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A Talk with Scott Hilton, a Candidate for Georgia House District 48



Why is Scott Hilton running for office? What can be done about Georgia’s almost 14% inflation rate? What is his view on public safety, education, property tax bills and how will he represent Peachtree Corners? Rico Figliolini discusses these issues and more with candidate and Peachtree Corners resident Scott Hilton.

Listen to “A Talk with Scott Hilton, a Candidate for Georgia House District 48” on Spreaker.

“I love Peachtree Corners. This is where we call home. I love District 48. It would be an absolute honor to serve you again. I’m the most experienced candidate in the race. The candidate that’s proven to be able to get stuff done, and the candidate that’s proven to be able to listen to both sides of the aisle, be sympathetic to everyone, listen to folks, and really be an effective leader for you in the state. I’m someone who is a common sense conservative, that you can trust and really get behind to fight for you and your families.”

Scott Hilton

Timestamp Where to find it in the podcast:

[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:17] – About Scott
[00:05:52] – Voting for People over Party
[00:08:32] – Problems in the Economy and Inflation
[00:13:03] – Housing and Education
[00:21:19] – Public Safety Concerns
[00:24:13] – Remote and Hybrid Working Issues
[00:27:49] – Becoming a Smart State
[00:29:08] – Expanded Airports in Gwinnett
[00:29:53] – Movie Industry Incentives
[00:32:03] – Space Ports in the State of Georgia
[00:32:45] – Georgia Tech in Peachtree Corners
[00:34:09] – Scott Asks for Your Vote
[00:35:21] – Closing

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Podcast Transcript

[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. This is one of these shows where we’re talking to political candidates about the upcoming election and their race. And my good friend Scott Hilton is a candidate for Georgia House 48. Scott, thanks for joining us.

[00:00:46] Scott: Rico, great to be here. Always good to see you. Thank you.

[00:00:49] Rico: Same here, glad to have you on. In the meantime, before we get into that interview, a couple of things, I just wanna tell everyone about our corporate sponsor for these shows and for our publications, is EV Remodeling. Eli is a great guy, he lives here in Peachtree Corners does a great job. You should visit him, he does a lot of remodeling, design to build type work. Just been a fantastic person to deal with. So check out Eli’s website, EVRemodelingINC.com. And that’ll take you to his showcase page and you can check out what he’s done. So before we even get into any of the questions for Scott, I’m gonna pull out some of our lower thirds here, and I’m gonna bring on the map so that people can understand where this district. This is a new house district, 48, first time being run in. It encompasses Peachtree Corners and that lower portion, as you can see, and Johns Creek, Alpharetta, and Roswell. Very big difference on some of the districts that are out there. Certainly this is a district that people have to get used to and may not even understand where they live. And who they’re gonna be represented by eventually, but the incumbent, if you will of this newly formed district, which is different from what the incumbent originally had anyway. So I don’t even know how that works, because it’s so different from what it was before. The incumbent right now is a Democrat by the name of Mary Robichaux, who only was elected, I believe in 2019, if I’m correct on that.

[00:02:15] Scott: 2018, yep. That’s correct.

[00:02:17] Rico: So, you’re running as a Republican candidate, you won your primary. You had over 6,000 voters come in. I think it was 6,400 votes come in. Granted, it was a contested republican race for some higher level statewide races there. You know, republicans had more votes coming out and like you said earlier before we got on, probably even some cross voting, maybe coming onto that. Whereas a democratic primary, very little voting going on there. I think the incumbent that you’re facing had only about 3,300 votes in that primary. But she had no opponent, I think in that race either. So that’s just to give a shape to where we are. And now I’d like to discuss a little bit, let some people actually know who you are, Scott. Give some background about where you’ve come from, what offices you’ve held and what you’ve been doing the last couple of years.

