are maybe living in one part of your county that want to work in another part, but you know, affordable housing issues that they need transportation over. If you don’t have those kinds of transportations, you’re stuck. By my areas up the North Point Mall, so now we do have a bus line that comes up to North Point Mall so that it brings a lot of employees that can come up and work in that area. So I think that’s good. I’m not a big fan of Heavy Rail. I mean, I just don’t think Georgia is gonna really go that route in the next 20, 30 years. I mean, maybe very, very high future. The train itself, you know, I’m being honest. So I head down 400 when I go downtown to go to a Atlanta United game or to a game in downtown, we catch MARTA. And it’s a great ride versus driving my car down, paying twenty to forty dollars to park to attend a sporting event. On those times, especially the people on the trains, everybody’s got their jersey you know, it’s kind of like you’re tailgating in the train. So I’ve had positive experiences. When I used to work for the American Heart Association, I traveled every week on planes. So I would also take MARTA, again from the North Fulton Station all the way to the airport. It was a 45 minute ride, it was great.

[00:27:43] Rico: Right. I can see what you’re saying. I mean, I, coming from New York, I mean, I used to take the subway and stuff then I took the coach bus because it was easier. A little bit more money, but it was easier. And I felt safer actually, because at the time was during the late eighties and in the seventies. It was a little different on the subways. And maybe, one of my kids too, MARTA as a commuter to GSU to attend college campus. He wasn’t always feeling safe on MARTA. So different people had different experiences, not just on the system, but even at the stops.

[00:28:16] Mary: Right.

[00:28:16] Rico: Unfortunately. But that’s the nature of those types of mass transit. So I understand you’re not into the heavy rail. Neither am I. I don’t think the expense makes sense. Light rail makes more sense maybe, or certainly bus rapid transit like that.

[00:28:30] Mary: One of the things too that Marta is now testing, and again, not in our area yet. But literally, especially for those people that more toward the disability that you can actually call, a MARTA smaller transport bus will show up at your door.

[00:28:46] Rico: I’ve seen that.

[00:28:47] Mary: So again, I think those are the kinds of things we need to explore lots of different options in regards to safety. I think you know, and again, I’ve never had a problem or feeling unsafe on MARTA. And I understand people, I think we need to solve that problem and make it safer in all of its different variances. We can make it safe and we need to do that. But I would say sometimes too, think about driving down Peachtree Industrial Boulevard you know, sometimes is that, that can be dangerous too.

[00:29:18] Rico: In a different way. Yes, certainly. So Peachtree Corners is a city that likes to talk about itself as a smart city. We have Atlanta Tech Park, which is an accelerator. Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, which handles a lot of startups in there. Because of the street system, the autonomous vehicle presence that we keep promoting, lots of companies are moving here from even foreign countries. And companies are relocating into Peachtree Corners.

[00:29:48] Mary: Right.

[00:29:49] Rico: I know you’re a big advocate for working with start-ups, providing certain benefits for entrepreneurs. So tell me you know, in short, where you stand some of those issues, what you think could benefit Peachtree Corners and what you’d like to work on.

[00:30:03] Mary: Well, I think there’s a couple of things, and again our statistics are showing that Georgia is a great place for a startup company. But what we’re also seeing that after that first year, unfortunately, a lot of our companies are having some issues. That if they can make it to five years, much less grow from, say make it to over 50 employees. So there’s those opportunities. So I would like to look at concepts. How do we, again, connect these startups? And I think that’s what we do in Innovation Labs across the state. Connect them with mentors, successful businesses, support, but not just for the startup. I think it’s, once you’ve hit that certain phase, you’re gonna still need money to grow your business. Now, one of the things is to me, when we talk about angel investors. What happens unfortunately in Georgia, if you’re an angel investor, you will take your money because most startups or most businesses, even if you’re at that six months to one year process, that they’re still eligible or startup angel investors are interested investing in. You sign on that you’re not gonna get any return on your money for at least five years. Well, Georgia tax code makes it difficult that as an angel investor, you’re not going to get the tax breaks for that kind of investment if you invest here in Georgia. Versus if you invest as an angel investor in North Carolina, you actually do. So my husband and I, we do a little bit of angel investing. So, and I’m not saying just for us, but I think we need to make it not just individuals, but also some of these other companies who want to invest maybe in some startup companies that would help their businesses grow and expand and produce some things. How do we make that viable for investment? I think we also, when we talk startups, again, we do talk about we have to have a workforce educated and ready to go for these different new things. So we’ve gotta work on that. We’ve gotta make sure that they want to stay here. We have amazing educational systems, especially in our higher ed educational systems that are doing some amazing research and startup concepts. But we’ve gotta make sure they stay here and that Georgia is the best place to run your business for various reasons. That you have a viable workforce, that you can get the investment capital you need, that your tax rates are gonna be appropriate. We can get this done.

[00:32:27] Rico: Cool. Okay. Last subject, Mary. I appreciate the time you’ve given me on this. So, we’ll talk about community safety. That’s a big thing I think in any community. I think people want to feel safe where they live. They want to understand that crime hopefully doesn’t touch them. But crime is everywhere, right? I think the more that we look at social media, it’s amazing what’s out there. If you watch TikTok long enough, you’d be like, is this happening all over the place? So it’s crazy stuff. The City of Peachtree Corners is using fūsus, a company that does crime center in the cloud. Real time being able to interdit before crimes happen almost. Or while it’s happening actually. And that’s how they were able to find, to some degree, the three perpetrators that did the shooting at the QT on Peachtree Parkway. Killed a young man that, just for his car, they ended up finding all three of them. And I’m sure they’re going to be vigorously prosecuting them. How do you think the state can help in furthering along public safety or community safety in some of these ways?

