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Peachtree Corners Life

Tim Perry with More About What’s Coming to The Forum



Tim Perry and The Forum

Management is already running The Forum as if it’s Avalon. Starting with the basics like landscaping and security, but also the Friday Night Live music, new tenants are arriving like High Country Outfitters, the multi-family development on the town center side will likely start next summer, plus new businesses coming into a part of the 80,000 sq feet of office space. Learn more through our podcast with Tim Perry, Managing Partner of North American Properties.


The Forum Website: https://theforumpeachtree.com
The Forum Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theforumptc

“We’ve been excited about the Forum for years, even though we just purchased it earlier this year. And (we’re) excited about working with Peachtree Corners because it’s such a great community.”

Tim perry

Timestamp (where to find it in the podcast):

[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:22] – North American Properties in The Community
[00:05:58] – New Types of Retail Coming
[00:08:48] – Breaking Ground on Residential
[00:11:00] – Plans for the Office Space
[00:13:49] – How the Economy Affects Real Estate
[00:22:57] – Making the Details Matter
[00:26:00] – Closing


Podcast Transcript:

[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. I appreciate you guys joining us. We have a great guest today, Tim Perry, managing partner of North American Properties. Hey, Tim, how are you?

[00:00:42] Tim: Doing great, Rico. How are you today?

[00:00:44] Rico: Good. Beautiful day, when we’re recording this live. Hopefully this will be an evening when people view it. Tim’s the managing partner of North American Properties, owners of as many people know the Forum now. But before we get into this interview, I just wanna say thank you to our corporate sponsor, EV Remodeling Inc. and Eli, the owner and resident of Peachtree Corners. They’ve been a great supporter of our journalism in the magazines and these podcasts. So just want to do a shout out to him. They do design-to-build and they’ll come in, remodel everything about your house inside and out. Done great work. He’s on Houzz if you’ve ever used that. Houzz.com. Check him out. Check him out at EVRemodelingInc.com as well. And for transparency’s sake, I also wanna say that the Forum is a supporter and advertiser in Peachtree Corners Magazine as well. So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way. We’ve been talking about the Forum, this stuff going on for probably six to eight months. So I’m glad that you’re on this podcast sharing with me a little bit about what’s gonna be going on over the next year or so. At this point, I think people are a little bit used to seeing stuff going on at the Forum, like the Friday Night Live music, some of the local bands you’re bringing in. Kind of neat. And I know Ted’s Montana Grill participates with popup bar set up there so people can actually go drink and enjoy some music. Across the way from Town Center on a Friday night. How’s that going? Now that you guys own everything, zoning has been approved and all that, how are you guys doing with that, all this so far?

[00:02:20] Tim: Well thanks for having me on today, Rico.

[00:02:22] Rico: Sure.

[00:02:22] Tim: We’ve been excited about the Forum for years, even though we just purchased it earlier this year. And excited about working with Peachtree Corners because it’s such a great community. Operationally, I mean, you can look down at our track record. In fact in gosh, 2011 when my predecessor and I, Mark when we bought Atlantic Station. These properties or the opportunity that is created by the lack of past investment is what we do. So it’s front loaded from an expense standpoint. You spend the first year or so, or more, really activating the property and spending the money to build that community connection. And then you have to build in the physical infrastructure you need to actually execute it longer term. So while we’re doing Friday Night Music and things now, we’re having to repurpose parking lots and streets and everything in order to do it, versus actually having the public realm. The lack of public realm at the Forum, like Avalon or Atlantic Station or others, it created the opportunity for us to bring the public realm there and have somewhere to host these in the future. So you just have to kind of plow through it and embrace the community. And that’s what leases space, and that’s what attracts the merchants, and that’s what attracts the restaurants that turn this into long term. So we’re running the Forum like it’s Avalon, even though the leasing has you know, trails certainly that merchandisers are showing that activation.