[00:03:04] Scott: Awesome. Well, I appreciate, that’s a great set up Rico. Always good to see you and talk to you. Love what you do for Peachtree Corners. I know I read the Peachtree Corners Magazine all the time and there’s always good info found in there. So for me and our family, we’ve been in the Peachtree Corners area and in this district a little over 10 years now. We moved here in 2011. And absolutely love it. And immediately was embraced by the community and got involved in public service almost right away. Joining the United Peachtree Corner Civic Association, my HOA board. Ultimately serving on a number of organizations in Gwinnett, including our local Fowler YMCA. And when you raise your hand enough times, people say hey, have you ever thought about, you know, maybe running for public office and the right doors opened at the right time. And I was able to run for what used to be House District 95. And was fortunate enough to win in 2016 and served in the state house for two years. And got a lot of good things done on behalf of families, in the areas of education, special needs, public safety, and was really proud of the work that we were able to get done. Unfortunately 2018 was a challenging year for a lot of Republicans across the Atlanta Metro area. And we found ourselves on the losing end. For me, like I said earlier, public service has just always been in the blood. And so at that time, Governor Kemp reached out and said, Scott, I’m creating a small business commission to look at cutting red tape and streamlining government for the benefit of small business. Would you lead that initiative for me? And anytime the governor calls, you say yes, sir. And so headed that initiative up for him for the last two years. We’ve got a lot of great stuff done in terms of streamlining government, reducing regulation, and really toward the tail end of our service, becoming a small business triage unit during COVID and helping small businesses with the resources they need to survive and thrive and get past COVID. And I applaud the governor and his leadership in keeping our state open and keeping our economy strong during that very difficult period. I then finished my work there, went back into the private sector where I’m a banker by trade. I’m a commercial banker now with South State Bank. My office is right here off of Spalding in Peachtree Corners. So we now truly do live, work and play in Peachtree Corners. My family is here. And opportunity opened up to run for the house seat again. We’re excited about it, had a ton of friends and family say, hey, why don’t you go ahead and jump on in, give another shot at it. Senator Isaacson, the late great Johnny Isaacson used to say, the only thing that can get politics outta your blood is the formaldehyde when you’ve been gone. And it’s, it’s so true. I found the same with me. I just love the opportunity to help others out. And this truly does feel like a calling.

[00:05:52] Rico: It’s interesting. Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever met a politician, like you said that doesn’t come back in or anything. I mean, they, you have to die in this essentially pretty much. It doesn’t leave. You answered one of my questions about why did you decide to run again? And that, that’s good. You know, you’ve lived here for quite a while. I’ve seen you at Light Up the Corners, you know, Glow Run and I’ve seen you at other events. Of course, you’ve been on the YMCA board. So you’ve been involved in the community quite a bit. You know, you’ve done, I believe a decent job out there. Of course, you know, being a Republican, there are competing issues, right? People believe in certain things and they, some of them will hold true to those issues that they believe in. But overall, I believe that you’ve probably done a decent job out there when you were in office.

[00:06:38] Scott: Yeah, I think Rico, one of the things I’m most proud about is even though we ended up losing in 2018, as we kind of broke down the data around what happened it was amazing to me to see a thousand people check the Stacy Abrams box and then went over and voted for me on the Republican side. And I think it just kind of speaks volumes to people really picking person over party. And that’s kind of our message this time around as well. You know, you can really trust me to listen to you. We may not always agree on the issues, but I’m going to be open, accessible. And like I said, really listen to you. And people admire that and they want that they want more of a uniter in politics than a divider. And that’s what I aim to be. And again, my goal this time is to, yeah, whether you’re Republican, Democrat or somewhere in between I’d love to be your candidate.

[00:07:25] Rico: It’s interesting. Politics is local. I mean, as you go up that ladder towards the Senate race and then the national races, things do get picked apart. And probably even more so now. I mean, if we look at what the New York Times just put out a few days ago about Democrats fretting over the race between Abrams and Kemp. That there’s not enough enthusiasm there right now. And that they’re actually afraid of what you’re saying, that people will jump that ballot. And vote for Kemp and then come back and vote for Democrats on other races or Republicans. More splitting of the ballot than ever before, maybe even in the state of Georgia for this type of race. At least from that top down.

[00:08:02] Scott: I think Georgia’s really unique in that standpoint, they talk about how we’re a purple state, but really a state that votes for good people. You saw Kemp in the primary get 70%. That was huge, you know? And I think as I talk to voters, a lot of them are looking at his record and yeah, maybe in 2018 they said, ah, I’m not sure. But they’ve seen what he’s done and how he’s managed. And I think that’s why Stacy’s having a tough time is, it’s hard to argue against the record he has in terms of keeping our state strong, safe, and on the right track. So we’ve got a good message this time around.