[00:33:33] Mary: So you know, there’s lots of ways. Some of the things we have approved and some people didn’t like. The road cameras to detect not just speeding, but they do detect a lot of other things. I’m a big proponent as much as possible for local control for certain things. The state needs to support it, but the state also needs to get out of the way. If a local municipality wants to do cameras such as Peachtree Corners is doing to make sure they, you know, and their police department works with that, I think that’s okay. There are some who would like to say nowhere in this state can you do that. It may not be appropriate in certain cities and they don’t want it. That’s okay. My neighborhood, my husband is on the HOA and he was in charge of public safety here in the neighborhood. And we just, in my neighborhood, we put in the cameras so that any car that comes in or out of our neighborhood, we’re recording the license plate. Now nothing happens except if a homeowner reports a crime, the police have the right to request those camera views. So they can at least see if it’s something they can track through that. I think again, the state should never put a restriction that they, even that can happen. Some people say, well, we’re invading your privacy. And I think it’s a balancing act. You know, I don’t want the camera in my phone. But taking a picture of my license plate, I’m okay personally. Some people aren’t. But I think too the state needs to fund more. We know that there are municipalities unfortunately, that we are in a shortage for various reasons. You know, it’s a tough time. Currently there are a lot of things we need to fix. One of the things we did with the Mental Health Parity Act actually was increase funding for training for our officers across the state to get more training in deescalation techniques in mental health crisis situations. That’s one set of issues that I believe our police officers deal with that they need that additional support too. And crime. I think with GBI, one of the things I was talking with also with the Police Benevolent Society, and again, I want to be honest, my son and daughter-in-laws are both attorneys both were Assistant DAs. My daughter-in-law now is a Assistant US Attorney in the Southern District and my son is in criminal defense now. But one of the things that the Benevolent Society was telling me about was that there is a law, it’s called the Giglio rule, that so a DA in an area can say, I don’t like you as a police officer. So I’m gonna say that you are lying. And it’s a little bit more complicated than that, obviously there. If it’s a federal prosecutor who does that, there’s some investigation and that person then goes under what’s called the Giglio rule, which means you’re basically labeled a liar whenever you go to testify in court by law. But the state, while that’s federal and that would be different, but the state actually has its own kind of rules that that can happen here in the state. Police officers right now have no recourse to fight that. And I think they should. So I think we need to look for those things that, not just the violence and the threat of life that they are put under. But what other things, as we also are looking for ways in which to reduce our crime rates, that we can do to make it better for them to be a police officer.

[00:36:51] Rico: Sure.

[00:36:52] Mary: I think we need to have those opportunities when there is an unfortunate police involved shooting. We need to understand that that police officer is also under stress and we need to talk to them and understand that, but make sure that his rights are also preserved. And not just make an assumption.

[00:37:11] Rico: Right.

[00:37:11] Mary: I think there are ways we can go through that. I think we need to re-look at ways in which, how do we, unfortunately open up some of our, let’s call them jail beds, because once you’re in prison, I think that’s different versus you’re incarcerated if you can’t pay a bail. So you’re not even have gone to trial, and yet our system becomes so overloaded with people who cannot make bail for sometimes relatively minor things. I’m not saying everyone should get out, and I’m not saying it should be easy, but we’ve gotta figure out a way. We’ve gotta have more beds to get more people off the streets so they’re not being released when they shouldn’t be. But they’re also not being held when they shouldn’t be. And I’m not the expert on that, but I think we need to look at that.

[00:37:53] Rico: And that gets a little, that gets a little complicated too sometimes. Because I’ve seen, and we’ve seen it on social media, where some things are considered misdemeanors. When you actually look the video of what happened, it’s like, why aren’t they being held on bail?

[00:38:08] Mary: Right. So I think some of that we need to revisit. Many people do need to be held, but there are some, that maybe there’s ways we could do this a little different. To make it easier for our police officers. I think we need to understand from the police officer’s perspective. I cannot imagine living that when I pull over someone just for a traffic stop, that I am walking up to the possibility of someone just pulling a gun on me. And I think that is very dangerous. So I think we need to understand that that’s what they live with. So how do we change that? I don’t know that we can change it one day, but I think there are ways we can work together to make it a little bit better.

[00:38:51] Rico: Cool. We’ve come to pretty much the end of our time together, Mary. So what I’d normally like to do is ask the individual interviewed to be able to ask for the vote. Tell people where they can find more information about Mary Robichaux. And just, ask for that vote.

[00:39:09] Mary: So again I’ve been honored to serve as the incumbent for the last four years for House District 48. And I know to those of you in Peachtree Corners, I’m new there. But I have served there for four years. I think when we talk about, I’m one of those that we need to work with each other to get things done. I work behind the scenes. I’ve never been one that seeks the limelight. As my husband would say, I hide from the limelight sometimes just because it’s not in my nature. When I was in healthcare, I always did things with the patient as the center of my focus of improving whatever project I was working on. When I went to the legislature, I switched that to the constituent is the center of my focus. I’ve taken votes that some would say, why are you voting this way or that way? And that comes from both sides of the aisle, trust me. But I feel that I look at the vote to understand how’s it going to affect my constituents? And then also, how’s it going to affect all of Georgia? Because again, while I represent the constituents of House District 48, I also understand that my vote that could affect all of Georgians will ultimately have an effect on my constituents here. So I try to balance that, I try to think long term. I want solutions. I don’t want to just be stuck in a mire of pointing fingers at each other. If you didn’t do this, so you didn’t do this. We need to move past that. We are a great country. I would like to say I am the daughter of a son who was a World War II veteran. He unfortunately passed last year at the age of 95. My dad was the youngest of eight children. My dad grew up in a two room sharecropper shack in the middle of a sugar king field in Louisiana. And I feel this country allows someone like me to get to where I am now. I live in Country Club of Roswell, have a great life. My family has, we’ve had some great opportunities that we’ve taken advantage of. And I think all Georgians want those same opportunities. And I just want to fight to make sure that we all have that. That we’re all held accountable. That we do it in a way that continues to push us forward. So if you want to find out more about me, again my name is Mary Robichaux and I do serve as the representative currently. My website is www.ElectMaryRobichaux.com. It’s all one word, so if you want more information. And you can contact me through that website also.

[00:41:36] Rico: Great. Mary, I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you and good luck on your campaign.

[00:41:42] Mary: Thank you, that was great.

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City Government

Why Vote in the Upcoming Gwinnett County Elections? [May 21]



On Tuesday, May 21, there will be county-wide elections to choose new judges, school board representatives and party primaries.

On Tuesday, May 21, there will be county-wide elections to choose new judges, school board representatives and party primaries.

For the first time since 1996, the school board District 3 seat (which includes most of Peachtree Corners) is open as Dr. Mary Kay Murphy is not seeking re-election after serving seven terms. Five candidates are running to succeed Dr. Murphy.

There are several open county judicial seats with multiple candidates running. There are also seats open for the Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

Since no Republican candidates qualified for the Gwinnett District Attorney race, the winner of the Democratic Primary on May 21, will become the next District Attorney (DA). If the incumbent Patsy Austin-Gatson wins, she will continue as DA for the next four years.