[00:03:43] Rico: Right. Yeah. And I think most people know at this point in Peachtree Corners traveling through the Forum, that there were as many as, I think 20 storefronts empty at one point. And of course, just also to be fair, there were people that were opposed to some of the zoning adjustments and stuff. But in the end, I mean, driving, creating, and keeping the way the Forum is by before you purchased it, just didn’t make business sense, right? Buying it, redeveloping it. I mean, you guys have a track record with Atlantic Station, Colony Square. You’ve done the Avalon from ground up in Alpharetta. And prior to us starting this podcast, we were talking like you mentioned, front loading that investment. Getting people used to, I mean, you guys supported really well, Light Up The Corners. And I think that’s a perfect example. Better than it’s been done before. Giving way more space to it than it was given by the prior owners of the Forum. Now I think that was a great first step that you guys gave. Just, it was a good experience, I think, for most people.

[00:04:46] Tim: Well, thank you. Yeah. We’re getting there for sure. And the additional zoning and all that we went through for the approvals for the public realm and the additional parking. All of those components really are gonna create the space where we can activate. And then the additional density, whether that’s filling up the office space that’s there, or it’s bringing 381 residents, or it’s bringing people in the hotel to the property. It’s not just the people that are there, it’s them and bringing their friends and bringing their family and their kids’ friends.

[00:05:16] Rico: Right.

[00:05:16] Tim: And then the community. And that coupled with having a great public space is what makes it all successful. And the retailers and the merchants are responding to our plan, which is very active on the north end and very active around the plaza. In front of Grace and Belk. And now it’s merchandising. It’s filling in the food, the beverage, the patios, and that retail run. Because ultimately successful retail all sort of has a track effect. You go up one side of the street, you come back down the other side of the street, yeah. If you get off that track, it’s why malls work, right? You go to a two story mall, you go down the mall and you go upstairs, you come back. That’s why when you see a third story in a mall, it’s almost always empty. There is a certain habit to how people engage with the property. And we want that to start and finish there in the plaza.

[00:05:58] Rico: Yeah, I get that too because, for example, my middle child, 24 years old, she goes to the Forum basically for Lulu Lemon, Ulta, and that’s about it. Once she gets there and she leaves. I mean, she doesn’t really eat there. Maybe she gets her, I don’t even know if she gets her eyelashes done there or not. But those are the two stores that she basically goes to. And then, but she loves Avalon. She goes there with her friends all the time. And they’ll stroll around after dinner and stuff. So I get that because her generation is not gonna be doing that track because there’s not enough. There’s not the right retail, I think. You could have enough retail, but if it’s not the right retail. So tell us a little bit about that. I mean, it’s not just retail, right? I mean you’re looking, I think, at also bringing entertainment of a sort, besides concert and music. But tell us a little bit about the type of retail that you’re starting to get besides Chopped and now I just saw High Country Outfitters is coming.

[00:06:56] Tim: High Country Outfitters is coming. We’ve got a brewery that’s looking at taking a spot. We have a distillery that’s looking at putting an onsite distillery there as well. As we know, we’ve got a food hall on the north end. LuLu Lemon is working to expand right in that location as well. And then it’s fortifying the tenants that are there. And then from the entertainment side, it’s not, there’s not a space to do anything that’s a really large format. There’s no theater, there’s no bowling alley type thing. But that, there’s a niche now, and I call it competitive socializing, right? And it’s been around forever. We just kind of gave it a name. And it’s bowling, it’s golf, it’s darts, it’s ax throwing. It’s all of these different things you can do. It’s pickle ball, it’s tennis, it’s corn hole leagues bringing all that into the mix, both from a tenant and an activation standpoint. People want to do it, I want to go out and I want to play a game or watch a game with my friends. So there’s a whole niche around this sort of competitive socialization of a retailer that’s coming as well. And then the soft goods piece follows. And the Forum’s always had the demographics and the density of the market to support it. That was the original reason it was built. And now it’s just putting in the newer, more emerging brands into the center and that kind of retail run. I’ve said this to you before, is you walk down one side, you work the track. You sort of get to where, maybe where Lulu is and you look down, you’re like, ah, there’s nothing else down there. And you turn around, right?

[00:08:18] Rico: Yes.

[00:08:18] Tim: You’ve gotta extend that track. So the improvements that are on the north end by the office are meant to pull you. Kind of go down and come back through. So that retail run will be built, but kind of get filled out soon.