[00:08:32] Rico: And I think he’s avoiding the Trump trap, if you will, also. Trump’s not my favorite person to say the least. I don’t have a problem saying that out loud. I don’t think he’s fallen into that trap really. He’s his own man, it seems at least. So whether I agree with some of his issues or not is a different story. But for the most part, I believe he’s done some good things. And he’s planning to do some more it sounds like. Now biggest issue right now, aside from some of the social issues, which we could get into debates over abortion, for example, and stuff. That’s a very emotional type of debate I believe. So that’s a debate I’d rather leave off this particular talk because it’s just a very emotional type of thing. I think. It deals with beliefs, when life starts, we can agree to disagree about certain things. So let’s leave that aside for a minute, even though that’s an important issue, and then you can state where you stand on it. But I really wanna talk about the problem with inflation right now and the problem with the economy right now. So you have, originally there was high gas, that’s coming down. Now, I don’t know if that’s coming down for any good reason or if that’s gonna go back up as we get into the Fall again. We have 40 year high inflation in the state of Georgia. I mean, I know when I go shopping at Ingles or Publix, the price is like, where are these prices coming from? Food’s a lot more expensive than it used to be. There’s just things hitting the pocketbook with people. And even businesses not able to hire, even with that, not able to hire enough people. Whereas before they would never advertise the per hour job rate, let’s say, now I see it plasted on windows, $15 an hour start. That would never have been put up there. And every business person I talk to, I mean there’s a restaurant, fairly big restaurant that’s supposed to open on Peachtree Parkway that’s not opening yet because they’re afraid to open right now. Because there’s not enough workers to staff the restaurant. Okay. So there’s stuff like that. So tell us, you know, what do you think can be done? I mean, what can be done on a state level? That’s where you would be, so what can be done on a state level to combat that inflation?

[00:10:39] Scott: That’s a great question. Yeah, and Georgian’s unfortunately are really suffering the consequences of, we really overacted in Washington DC, overacted in terms of when Biden was sworn in and passed a number of spending bills that really, if you look at the US money supply, there is so much money out there that is just driving inflation to all new highs. And we’re unfortunately going to be suffering the consequences of that for at least the next year or so. And I know our families face it. Every time we go to the grocery store, it feels like we’re paying double what we were before. And so, what does that look like at a state level and how do we address that? So right now, because of all this spending, Georgia is actually, since we’ve done so well and budgeted so conservatively and done a fantastic job. We’re sitting on a lot of excess cash at a state level above and beyond what we need in our rainy day reserve. So the state keeps a rainy day reserve in case we have another COVID or economic shutdown. We have a few billion dollars above and beyond what we need to keep. And so the decision point for voters is do we elect someone like Scott, who’s gonna look at those resources, allocate them responsibility, even return a lot of them back to the taxpayer to help them combat inflation. And so that’s one of my campaign promises is listen, Georgians need more dollars in their pocket to kind of help combat some of this. The doubling of gas and grocery costs, et cetera. As opposed to kind of further expanding the size and scope of government. Number two, you know, a lot of the pain has come through supply chain issues. And we really need to focus in on, we’ve got a great airport, a great port in Savannah. Let’s continue to invest in those assets so that we can avoid ever having to go through those supply chain disruptions again. And then thirdly, workforce development. I hear the same thing that you do from all business owners that I just can’t find people. And if I do, I’ve gotta pay them outrageous rates. And so we’ve got to strengthen, enlargen our workforce. And so that comes down to education that comes with reequipping workers who maybe were in one industry and want to switch to another. And so I’m the candidate that has proven that I can get stuff done. And we’ll get down there and do that again, to kind of lessen the burden of policies that we’re facing from DC that are having real world impacts on some of the families right now. I mean, it’s easily the number one issue that I hear at doors is Scott, we’ve got to do something about inflation.

[00:13:03] Rico: Right. So talking about inflation, talking about what a state can do and stuff. I just got my property tax bill. I can’t even, I can’t even like, it’s just like, they can say they’re not raising the millage rate and they are right. But when they assess the property that much higher and essentially have increased my tax just by valuation, nevermind by raising the millage rates. It’s ridiculous. So now I understand there may be some support for Governor Kemp’s $500 property tax rebate for 2023. That something he’s proposing. Obviously we don’t know if he’s gonna be governor next year. The assumption is he may be, he may not be. Is this something, I don’t even know if this is something that Democrats would actually support? You would think that they would, but I don’t know. Is this something you support? Do you see this as a value thing? Do you see this as a reasonable thing for property owners? Residential? I’m assuming versus commercial.