If one of the other two Democratic candidates wins, they will be unopposed in November and will replace Ms. Austin-Gatson in January 2025. Any voter wishing to participate in the Gwinnett DA race would have to vote in the May 21 primary and request a Democratic ballot. If you’re ready for a new DA, waiting until November will be too late.

Where and when to vote

Voting precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21. Confirm your registration status and voting location at mvp.sos.ga.gov. You must go to your assigned home precinct to vote on Election Day.

Gwinnett offers in-person early voting every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Friday, May 17 at 11 locations around the county. The closest location to Peachtree Corners is at the Pinckneyville Community Recreation Center.

The full list of locations is here. Voters can go to any early voting location, regardless of their home precinct.

Absentee ballots can be requested here and must arrive at the Board of Elections office by 7 p.m. on May 21 to be counted. The ballots can be mailed or put in an official drop box.

Due to changes by the State Legislature, counties are now limited to one drop box per 100,000 registered voters. Consequently, Gwinnett has only six drop boxes for the 2024 elections (as opposed to 23 boxes in 2020). Also drop boxes are not available 24/7, but only during early voting hours. The closest drop box to Peachtree Corners is at the Pinckneyville Community Recreation Center. The full list of drop box locations is here.

Primary Voting is a bit different from voting in the general election in November. You must select one of three ballots:

  • Non-Partisan Ballot: only includes the property tax referenda,  judicial candidates and the District 3 school board candidates.
  • Democratic Party Ballot: includes Democratic candidates for federal, state, and county positions, and the property tax referenda, judicial and school board candidates.
  • Republican Party Ballot: includes Republican candidates for federal, state, and county positions, property tax referenda, and the judicial and school board candidates.

Georgia has open primaries and voters do not register by party. You can select either the Democratic or Republican ballot for this primary election, regardless of how you voted in 2022 or prior years. For some races, like Gwinnett District Attorney there are only candidates from one party, so the winner of the primary will be unopposed in November.

View a sample ballot at My Voter Page.

Here are some of the local contested races on which voters in Peachtree Corners can weigh in by voting in the primary. (Many races on both sides of the aisle have only one person running, and are not listed here).


Both of the referenda on the May 21 ballot relate to the Homestead Exemption, the reduction in assessed value on a property that serves as the primary residence for the taxpayer. For example, if the assessed value on a residential property in Gwinnett is $200,000 and you claim it as your primary residence, the assessed value is currently reduced by $4,000 to $196,000 for the purposes of calculating your property taxes. The lower assessed value is then multiplied by the millage rate to determine the amount of tax owed.

  • Referendum 1: Increase the existing Homestead Exemption from Gwinnett School Taxes from $4,000 to $8,000
    • If approved, residential property owners in Gwinnett would see a reduction in school taxes charged on their primary residence of $76.80 per year (based on the current school tax millage rate).
    • If rejected, the exemption would remain at $4,000.
  • Referendum 2: Create an additional Homestead Exemption from Gwinnett School Taxes of $2,000 just for Public Service Employees
    • If approved, “public service employees” (defined as firefighters, paramedics, police officers, teachers and staff of Gwinnett Public Schools, staff of Gwinnett hospitals, and members of the Armed Forces) who reside in Gwinnett would see a reduction in school taxes charged on their primary residence of $38.40 per year (based on the current school tax millage rate).
    • If rejected, public service employees would not receive an additional exemption but would continue to receive the same exemption as all other residential property owners.

Note: neither referenda, if passed, would affect county government property taxes or city property taxes. The new exemptions would only apply to school taxes and only to the regular school taxes, not any school taxes related to the repayment of bonds issued by the school system.

Judicial races

  • For Superior Court, Kimberly Gallant has received bi-partisan support to succeed retiring Judge Batchelor. Gallant has served on the Municipal Court, Juvenile Court, and State Court.
  • Also for Superior Court, Regina Mathews and Tuwanda Rush Willams have received strong recommendations and bi-partisan endorsements to succeed Judge Beyers.
  • Incumbent State Court Judge Shawn Bratton has also received similar bi-partisan support in his re-election campaign.

School board

For School Board District 3 (to succeed retiring Dr. Mary Kay Murphy), there are five candidates. This almost guarantees that no one will get a majority in the first round and the top two will advance to a run-off.

The first of the two leading candidates are Yanin Cortes, a graduate of Georgia State, a former teacher at Shiloh High School and a successful entrepreneur for the past 15 years.

The second, is Shana White, a graduate of Wake Forest, Winthrop University and Kennesaw State. White is a third-generation teacher (Summerour MS, Peachtree Ridge HS, Sweetwater MS, Creekland MS, and Pace Academy) and a computer science instruction consultant.

White has earned the endorsement of the Gwinnett County Association of Educators, while Cortes has been endorsed by Dr. Mary Kay Murphy and Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason.

Key Republican primary races

  • For District Attorney, there are no Republicans running. The winner of the Democratic primary will be the next DA.
  • For County Commission Chair, there are two Republicans running, John Sabic and Justice Nwaigwe. Sabic ran in 2022 for Commission District 2, losing to incumbent Ben Ku. Sabic has been very visible in the community and is now running for Commission Chair. Nwaigwe is a first time candidate, but is also running a strong race.
  • For State Senate District 7 (which covers central and eastern Peachtree Corners), four Republican candidates are running: Fred Clayton, Gregory Howard, Louis Ligon, and Clara Richardson-Olguin.

    With four candidates, this race will likely go to a run-off between the top two contenders. Richardson-Olguin is running as a small business champion and has received several endorsements from state and local Republicans while Howard has focused his campaign on public safety and education.

The other local Republican races like Congressional District 4, State House Districts 48 and 97, State Senate District 40, and County Commission District 1 only have one Republican candidate each. Those candidates will automatically advance to the November general election.