[00:08:29] Rico: Yeah, interesting. Because I know when I go there and I want to park and I need to get something, it’s almost like, do I wanna go down that stretch because there’s, maybe I wanna get something at Jason’s Deli. But I have to go all the way down there for that and there’s nothing else along the way that would be of interest. Except for the chocolatier, because I’m a nut with that, but.

[00:08:47] Tim: Right.

[00:08:48] Rico: But yeah, I understand. And you’re right, that competitive piece, entertainment piece. I mean, it’s such a big thing now. I mean, you’re getting VR, XR type places coming where you can eat, drink, and go play. And that’s the attitude everyone, I think a lot of kids that grew up over the last two decades are adults now, right? They want to, everything’s a gamification of something. So they want to be able to be out there and enjoy themselves and do all that. And I know bringing like 381 apartments to the Forum itself is going to help with that. In fact, you know, what’s the timeline on that? I know for a different timelines on there. Any thought about when that breaks ground?

[00:09:30] Tim: Well, it’s really the residential that the city approved for us on both sides of 141, right? So that’s a lot of residents that are coming and pieces that are now going to connect the bridge and hopefully draw people back and forth. I know this weekend, is it a Prince cover band?

[00:09:44] Rico: Yes, I think so, yes.

[00:09:46] Tim: That there on the Town Green. Now, I’d love to see people parking on the Forum side and walking over. It should be a beautiful weekend, I think. So hopefully that works. But using that as a transit piece going back and forth. So it’s really the residents on both sides that fuel both sides, again, of the property. So we’re excited to have those. We’re excited to have the hotel and that just brings more people into it. But the gamification of everything is important. So next summer is roughly when we hope to begin the public realm improvements. And we want to start, we want to have those tenants open. The new tenants open, that will announce as we sign leases. New tenants open for the holidays in 24.

[00:10:25] Rico: 24, okay.

[00:10:26] Tim: Just building space or public realm, is not as, it’s not that time consuming. But once we get a space and you hand it over to a tenant, there’s still a four to six month process for a tenant to put their stuff in, and FF&E, and decorate, whatever else. So there’s that entire stretch, you kinda have to add onto the end of the landlord’s work with projects. And then the part with the multi-family side, being the east side of 141 can start as early as next summer. And then on the Forum side, that is probably a 2025.

[00:10:56] Rico: Alright.

[00:10:57] Tim: And the hotel may move more quickly than that

[00:11:00] Rico: Really? Okay. Getting back to a little bit about the office space, there’s about 80,000 square feet. I didn’t realize how much square feet there was of office space there. And most people don’t even think about that, like I said, unless they go into Innovative Help there, the dentist, Dr. Talley. Or unless they have a professional service they’re going to over there. But most people don’t even think about that. How is that? What plans do you have there? I don’t even know what the vacancy rate is right now. But what plans do you have there moving forward?

[00:11:29] Tim: We’ve signed our first lease. It’s a pediatric medical use, pediatric dental use. So we’ve got that. And the building there above Trader Joe’s, there’s three floors. It’s got a fair amount of medical space, which is great. It’s convenient, it’s embedded in the neighborhood. There’s nothing like taking your kid to the doctor and then going down to the chocolatier, right? For a little snack.

[00:11:48] Rico: Right.

[00:11:49] Tim: It’ll make you forget about that shot, right? So it’s a great place. It’s a great use for it. And then there’s, there’s a lot more space though above like Pottery Barn on the second floor. And previously, about half of that is leased and the other half was part of the Spa Sydell. You remember Spa Sydell?

[00:12:04] Rico: Right. Yes, yes.

[00:12:06] Tim: And so we’ve actually gutted that space and opened it up to use it as office rather, than a service provider. It was very chopped up. We were already talking with a tenant about that space. We’ve been talking to one tenant where we would’ve to move a bunch of people around that would take a lot more space than we even have. So demand in a mixed use environment for office is always really strong. And if you look at all the uses top to bottom, whether you’re a guest for a few hours because you’re there shopping or dining, or you’re a guest overnight in the hotel, or for a year, right?