[00:13:54] Scott: Yeah, that is correct. Yeah, so Governor Kemp has proposed this property tax relief, which I think is fantastic. Yeah, I mean all of us, we’re not selling our houses, so we’re not realizing the equity that we have, but the tax bill just goes up on the value. A lot of that again is driven by inflation. And so I fully support Governor Kemp’s property tax relief. It’s something that’s impacted again, our family with so many others across the district that I hear about. And so I think that is the difference. Again, as sort of you evaluate the two parties this November. I know my opponent has voted against some budget items that would’ve provided that kind of relief to families. And so yeah, as voters evaluate who they support in the polls. You know again, rather than kind of grow the size and scope of government. I want to return your tax dollars back to you in the form of relief on your property taxes. And so I think it’s just a prudent thing to do. Government is not in the business of making a profit. And so if we can help everyday folks out all across the spectrum, I think it makes absolute sense.

[00:14:53] Rico: Alright, cool. And my other two cents is, I would love to see a cap on these things too. There’s no reason just because evaluations have gone as high as they are, that these assessed values are that much higher. It’s like, I think some of them are like 20% increase. That’s just crazy. Especially if you’re retired. If you’re a retired person, which I’m not, but a retired person having to deal with that. It doesn’t make sense to me. Residents moving to Peachtree Corners because of our excellent schools. There are a lot people coming to Peachtree Corners. There are, my phone is either phone calls or text messages or emails or letters, of people just saying, are you ready to sell your house? We’ve got a cash offer for you. I’m just getting a little too tired of that. But apparently there’s not enough housing in Peachtree Corners. So I don’t know what’s, what is going on and how do we address some of these housing issues and make sure that our schools remain good quality schools, either through funding or programs. So tell us a little bit where you are with that.

[00:15:53] Scott: It’s a great problem to have. Like you said, I know personally we moved to Peachtree Corners because of the great schools. And so a lot of, you know, good education, that’s what drives businesses moving here, people moving here. We’ve got to keep them strong. And so when you ask me kind of what my platform is, it’s number one economy, we’ve gotta get that fixed. Education, got to keep our schools strong. And then public safety, we have to keep our area safe. But yeah, in terms of education, we’ve had some difficult past couple years, right? So with masking of students, keeping folks at home, it’s been challenging. And a lot of our students are behind and we’ve gotta figure out a way to get them caught up. We’ve gotta figure out a way too, to give parents more power in the decision making in regards to their kids’ curriculum ,the requirements in terms of how they go to school, what the school’s requirements are there. We’ve gotta keep our schools safe. I know the governor has invested millions and millions of dollars in keeping our schools safe. But we also have to empower our teachers as well. You know, so many of them have to teach to the test and there’s so much bureaucracy. We’ve got to remove a lot of that red tape and let teachers get back to what they do best, which is teaching. I previously served when I was in the house on the last time, I was on the education committee and was the leader in passing a charter school bill to increase the number of charter schools that we had in Georgia, giving parents more flexibility and choice in their child’s education. It shouldn’t be a one size fits all model. Every kid is different. Every family is different and we’ve gotta make those options available to them.

[00:17:21] Rico: What would you do for public school wise, also? Specifically, as far as program improvements or other things within the public school system, even. Are there any specifics that you would recommend?

[00:17:33] Scott: Well I, again, I support what the Governor’s done. And I think there’s still more room to do in terms of teacher pay. You know, one of the big things he did, is he did a dollar raise rather than a percentage raise. And what that did is that rewarded some of our newer teachers. You know, we need to really focus on the pipeline of younger teachers coming in. I think we’ve lost a lot of that and there’s been a lot of turnover. And we’re losing some of the best and brightest talent that we have in the state. So I would focus on how do we attract newer teachers into that K-12 environment. But then I also want to focus on higher education as well. That shouldn’t be a one size fits model too. We’ve seen a lot of kids go off and get a four year degree expecting a, a job of some type after that and it just doesn’t happen. And so we’ve been kind of trained that, you know, you’ve gotta go through that. Well, that model doesn’t fit everybody. We have tons of technical colleges, schools in Georgia that I want to promote some more that teach you real life skills that you can take to either start your own business or have a real life skill that you can add. And so that’s part of that workforce development that I mentioned earlier that’ll really help companies who are looking for good talent but it’s just not out there. And we’ve gotta bring more of that talent to our state.