Key Democratic primary races

  • For District Attorney (which prosecutes felony crimes in Gwinnett), career prosecutor Andrea Alabi has received bipartisan support as she seeks to oust Patsy Austin-Gatson. Alabi worked under former DA Danny Porter, has tried over 1,000 cases, and has never lost a single murder case. Alabi has been endorsed by eight mayors in Gwinnett, including Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason. The third candidate is Daryl Manns, a former Assistant District Attorney who worked for Ms. Austin-Gatson until resigning in 2023. With no Republican candidates in this race, the primary winner will be the next District Attorney.
  • For County Commission Chair, incumbent Nicole Love Hendrickson faces former state representative Donna McLeod. Hendrickson, first elected in 2020, has been endorsed by 12 Gwinnett mayors including Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason, Norcross Mayor Craig Newton, and Buford Mayor Phillip Beard. Dozens of state legislators have also endorsed Hendrickson.
  • For State Senate District 40 (which covers the western edge of Peachtree Corners), incumbent Senator Sally Harrell is opposed by David Lubin. Harrell has served in the Senate since 2018 and has been a strong supporter of the cities in her district, including Peachtree Corners.

The other local Democratic races like Congressional District 4, State House Districts 48 and 97, State Senate District 7, and County Commission District 1, only have one Democratic candidate each. Those candidates will automatically advance to the November general election.

This information was sourced from Peachtree Corners Councilman Eric Christ’s monthly digital newsletter. Sign up for his email list here.

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Elections and Politics

What to know about voter registration and municipal elections in Peachtree Corners



On this episode of Peachtree Corners Life, Diane Fisher, a representative from the League of Women Voters Gwinnett chapter, delves into the world of voter registration and municipal elections in Georgia. With the implementation of automatic voter registration and the upcoming municipal elections in Peachtree Corners, Fisher sheds light on the importance of informed voting and active participation. From understanding address updates to exploring the power of thoughtful voting, listeners will gain valuable insights on enhancing voter engagement in their community. This podcast serves as a guide for residents to make their voices heard and shape the future of Peachtree Corners, Georgia.

Diane’s Email: Fisher@lwvga.org League of Women Voters
Website: https://www.lwv.org/local-leagues/lwv-gwinnett-county
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/lwvgwinnettcounty/

“Being a prepared voter means being an informed voter. It’s not just about the presidential election, but about all the congressional seats, the House and Senate seats, and county positions. So, there will be an awful lot on that ballot. Knowing when and who is on the ballot is crucial for an informed vote.”

Diane Fisher

Time Stamp

0:00:00 – Introduction
0:01:54 – Voter registration process and information for new residents in Georgia
0:05:13 – Voter maintenance and the importance of updating voter registration
0:08:34 – Absentee voting process and how to request an absentee ballot
0:10:52 – Municipal elections in Peachtree Corners, Georgia
0:17:18 – Being a prepared voter for the 2024 elections
0:20:37 – The need to know who’s on the ballot
0:21:31 – Sharing personal experience about involvement in politics
0:23:02 – Misleading information and the importance of understanding the ballot
0:23:45 – Lesser-known positions on the ballot and the impact of voters’ knowledge
0:25:42 – Thoughtful voting and participation in local elections
0:28:04 – Encouraging voters to engage with candidates and attend events
0:29:39 – The process for third-party and write-in candidates in Georgia for the 2024 elections
0:31:25 – Seeking additional information that Georgia voters should know
0:33:28 – Advising voters to verify their voting location due to possible changes
0:34:17 – Closing

Podcast Transcript

Rico Figliolini 0:00:00

Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. Appreciate everyone joining us. We have a special guest today from the League of Women Voters, Diane Fisher. Hey, Diane, thanks for joining me.

Diane Fisher 0:00:11

Nice to be here.

Rico Figliolini 0:00:13

Yeah, this is going to be a good educational podcast. We’re going to be discussing how to be a prepared voter and everything that comes with that for 2024 and municipal elections. But before we get to that, I just want to thank our sponsors, Clearwave Fiber, our corporate sponsor. They’re an internet providing business here in Peachtree Corners, serving over a thousand businesses. Peachtree Corners Life, they’re actually based in the Southeast, and they provide better than what you would expect from a cable provider. Fast Internet connection, great support, especially to businesses and residents. So check them out. Clearwave Fiber also check out EV Remodeling, Inc. Eli, who is the owner of the company. Him and his family live here in Peachtree Corners. It’s a great business. They do design to build renovation work. Lots of good activity out there, lots of good references for them. So check them out, Evremodelinginc.com, and you’ll be able to find out a little bit more about our two supporters that way. So let’s get right into the show. Diane, I appreciate you joining us. League of Women Voters, it’s been around for quite a while. You are the Gwinnett chapter of the organization, correct?

Diane Fisher 0:01:28

We are the Gwinnett chapter. The national organization has been around since 1920, founded out of the movement for women’s suffrage. And we in Gwinnett in this iteration, have been around since 2019. Comes and goes. And so it is relatively new coming back. And so that’s where we are now.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:54

Excellent. So I saw you, I met you at the Peachtree Corners Festival, which is part of what you all do, outreach to the community. And you were out there, I think, at the time when I passed, you were registering a new voter that came on and she was asking questions so similar to what we’re going to do here. We want to know a little bit about how if you’re a new voter and you haven’t voted yet, or if you just moved to the state of Georgia and you have to register here to vote. Because obviously, from where someone comes from, you have to register in the state that you’re going to be voting in at the residence that you’re going to be voting in. So tell us a little bit about what would be needed for someone to register new here in the state of Georgia and Gwinnett County.

Diane Fisher 0:02:40

Sure. So in Georgia, we have automatic voter registration through the DDS, through driver services. And so when anyone gets a new license or changes an address on a license or does anything with DDS, they actually are automatically registered to vote. So we actually have very high voter registration in Georgia because of that. What doesn’t happen, though, is sometimes people you know move down the street, sometimes they move across town, sometimes they move within a county, sometimes they move out of the county. And you do, as you mentioned, need to be registered to vote at your current address. And so it’s important for everyone to make sure that they take care of making sure that that happens. Because sometimes people don’t always update a license in a timely fashion, but they actually move. And the reason why it’s linked to where you live is because who you vote for is determined by where you live, what precincts, and so it is important that you are registered your current address so you can always check. One of the best resources for checking the status of your registration is the Secretary of State has their website which is MVP, SOS ga gov and if you put in your name and birth date and county you can find out where you’re registered to, if you’re registered, where you’re registered, what precincts you vote for, where you vote. All of that information is available on that site. And so we encourage every voter before every election to check the status of their registration, to make sure that everything is above board, that it’s where you need it to be and that nothing happened. Because there is a list maintenance that happens as a regular part of the process and sometimes people are put moved to inactive status if they miss a notice or something like that. So we just always want to make sure that everybody checks their status, which makes sense.