[00:12:40] Rico: Right, right.

[00:12:41] Tim: As an apartment resident or for multi years as an office tenant, everyone wants the same thing. They want what’s outside their door. Not what’s inside their door. So, the retail, it pulls people through a retail and creates sale, which creates a longevity to those tenants. So when your daughter goes back, there’s always her favorite store where she’s gonna go and shop. Same with restaurants. She’s always going to have her favorite restaurant that’s going to be there. And for those who don’t know Grace is closing and rebranding and reopening. But the business itself sold. It wasn’t anything that we instigated. It was something we were told. It sold, and we’re really looking forward to working with the new owners there.

[00:13:20] Rico: Yeah, I think they’re the same owners of Stäge is what I understand. Or associated somehow with them.

[00:13:26] Tim: That’s correct, that’s correct.

[00:13:27] Rico: And I think it’s a French oriented restaurant. Somewhere along those lines, from what I understand.

[00:13:32] Tim: So we’re excited about that. And that’s such a great corner. You know, businesses evolve over time. We’re really happy to have a fresh face in that corner. With the Plaza, it’s gonna be such a key corner. Everybody parked in the deck and everyone going to and from cars. Everyone getting either car valet or coming to an event, it’s gonna be right outside their door.

[00:13:49] Rico: Yeah, they’re going to have a lot of value there, I’m sure for that. And I know Grace 1720, I mean, they’ve been there, they were there a long time. So it was, I think the owners just wanted to sell at that. I think they’ve gotten to that point, the original owners, I think. But that’s cool. So, people are looking at the economy right now, right? A little bit. They’re looking at some inflationary stuff. Who knows what’s gonna happen over the next 24 months or so. There’s so many people. And even the people that are supposedly experts have been getting it wrong, for a while now.

[00:14:19] Tim: Right.

[00:14:19] Rico: It seems. Yeltsin, I think just admitted that she was wrong a little bit about her predictions a year or two ago. How does that affect the Forum moving forward and stuff? Do you hear anything on that or is that even an issue at this point?

[00:14:32] Tim: Well we’re very fortunate to have a large institutional partner. And the rise in interest rates alone isn’t impacting the Forum because there’s no debt on it. So we’re blessed not to have that increasing cost as a detriment to our ability to execute on the plan. And because we’ve set out with a business plan to do all of this in closing, all of that was capitalized as part of what we’ve agreed to go forward and do. So there are still a lot of things to work through with the city. I mean as we said during the development. Entitlements aren’t designed right?

[00:15:07] Rico: Right.

[00:15:07] Tim: You still have to get through and spend the design dollars and the permitting and the approvals and everything with the community review and zoning, design review. So we’re working through that with the city right now on different components. I think from a tenancy standpoint, there’s definitely risk, right? There’s tenants, regardless of what they are, tend to swing sometimes strongly, one way or the other from let’s not do anything and wait to, oh my gosh, I’ve gotta do 200 new units across the country this year. I’ve gotta get going.

[00:15:36] Rico: Right.

[00:15:36] Tim: And what we’ve seen is some slow down. Not everyone’s leaning in to, expanding as fast as possible. But good location, good real estate, is fundamentally good real estate. So there may be locations for national tenants that aren’t moving forward, but something like a Forum, an Avalon or Avenue East Cobb or some of our other projects are not those. Just amount of interest, the amount of expansion. Especially at this point, rather than five years down the road when it’s probably more expensive to lease space there but there’s less of it. At this point, the real good real estate continues to lease. And the Forum, the Forum is catching that. There’s a flight to quality in almost all economic downturns. And that means office, right? You have a lot of options. I want to go the A location or the A property or the A product. And the Forum is the A location, the A product, in an A property. So it’s kind of all of the, checks all those boxes.

[00:16:34] Rico: Yeah, it makes sense. I mean, it really, within the city of Peachtree Corners, it’s actually the only A retail besides Town Center, right?

[00:16:41] Tim: Right.

[00:16:42] Rico: So if you’re coming to Peachtree Corners, I mean, this is the place to do it, I guess, right?