[00:18:43] Rico: I think that’s a great idea. My youngest son went through Paul Duke’s Stem. I took a tour through there, we did a couple of articles in the magazine about the school, about their 3D printing about this certification within the school system where these kids essentially can graduate and actually go get a job because they’ve been trained in CAD software and 3D printing, and they can actually go out and get a job. He was, got into that school for the first year and then COVID hit. So interestingly enough, they were digital, they had digital Fridays a lot. So school, four days a week with the digital Friday. And for the last two years, sophomore and senior year, he was essentially out of the school, he was learning from home. And then his senior year, he was actually on the GSU’s Dunwoody Campus for all his courses. So he’s like 38% through ready. He just started Kennesaw, but he’s 38% through his degree practically. I mean, that’s the benefit of hope. That’s the benefit of some of these schools and digital learning. But like you said before, it doesn’t always help everyone. Younger kids, their reading level is shocked, some of these kids.

[00:19:46] Scott: Yeah, and it really pains me. We had these digital learning days and we still have them in Gwinnett and it drives, it frustrates me to no end. Because I don’t know about other parents, but it is really difficult with younger students to have them sit in front of a computer all day and try to learn. And there’s some families where both parents are working and it’s just not possible and it’s not, it doesn’t work. And so kids need to be in school learning. You know, again, another way to kind of differentiate between me and my opponent. I mean, that’s kind of a, my core belief is that we need less of, you know, behind a computer. Not everyone has access to a laptop or internet.

[00:20:21] Rico: Would you believe in more hybrid? You know, the willingness to adapt, like you said, there’s a choice you want to give, right? Charter school is a choice. So why not choice in the school, public school system, whether you want to have a hybrid learning where it’s three, four days a week in class, a day or two digital. If the parents would like that, if the kid, some kids work better that way. It’s an odd thing, right? And some kids work better being in a class in front of a teacher, it’s just the nature of the beast. Everyone learns things different, right? Some people learn better with videos. Some people learn better from reading a textbook.

[00:20:54] Scott: One of Georgia’s largest high schools, and one of the largest charter schools in the state is the Cyber Academy. It’s all online. That was even pre COVID, it was all online. And so for some students who a classroom doesn’t work, they’d prefer online. That’s awesome. We need to have those. Essentially we need to have every channel available for every student. Becau se like I said, not every student is widget, they’re all different and special in their own way. And we ought to be able to accommodate that.

[00:21:19] Rico: Cool. Now we were talking a little bit, you mentioned safety before. And of course, Uvalde, everyone knows that, I think now. And it’s sad, the things that they went through. Over a hundred officers there and yet for an hour, those kids just unbelievable. I just don’t know what was running through anyone’s mind at that point. Now we in Peachtree Corners, so I mean, these things can happen anywhere. Because it only takes that one time, right? We’re fortunate in the City of Peachtree Corners to be able to have certain things going right? There was that shooting at the QT that was essentially solved to some degree and quickly because of cameras, because of Crime Center in the Cloud type of operation. Because things were able to be found here and in Atlanta, through these technical online and in the cloud searches. There’s a lot of that going on. We don’t have our own police force, the City of Peachtree Corners. We have Gwinnett police that we hire to do our work. You know, where do you see safety, as far as what you believe should be brought back into local, into a city like Peachtree Corners? There’s a lot out there, right?