Rico Figliolini 0:04:55

I just did that for two of my kids, I showed them how to do it because they hadn’t voted since they hadn’t voted. So I think one of them, in a decade maybe voted once and I said there’s maintenance, they could purge you from the list and they were still on the list, right?

Diane Fisher 0:05:13

So if you don’t vote in two federal election cycles, then you are moved to inactive status and that starts a process of eventually dropping you off the roll. So you’re not obligated to vote in elections. But obviously we encourage everyone to vote, but it is important to respond to those kinds of requests that you get because they probably did get some kind of notice in the mail indicating that, questioning if they are still at address, that they live, that they were registered, right, no doubt.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:48

And I think younger people have a bit more of a problem following that up because it’s not on their to do list, obviously. I think the demographics show that older people more regularly, younger people less regularly, unless it’s a presidential race and even still sometimes it just depends. And COVID hasn’t helped either, people moving back home with their parents, whether they moved in from out of state, maybe they still wanted to vote for if they were living in New York, maybe they still wanted to do an absentee ballot back up there, and that’s possible, but they wouldn’t be able to vote down, right, right.

Diane Fisher 0:06:26

You can only be registered to vote in one location. And quite honestly, one thing that people don’t know is that if you register so say you move I’ll use your example from New York and you move to Georgia and you register to vote in Georgia. There is not a process like an automatic unregistering. You from New York, you actually have to request that. My daughter, when she moved out of state, it took us a long time to get her off of the voter rolls, know, because you actually have to request that to happen. Most people do not think that that’s something that they have to do. And that’s why sometimes the roles are not updated or updated. You might show up on a place where you have no intention of voting and never voted because you’ve moved and you just didn’t think that you need to do anything about it.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:17

Sure, I think you’re right. Most of my friends would not even think about, oh, I need to know if someone know. Technically, you could end up doing a mail in ballot to New York, let’s say, and vote here, and no one would know the difference, apparently. Obviously we don’t want that happening.

Diane Fisher 0:07:39

There have been cases before the state election board that come, people being caught doing that, and it is not situation. So yes, that is illegal.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:50

It’s a federal offense.

Diane Fisher 0:07:51

It is a federal offense. That is certainly not something that we encourage. And most people who register, they move someplace, they register, they have no intention of voting elsewhere. But young people particularly, or people who are transient, it does mean that you have to pay a little bit more attention and make a plan to vote. I think it’s also important to think about not just being registered, it’s then knowing when elections are, knowing what your plan will be. Will you vote absentee, will you vote early advanced voting, will you vote on election day? What’s that plan? To make sure that you’re actually being able to vote.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:34

So in the state of Georgia, if I’m going on vacation or even an absentee, you don’t need an excuse for an absentee ballot. You can ask for that.

Diane Fisher 0:08:44


Rico Figliolini 0:08:45

So you could go online to one of the sites or which site to go to to get an absentee ballot.

Diane Fisher 0:08:51

Yes. So that depends on the election. And I will say, and I only raise that because we’re coming up on municipal elections here in Gwinnett County, actually statewide, but also specifically here in Peachtree Corners and in Gwinnett, the county does not run the municipal elections. Every city runs their own municipal election. So the answer for coming up for the November 7 election, which will be the municipal election here in Peachtree Corners, is that you need to request the absentee ballot from the county clerk in Peachtree Corners. And if you go to the website, you can get that information. There’s a form there that you can request the absentee ballot for the Peachtree Corners election. Typically for every other election, you would go to the county. Well, actually either the Secretary of state’s website or the county Board of elections office, and you can get the form there. One of the changes that happened in election forms is that you can’t register just on an online portal anymore. You have to print out the application because it has to have a wet signature. It has to actually have an actual signature on it. So you have to print off the form, fill it out, sign it, and then you can send it back digitally. But you can’t just I think there was a time when there was a portal where you could just go on and put in your information and request it. So now you have to print out the form and then return it to the county election office.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:29

But you can scan that form, return.

Diane Fisher 0:10:31

It digitally, scan it, or take a photo of it, and then email it back to the elections office and do it.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:40

So they’re just forcing you to print it out to do that website, which.

Diane Fisher 0:10:45

Means that you now have to have access to a printer, right?

Rico Figliolini 0:10:49

How many people do know?

Diane Fisher 0:10:52

And so that is the process now and where you go. And again, because Gwinnett is unusual, Gwinnett’s one of the few counties in Georgia that the municipalities run their own elections. Most other counties in the area, Fulton, Jacab, the counties run the municipal elections as well. And so what that means for us here in Gwinnett and in Peachtree Corners is that when you go to vote on election day for the municipal elections, you will not go to your regular location where you normally would are used to voting. So at Simpson elementary or at Peachtree Corners Baptist Church or any of the different locations where you always go to your regular precinct location, everybody in Peachtree Corners for the municipal election will vote at City Hall, down around in the room, around the bottom, the community trust room, around the left side of the building. That’s where elections are held for the county, for the city, I’m sorry, for the city.

Rico Figliolini 0:12:02

And there’s one open seat, one open contested seat, I should say.

Diane Fisher 0:12:09

Every other election cycle we would have. So in this case, on the ballot is the mayor, post one, post three, and post five. So the only contested seat is the post five. And post five is an at large seat. And so that means that everybody, Peachtree Corners will vote for that seat. Post one and three are geographically defined, so the first three posts are based on geography. So post one, I think, is the southern section. And then three is the sort of the northern part of Peachtree Corners. So Alex Wright, Is and Phil Sod are in those seats, and those are uncontested seats. And then, of course, the mayor’s race is also citywide, and that is uncontested as well.

Rico Figliolini 0:13:07

So people understand this, come November, you’re going to have to go to two different places to do this.

Diane Fisher 0:13:15

No, the only election in 2020, right. The only election in 2023 is the municipal election.

Rico Figliolini 0:13:23

That’s right.

Diane Fisher 0:13:23

There have been times when you’ve had to go to two places because there were simultaneous elections, but that is not the case now. So November 7 and actually early voting and early voting does start for the municipal election on Monday, October 16. So Monday through Friday from October 16 through November 3 and then October 21 and October 20 Eighth, which are Saturdays from nine to five, is early voting. So you can go for three weeks early voting, including two Saturdays. And then, of course, on Election Day is seven to 07:00 a.m. To 07:00 P.m., election Day, November 7, and that will be just at the City Hall. If you go to your regular polling location, there won’t be anything going on there other than school or church or whatever might be happening.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:19

So people should also be aware, I think, when they send in the absentee ballot, how long do they have? How does it get date stamped if it arrives three days later? I mean, how is that process explain?

Diane Fisher 0:14:32

So, legally, your absentee ballot needs to arrive, in this case, City Hall by 07:00 P.m. On Election day. If it gets there the next day, it’s not going to count. It has to arrive. So if you’re going to be voting with an absentee ballot, you need to make sure that you’ve planned ahead to request it. And I would say request it like today. When you hear this, make sure you request it, and then as soon as it comes, fill it out. And you can actually I mean, if you are local and you’re just going to be out of town, you can actually just bring it down to City Hall. Worry about the postal service. Obviously, if you’re a student who lives out of the area, needs to mail it again, do all of that life ASAP, because the time is a very limited window.

Rico Figliolini 0:15:31

Okay. And just because I’m thinking along this line, if someone was going to drop it off, like if I was going to drop off my son’s ballot, I could drop that off at City Hall. That’s okay.

Diane Fisher 0:15:42

Yes, you can drop off a ballot for immediate family, relatives, so your wife, your kids, a parent. You can’t, though, start collecting from people in your neighborhood and bringing those in, but for close family.

Rico Figliolini 0:16:00

Okay. All right, that sounds good. So the League of Women Voters is known for providing good nonpartisan information to get people to do to vote, to fulfill their civic responsibilities and all. And we talked a little bit about what it means to be a prepared voter before we started. So tell us a little bit, Diane, what does it mean to be a prepared voter going to 2024 into the presidential race, election year, where there’s going to be a lot on the ballot, I’m sure in a variety of states, but even here in Georgia, sure, because.

Diane Fisher 0:17:59

It’s not just about the presidential election. There will be all the congressional seats, there will be all of the House, the Georgia House seats and the Georgia Senate seats. There will be county positions, all of the county constitutional positions will be on the ballot. So there will be an awful lot on that ballot. And so being prepared voter means being an informed voter. So obviously, the first is to know when you need to be voting. And there are lots of elections in 2024, starting in March. The presidential preferential primary will be in March. Then we’ve got the regular primaries in May, and then we’ve got November elections and then any runoffs that may need to happen as well. So there will be a lot of elections. So it’s not just go in and vote once and be done with it. So that’s one thing knowing when all those different elections are. The second is knowing who’s on the ballot. And through that MVP site that I mentioned earlier, the MVP. SOS Ga gov, you can pull up it’s not available right now, but it will be available for 2024. All of who is on your ballot, you can pull up sample ballots. And so that will be really helpful to know ahead of time because I hear people all the time saying, like, I got into the polling booth and I had no idea that there were all of those things on the ballot. I wasn’t prepared. And so you can be prepared by pulling up the sample ballot and actually marking, doing your research. And there are lots of different ways to get information. There are candidate forums. Certainly the candidates themselves are out there putting information out. Will. The league is known for doing candidate information forums as well, and we likely will be doing particularly for our county races. The state may be doing some larger scale ones, but here in Gwinnett, the Gwinnett League focuses very much on what’s happening here in so, you know, doing your research in terms of getting information about not only what’s on the ballot, but then being able to check out the candidates so that you know who aligns with your values and with the things that are important to you. And so that becomes part of the conversation it’s important to have.

Rico Figliolini 0:20:37

Yeah. Coming from New York, I was involved quite a bit in political politics when I was younger, 1820. You see the things that go on, the amount of so doing it for such a long period of time to hear people say, I’m not prepared, or I don’t know who’s on the ballot. It gets really frustrating when there is a lot of information out there between news outlets. Granted, there’s a variety of news outlets, so some agendas on some of these outlets, but for the most part, you’ll be able to get the information out there. Candidates are especially local candidates are doing more door to door campaigning. You will get it inundated with mail, right? I mean, last year or the year before was just ridiculous. The amount of mail that was going out, literally three or four postcards a day coming in.

Diane Fisher 0:21:31

And you have to be careful about that mail because it’s not just the candidates who are sending out mail now. It’s all kinds of organizations, and some of the information is not always accurate or it’s political spin. And so I think if you’re looking to find out candidates positions on things, that’s where it’s important to look at various sorts. So the league does run nationally, a website called Vote Four One One, where we reach out to candidates to get their input so that you can hear from them what they believe about certain things. So we ask questions. There are other sort of neutral, if you will, sites. Alopecia has sort of a candidate profile site. So there are ways that you can get sort of just factual information candidates, as opposed to sort of the political spin that can sometimes make noise. And so we do encourage, but at the very least, pull up that ballot to say, this is what’s going to be on there. So you don’t get in and say, I didn’t know county, the clerk of the court, I don’t even know what that is. Those are the things that sort of sneak up on people.

Rico Figliolini 0:23:02

I mean, they’re lesser known positions. They get less exposure. People either tend to skip over them or they tend to, depending on the politics, tend to either vote for the incumbent because there’s an eye next to it, because that seems safer, or if they want to stir the pot, they’re voting for the other candidate to come in. It’s a variety of reasons, right, that people vote.

Diane Fisher 0:23:24


Rico Figliolini 0:23:24

And then there’s referendums on the ballot, and because they’re written in such legalese, sometimes you may be reading it in that moment at the ballot box and not realize really what it’s saying, because some of it’s written in such a way, you would think, oh, that’s easy, that’s what that means. And then you find out later, no, that’s not what that meant.

Diane Fisher 0:23:45

Right. If I vote yes, it’s actually voting against. That’s right, because of the way that it’s written. Right. And so I think that those referendum and those also those are available, you’ll be able to pull those up on your sample ballot at the MVP site so that you can actually see it and read it and do your research. I mean, I know that I sit down when my kids were first voting, we would sit down and literally go through the ballot and research candidates together. And the referendum questions, even life, talk about what they mean and what the pros and cons, and if we didn’t have an answer, we disagreed or whatever, we talk about it. Sometimes we disagreed and they would vote one way and I would vote a different way. But point being that having that conversation and being informed because that is how we citizens are being able to make sure that what we want is actually happening. I mean, you hear so often people saying like, it doesn’t really matter who I vote for if I vote, because it just doesn’t matter, my voice doesn’t matter. Well, it matters if you do it thoughtfully. And if everybody were to participate, then we’re all in a better place. Here in Peachtree Corners, just going back, we have 27,000 registered voters, and in the last six municipal elections, the most we’ve ever had is a 10% turnout. So like 2700 voters. So when people complaining about whatever they might be complaining about, about the city, you need to actually vote to have your perspective put forward.