[00:22:24] Scott: Yeah, it’s huge. I mean, you mentioned that QT shooting. I think that was a wake up call for a lot of us, you know? It’s certainly been an issue in Atlanta and the problem is, it’s starting to impact our area. Certainly Buckhead has been struggling with it and it’s kind of creeping up our way. And so yeah, we have a lot of district attorneys and prosecutors you know, democrat prosecutors down in Atlanta who are not enforcing a lot of this stuff. And folks are getting back out on the street and yeah, the QT thing was scary. Because it was folks that managed to steal a car down in Atlanta, drive up here and an incredible young man lost his life because of it. And it’s horrible and it’s a tragedy. And so, you know, we moved to Peachtree Corners for a reason. For the good schools, the business, and public safety. And so yeah, we’ve got to elect folks who care about that. We don’t need to be become a police state obviously, but we need to be diligent about enforcing our laws. And, you know again, another differentiator between me and the opponent is, you know, I’m gonna vote in favor of a lot of laws that restrict the street racing and some of that stuff that’s plagued the suburbs. You know, folks stealing packages off your porch and all that. Just some of the nonsense that’s out there. While my opposition may have voted against that, I’m gonna be in favor of that because I think having a strong community is the underpinning of a lot of things. And so yeah, I think that’s incredibly, incredibly important. And it’s on a lot of folks’ minds. I mean, it’s just, we’re seeing this boiling of the pot of more and more activity. And if you put up with it, it’s kind of the broken window syndrome. And that’s what you see in Atlanta now. I mean, it’s pretty eyeopening to me. Every time I go down there I, you know, see office vacancies and businesses starting to move out. And our capital city in the state cannot go that way. I mean, we were the home of the Olympics. We’ve gotta keep Atlanta strong, prosperous, and then, so that’ll be part of our job.

[00:24:13] Rico: I’m curious what you think as an individual, as a citizen about remote work. What I’m seeing right now is that a lot of these businesses, not necessarily here in Georgia, although some of them too, are really wanting people to come back to the office full time. No remote work. The sad to say part is that the employee has become more powerful, if you will, than the employer over the last few years. Which is a good thing. You know, I think that’s a good thing. And now, because inflation, because of unemployment, may end up rising now because of what’s going on with the fed reserve and the raising of the rates. The employee may be losing some of that leverage they have, to a degree. I mean, do you think people should be going back to work? Like, do you believe remote work is okay or hybrid of that? How would you solve that employee issue that these companies are facing without removing the freedom that some of these people have?

[00:25:08] Scott: It’s a great question. You know, from a state perspective, I don’t think the government ought to be dictating, you know what private entities do with their employees. I think it should be up to the companies and their shareholders and employees. I will say how it impacts us at a state level is when we think about transportation, you know, that’s one of our biggest items we spend on in our $30 billion budget. And I know Peachtree Corners and Gwinnett at large has had a number of votes on Marta and other things over the years and if COVID taught us anything is that we need to be really innovative and rethink how people move around. You know, and you’re right Rico. Now you can work from your home, you can go into the office for a couple hours. It’s really kind of changed what transportation looks like in Georgia. And so we’ve gotta be forward thinking about that and how people are gonna be moving around in the future. But you’re right, there’s gonna be some pretty real world consequences in terms of folks losing jobs over the next, you know, 12 to 18 months. And that’s gonna impact a lot of people. And again, going back to that retraining and educating and equipping folks with new skills to allow them to get immediately back into the workforce is huge. But yeah, in terms of government mandates and stuff, I err on the side of you know, I think businesses and their employees know best what the best setup is for them. I know personally with three kids at home, I enjoyed going back to the office and having a little bit of quiet and stability in our office. But that was the decision that, that we made. Yeah.

[00:26:29] Rico: Right, right. Yeah. Everyone has, I mean, I’ve been working from home for a while. So it does, and it’s a great opportunity for when my kids were in for the most part. I have three, so one of, one of them is still here. The other one’s up in school and the other one lives on his own with his girlfriend. You know, having them down for lunch and breakfast and it’s all good to a degree, right?

[00:26:49] Scott: Well, I think one of the things that at a state level also we’ve been talking about, and I think that what the Georgia house and the Governor have done a real good job on is rural broadband. So right here in Georgia or in Atlanta and Peachtree Corners. We’ve got just about all the internet we need, but there were some sad stories about folks, you know, out in rural parts of our state went all digital having to drive to their local Wendy’s and piggyback off their WiFi in order to go to school, you know? And so we’ve gotta figure out and we’ve got the dollars to do it now, to get internet to parts of the state where, especially school-aged children really need it.

[00:27:23] Rico: Aren’t the federal dollars, didn’t that come in through federal dollars to the state? So then they can allocate it where it needs to go?