Rico Figliolini 0:25:42

It’s the frustrating part. Yeah. When I read things on nextdoor and people say, these people, they have an agenda, this is what they want to do, and it’s like it doesn’t take much. You’re right. Sometimes there’s more than 2700 votes. Right. There’s more than that, depending on the year now, really.

Diane Fisher 0:26:05

More than 10% of the voting. I think that when we first became a city that was a higher turnout, but since then, yeah, it’s a very small and we know there are elections that have been won by 15 votes, there are elections that have been won by one vote. And so especially in these smaller elections, makes it more important to get out there and have your voice heard.

Rico Figliolini 0:26:39

Yeah, especially because, I mean, in small elections like this, it depends on how many friends you have. You’re right. There was one election, I think was the last election that we had, where it was a 14 vote difference or something along those lines. If you want to make change. You have to be involved. You have to knock doors. You can’t just send postcards. You have to meet your neighbors, your voters, and figure it out.

Diane Fisher 0:27:10

I will say, I think candidates these days are very open to certainly the local candidates, the county positions, the state House representatives, and so mean you can go onto their websites, know, ask for a meeting. They will meet with you. And I think that that is important. And it’s important to meet with not just the people who you think you might agree with, but also the other side to hear what they stand for and what they plan on doing. And I think that we are in a time when it is easy to access your candidates, particularly at the more local levels, and go to events that they’re having or send an email and say, I’d love to talk to you. Will you have coffee with me?

Rico Figliolini 0:28:04

Right. Yeah. Some of them will put out their cell phone numbers, and you can literally call them and talk to them because how many people in their district, how many people actually can actually call their representatives? And I think people should be aware that their representative is they’re there to be able to expedite things. The constituent service, if they have a problem with government that rep, that represents you, is there to help make things easier or to at least guide you into what you need to do. They’re there for a reason. They work for you. I know that’s, like everyone says, they work for me. But they do work for you, and you’re the one that votes them in, and you should be able to they’re there to represent you. So to fill a purpose that way.

Diane Fisher 0:28:52

Yeah. You have resources and access that we don’t have, and they’re happy to facilitate things for us. Yes.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:00

So let me ask you. I’m a bit of a political junkie, but you don’t know about Georgia politics as much as I probably should after being here since 95. But now that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. For example, decides he’s going to run as an independent candidate because the Democratic Party, according to him, has not given him the right for a debate or to run properly, they’ve changed the rules a bit, I guess. What happens with a third party candidate in 2024 when you live in the state of Georgia? Can you do a write in on a candidate like that?

Diane Fisher 0:29:39

So, two different things. There is a process for being put on the ballot as a third party candidate. And my presumption, I mean, we’ll often find a Green Party candidate on the ballot or things. So there is a process for that. Write ins are a whole nother story in Georgia. So I know a lot of people know, I’m going to write it in my husband, I’m going to write my neighbor, or I’m going to write in whatever you actually have to register to be a write in candidate. So only, the only write in votes that will count are people who have gone through the process of actually registering to be a writing candidate. If you don’t write in one of those people, it’s not going to count. So they don’t do a tally of all of those. Rico you couldn’t get 100 votes as a write in because unless you obviously go, yeah, so that notion of sort, I’m just going to write somebody in, in Georgia, it’s not possible. The different part, you do not have to be just a Republican or a Democrat to show up on ballot. There are processes for being a registered candidate from whatever party it happens to be.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:11

What should a Georgia voter know that we haven’t covered that may be trivial or not trivial, but detail that most people know that we should mean? Is there anything gone over?

Diane Fisher 0:31:25

So I will say that one of the things that I always say about voters is voters are creatures of habit. So if the last election I showed up and voted in this location, and I voted in that location for the past three elections or ten elections or 20 elections, don’t always presume that things stay the same. We know that we just had so, for example, we know that we just had redistricting with the census and numbers have shifted. And so there is a shifting of precincts and so on. And most of the time you’re going to stay in the same place, but always, again, check to make sure that you know where you’re voting. And just because you always voted at Simpson or New Age building or wherever it might be, don’t presume that that’s where you voted last time, that’s where you’re going to vote this time. Because sometimes because of the ways that the numbers have shifted, they shift. So again, I think it’s really important to always check, even if you think I’m pretty involved, and I check my voter page periodically and certainly before every election, just to make sure that, first of all, my precincts, not just the precinct is the same, but that I know who I’m voting for. Because we know that there were changes in congressional seats and House and Senate races and even County Commission seats. We have a new County Commission situation now from a couple of years ago. And so just knowing where the lines are, because the lines do sometimes change. So I think that that’s something that particularly coming right off of the redistricting situation that we had. If you haven’t voted recently since the last election, you may find that things have changed a little bit.

Rico Figliolini 0:33:28

Makes sense. I know that state House and Senate seats have changed. People have disappeared, or they’ve been drawn out of a district that they were in.

Diane Fisher 0:33:40

They may be running, and the lines have just changed. The numbers have changed. The lines have changed. Yeah, it’s.

Rico Figliolini 0:33:46

Amazing. So it really should go to that website that they have mentioned, MVP.

Diane Fisher 0:33:50

SOS ga gov, if you just remember MVP, if you start typing in MVP and in Georgia it’ll show up. And that really is if you remember one thing from this conversation, I would say remember that. And then the other piece is remember that for the upcoming election in Peachtree Corners, you’re going to be voting at City Hall right.

Rico Figliolini 0:34:17

For 2023. All right, cool. I think we covered quite a bit. We’ve given places that people can go. Is there anything else that you want to share, Diane?

Diane Fisher 0:34:31

I don’t think just I think if we want our government and our society to work for us and we need to be actively engaged with the process and the League of Women Voters is always happy to give information. I get calls all the time, emails from friends, neighbors, people across the county asking questions. So you can always call the county election office. But if you I’m a local Peachtree Corners gal, people are welcome to reach out to me. It’s Fisher@lwvga.org and I’m happy to answer any questions that you have.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:13

Cool. If anyone wants to volunteer for the League of Women Voters, they can reach out to you.