[00:27:30] Scott: Yep, that’s exactly right. So Georgia, the Governor’s Office, Office of Planning and Budget is doing that grant process right now to get those dollars in the hands of folks who can build kind of that last mile connectivity. You know, internet now is really kind of the new highway. And you’ve gotta build out these fiber optics to homes that before we weren’t able to reach.

[00:27:49] Rico: You know, we’re at sort of tail end of the interview, but I’d like to hit on a few different issues that we weren’t really thinking about, but things that come to my mind. What do you think about the autonomous vehicle stuff that we’re doing here in Peachtree Corners? Do you think the state should get more involved in creating a smart state? We have a smart city here. I mean, how much? And we’ve had the smart city, I think it was the smart expo. That was the world expo that came here, I think it was last year. You know, what do you think about that? Getting more businesses that are that type of tech oriented?

[00:28:20] Scott: I’ll tell you one of the very first bills that I’m going to sponsor when I get down there is called a regulatory sandbox. And what it is, is if you’re a new startup business, you operate in a sandbox essentially free of any type of regulation to allow you to test out innovative technologies and do things that are next level into the future. You have very few customers, you impact very little folks, but you all, you kind of work out. And then what happens is the government kind of works alongside you and figures out what the right mechanisms are from a regulatory standpoint. But it helps spur innovation, like a lot of the, what we’re doing at Peachtree Corners. So yeah, I am all behind that and I’m all behind, they’ve done it in a number of other states. Arizona, I think Minnesota, these regulatory sandboxes, where you kind of play, you figure it out, you innovate, and you create new business and new opportunities. I think it’s fantastic.

[00:29:08] Rico: I love that idea. Great idea. What do you think about, I know we have Heartfield International, do you think Gwinnett needs an expanded airport to be able to take on more traffic here?

[00:29:19] Scott: That’s a great question. I’m a big believer, I think Atlanta’s doing a fantastic job with its current airport right now. It’s the largest in the world, so. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it is kind of my position. Yeah, I’d love to have something right here in my backyard. But no, I think Atlanta’s doing a good job right now. Yeah, I mean, there’s been some discussion over the years in terms of, should the airport authority be managed by the state or the city? Frankly, I don’t know enough about the pros and cons of each to give you an educated opinion, but I think that would be something to look at or consider, but a second airport in my mind, at least doesn’t make sense at this point.

[00:29:53] Rico: Okay. What about movie incentives? The movie industry, movie entertainment industry has been, we’re the Hollywood of the east coast, right? More productions being done in the state of Georgia then almost any other state in the Southeast. Do you think that should continue? These incentives have really helped build, not just bring in these movies, but build all the peripheral infrastructure around it. Caterers, all the you know, electricians, the woodworker, everything, hotels, stay and all that. Do you think that we should continue with that type of incentive?

[00:30:27] Scott: That’s a great question. So just philosophically, I’m not in favor of the government kind of picking winners or losers in terms of certain businesses or industries. You’re absolutely right. The film industry has been a huge boom for our state and that’s fantastic. But it really seems kind of haphazard to say, let’s get behind film or healthcare insurance companies. I think we, as a government level, we ought to create a level playing field and let folks kind of compete to come here. Georgia is the number one state to do business, really in my mind, I don’t think we need to throw stuff out there to attract folks. I will say in terms of the film industry in particular, I do think that legislation needs to be tweaked a bit. We have a fairly large unfunded liability as a state right now of folks, these tax credits that we’ve offered that have been claimed but have not been sent into receive their money yet. And so the state has somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple billion dollars in tax credits that haven’t been claimed. And so that’s, that’s a liability on our balance sheet. We haven’t put a cap to it. So people can claim as many credits as they can, and that liability continues to grow. So if we were to make changes, that would be something that I’d be interested in tweaking.

[00:31:35] Rico: Okay. I think there was one other change I’d like to see probably on that one. And that is that people can sell, companies can sell their tax credits to other companies that are not shooting in the state of Georgia. I think that’s ridiculous.

[00:31:47] Scott: Yeah, that’s why I talked about the unfunded liability. If we have folks who have nothing, you know, these film companies, their tax liability is in California. So the tax credits have no value to them in Florida. So they then sell it. And we’ve got Georgia taxpayers who have tax credits that haven’t been claimed yet. So, yeah.

[00:32:03] Rico: So that’s, that’s crazy. I agree with you there. A space port. I know there’s a thing on the coast that wants to be, I think it’s in Camden county there. We want to be a space state almost, I guess some, in some people’s minds. Do you think that maybe Elon Musk should be planning a space port in the state of Georgia? Do you think we should be doing something?

[00:32:22] Scott: I think it’s exciting technology. I do know the voters in Camden kind of overwhelmingly voted against it. But I’m in favor. I think Georgia lends itself just where we’re located. We’ve got the coast there. We’d love to compete with Florida on that. So if it’s not Camden somewhere. I think Camden does lead itself naturally to be a space sport, but again, that’s for the locals to kind of figure out if that’s something they want in their backyard.

[00:32:45] Rico: Alright, cool. I think we’ve gone through most of what I wanted to get through. Well, maybe one more thing, one last thing based on that list that I just gave you and that’s Georgia Tech. I know that Georgia Tech is doing Coding Camps at Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners. Love to see what would happen if Georgia Tech decided to do a satellite campus here in Peachtree Corners. I mean, I think it would be a natural extension for them. Is that? I don’t know if the state gets involved in that type of thing. You know, based on Intuitive Robotics buying five buildings, essentially setting up a biotech campus for robotics, for medical robotics. Does it make sense for us to lure, the city of Peachtree corners to lure a college, a university like Georgia Tech to build a campus here in Peachtree Corners. Any thoughts personally?

[00:33:28] Scott: No, I think it’s fantastic. And yeah, I’d do whatever I could to make that happen. I think just given our city’s history with Paul Duke and his connection to Georgia Tech, it makes all the sense in the world. Especially what we’re doing with the Innovation Lab and everything here in Peachtree Corners. So yeah, the Board of Regents is really the important entity to make that happen. I’ve got a lot of connections there, obviously. And yeah, if that’s something that both sides have an appetite for, I would be happy to help facilitate that and make it happen.

[00:33:54] Rico: Great. Thank you, Scott. You’ve been very patient with me and all my questions. Before we leave, I’d like you to tell everyone, you know, why they should vote for you, when the date is and ask for the vote essentially. And where they can find out more information about Scott Hilton.

[00:34:09] Scott: Yeah, no, I appreciate that. And Rico, thank you again for your time today. I love Peachtree Corners. This is where we call home. I love District 48. It would be an absolute honor to serve you again. I’m the most experienced candidate in the race. The candidate that’s proven to be able to get stuff done, and the candidate that’s proven to be able to listen to both sides of the aisle, be sympathetic to everyone, listen to folks, and really be an effective leader for you in the state. I’m someone who is a common sense conservative, that you can trust and really get behind to fight for you and your families. You can learn more about our campaign at ScottHiltonGA.com. And on there, you can click on a map to be able to scroll in, to see exactly where you live in the new district. You can sign up to volunteer. Contribute to the campaign or get a yard sign. Early voting starts Monday, October 17th. I think Pinckneyville Community Center is probably the closest one to us here. That’ll run for two weeks, Monday through Friday and on weekends as well. We encourage you to go in, vote early and get that done. But again, I ask for your vote, early vote and your vote on November 8th. Again, thank you so much for your support. It would be an honor to serve Peachtree Corners and our community again. Thank you.

[00:35:21] Rico: Scott. I appreciate your time here. Everyone, check out Scott’s website and information where he stands on the issues. You can find out a little bit more about him there. Certainly if you have questions for Scott, please direct them to Scott. Because he’s been great about answering all sorts of questions and he is local. So if you’re not gonna ask you won’t know. And be diligent, you know, be aware of what politics, you know, you like you don’t and where you wanna vote. And don’t just stick to one party because you feel that’s the party that you feel overall works for you. You have to really look at the issues and the local candidate running. So Scott, thank you again. I appreciate your time. Hang in there while I say goodbye to everybody. Check out LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com. That’s the Peachtree Corners magazine website. Our latest issue is out. We’re working on next issue right now. If you have any interesting stories, feel free. Send it to Editor@LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com. Always looking for good ideas to write about, good stories to tell. We’re curating things. Check us out online on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook we’re there. And these podcasts of course, and thank you again to EV Remodeling, Inc. For being a sponsor of these programs. Take care guys. Be safe.

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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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