Diane Fisher 0:35:18

Absolutely. We are always looking for new members. As I said, we are relatively new in this iteration and we started right in 2019 and just as we got our feet wet and going COVID happened. And so we are eager to engage people who want to do voter education, voter registration work, helping people. We are nonpartisan. We do not support candidates or parties. So we really are just wanting to make sure that people have the information that they need to be able to exercise their rights.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:54

Excellent. Doing great work. I mean, that’s the biggest battle, getting people educated because walking into that booth, not knowing three quarters of that ballot would be the worst thing to be doing. So I appreciate, Diane, your time with us. We had a little power outage before so this recording took a little later than it was and there was not even a storm cloud in the sky and yet we had a power outage. So go figure. But appreciate you helping with educating our listeners on this. Thank you everyone for being with us. All these links will be in the show notes as well. But do remember MVP, I think if you put MVP elections, it’ll probably pop right up as the first thing on that page. But thanks again, Diane, and appreciate your time.

Diane Fisher 0:36:41

Thanks for having me.

Rico Figliolini 0:36:42


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City Government

Advocating in a Different Way



Lorri Christopher

Lorri Christopher will remain active in the community but wants to pave the way for the next generation of local leadership.

When it comes to Peachtree Corners City Post 5 Councilmember Lorri Christopher, her actions speak for her. Not one to raise a ruckus, her four decades as a resident of the area before it became a city had been chock full of leadership in business, education, and community service.

With all she has accomplished, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this 80-year-old woman with the stamina of the Energizer Bunny has decided she won’t be running for re-election when her term expires in 2024.

“I’m not going to stop advocating for the city,” she said. “I’ll still be Lorri Christopher. I just won’t be a city council member.”

Lorri Christopher in 2021 received the “Rotarian of The Year Award” and within days she was one of seven winners (out of 90 finalists) named in Gwinnett Chamber’s annual Moxie Awards. Lorri received the “Greater Good Award” from the chamber in August 2021. (Top photo by George Hunter.)

A life filled with achievements and successes

Christopher’s bio on the Peachtree Corners website points to a career brimming with numerous titles. Here are a few:

  • Principal in CAP Associates, a human resources consulting firm
  • Computer Information Systems (CIS) Faculty Program and IA Director at Gwinnett Technical College
  • Trustee of the Gwinnett Senior Leadership program
  • Former IT Project Manager for the 1996 Olympics
  • High school Math and Science teacher,
  • Management Information System (MIS) Director and CIS Program Chair at Trident College
  • COO of Atlanta Desktop
  • Co-president of United Mortgage Company
  • Marketing Director of Right Associates
  • Vice President at Midland Associates
  • Vice President of Finance and Management Information System (MIS) for Edwards, Inc.
  • Marketing and technical leadership positions at DCA and Burroughs/Unisys, and
  • Founding Director of Paces Bank & Trust.

Christopher has been well-recognized through the years. She is a recipient of the 21st Century Award from The International Alliance, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) award, and the Triumph Inspiration 21st Century Woman Award. Christopher is also a member of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Academy of Women Achievers.

Her accomplishments include service to the community, business, and charity organizations. Christopher served on the leadership committee for the Center for the Study of the Presidency, chaired the Gwinnett County March of Dimes, and served on the Georgia Alliance for Children Board.

She is a member of several chambers of commerce, including the Gwinnett, Hispanic, Southwest Gwinnett, and Atlanta chambers, as well as the Gwinnett Village Alliance Board. Christopher is a past officer of Fox Hill homeowners’ association and a member-volunteer for United Peachtree Corners Civic Association (UPCCA), Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA), and the Peachtree Corners Festival.

Then there’s her education. Currently a Ph.D. candidate in Information Systems at Nova Southeastern University, Christopher holds an MBA in Business and Finance from Emory University, an MBA in Global Ecommerce from Georgia State University, and a BA in Mathematics and Chemistry from the State University of New York. She has additional graduate studies in CIS at Georgia Tech and Education at Hofstra University — and she holds a number of professional certifications.

“I worked in Peachtree Corners in the 70s and 80s in the Summit Building. Our technology firm, Burroughs/Unisys, was located there where we developed financial applications for the world …we had over 400 people in that facility,” she told Peachtree Corners Magazine in a 2019 podcast. “So, I’ve seen Tech Park when it was in its heyday. I’ve seen it since, and it is so exciting with what’s happening now.”

She added that seeing the vision that she and several others had for the area during the cityhood movement more than a decade ago now coming to fruition makes the hard work worth it.

A vision that’s blossoming

Besides the business growth and economic development, Christopher said she is proud that the city has remained one of the few that doesn’t collect property taxes from its homeowners. And instead of building a city hall right off the bat, Peachtree Corners officials chose to turn the Town Center property into a place for people to gather and be together. 

“We’ve worked really hard at keeping the millage zero and being fiscally responsible,” she said.

Christopher is a pioneer in her own right, blazing a path in Information Technology when women were often relegated to administrative support roles instead of heading departments.

After college, she’d gone back home to Charleston, S.C., and was offered a position as Chief Financial Officer and IT Director for a chain of stores where she’d worked as a cashier in her youth. Even back then, Christopher realized that she didn’t have to tell anyone what she could do — she just had to show them.

That’s what she hopes for the future of Peachtree Corners. She doesn’t want future leaders judged by anything more than their credentials.

It’s that kind of stewardship that Christopher said she’s looking for in her successor. She has someone in mind but insists that she’ll back anyone who has the knowledge, passion, and energy to continue the work that was begun more than a decade ago.

Christopher hopes someone will bring Peachtree Corners into its next phase with diversity and inclusion. “I’d like there to be more people who don’t look like me involved in city government,” she said. “I think it’s important that we do everything we can to make sure that we’re an inclusive city.”

Passing the baton

From the outside looking in, many people may not see the pockets of need in this seemingly affluent area.

Christopher would like the city to start receiving federal funds to pay for things like a homeless shelter. “We don’t have a plan for people that are indigent,” she said recalling a section of Spring Drive that had no streetlights for seven years. “It took too long to get lights there and that subdivision has over 200 homes,” she said.

Even though it’s impressive to gather a list of titles, Christopher stressed she does what she does because it’s the right thing to do — and she wants to see the city continue doing what’s right.

“I don’t want to be one of those people who die in office,” she said. “The City of Peachtree Corners is going to go on long, long after I’m gone. I see my decision as making room for another person.”

Photos by George Hunter

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