[00:16:46] Tim: Collectively with Town Center, that’s what creates the A location. That’s what creates if you’re talking about downtown Peachtree Corners. And that’s how we sell it, and that’s how everyone should think of this is downtown Peachtree Corners. This is my amenity. This is where we take our family. This is where we take our friends. This is where we go to spend some time. And now soft goods want critical mass, and there’s not critical mass at the Town Center side. So that’s where the Forum would be different than Town Center. And not compete directly. I mean, there’s still a need for that QSR and that Center on both sides.

[00:17:16] Rico: For sure. And I think as people, as I’ve spoken to people at business association meeting chambers and other business people. The economy may shift and do certain things, but that doesn’t mean every business is affected the same and equally by that. And I think you’re right. I mean, there are a lot of businesses taking this opportunity now. Because it makes sense to be able to do what they need to do. Because like, you’re right, five years from now, even if we get into a recession at some point within the next year or two. We come out of a recession. It’s not, businesses don’t stop, right? If they’re fundamentally a good business and they’ve planned out and they’ve budgeted out what they’re doing, they’re not going to stop.

[00:17:58] Tim: Right.

[00:17:58] Rico: They’re just gonna keep going because that makes sense. Unless it was done, unless that decision was done on bad principle, right?

[00:18:05] Tim: Quality and talent, right? I mean, companies want to, you’ve gotta keep your talent. Because there is a backside to this.

[00:18:11] Rico: Right.

[00:18:12] Tim: And you know, the most valuable commodity we all have is our time. Our time and our talent. So keeping it all together and staying the course. That’s the reason we only buy you know, really well located class A locations. Even if the property has fallen out of that classification, we can bring them back. And you look at Colony Square and Midtown, these are 50 year old buildings.

[00:18:30] Rico: Yes.

[00:18:31] Tim: But from an occupancy and from a leasing, from an occupancy and from a rental standpoint, they compete with the class A market. Just things, the products that are 10 years old, right? So it competes in that sector because of the quality of the location, the quality of the experience. The amenity downstairs.

[00:18:46] Rico: That’s right. I agree with that. I mean, before the rezoning there were people talking about, oh, do we want multifamily there? And what’s that going to do and stuff. And after, I guess some experts out there, like after you get three cycles of tenants, then it falls apart. And I look at that and you look at the apartments in Peachtree Corners, most of them are like garden apartments. We don’t have mid-rise apartment buildings in Peachtree Corners. It’s a whole different animal. And especially where it’s going to be located. It’s a whole different animal. It’s almost like when discussing, people would tell me, yeah, but then in seven years it’s going to be bad. And it’s like, what does that mean?

[00:19:24] Tim: Right.

[00:19:24] Rico: That means, if that happens, the whole downtown area is bad, is what you’re saying.

[00:19:28] Tim: And because where one goes the other follows. But we’re not gonna let that happen. You know, if you keep the street, if you keep the life. We say it all the time. We’re not leasing space, we’re leasing lifestyle. And that’s the difference between a garden apartment and this. You know, if somebody’s either need to live here because of something, then there’s a big wide market. I can live in a lot of different places. If there is a desire to live somewhere because I want to live that life. Then there are very few. And that’s where the resident profile is so different in a mixed use property. It’s older. It’s almost driven more by, well it is, it’s driven by their lifestyle. I want to go downstairs and have wine. I don’t want to cook. I want to go to the beach for two or three months at a time, but I still need to come up here and meet a client. Or just my doctor, my friends, my golf course are all here so I need that. And it’s not, that’s true in every market. We see it at Avalon all the time. Unless someone moves out and moves to the beach full time, they typically move into a town home or something that’s right around Avalon or downtown Alpharetta. And we have the same thing. Just last week, we had a grand opening, a grand reopening, a celebration of our redevelopment. Almost identical to the Forum called Birkdale Village. That’s up in Huntersville, North Carolina. Just north of Charlotte up on Lake Norman. Almost identical. I mean, if you go to BirkdaleVillage.com, and if you look at that. The stage, the sound, the concierge, it’s all going to look almost the same. So go check it out. In fact, it’s a beautiful property. We just opened it last week. And I was there and talking with someone who was attending. And they were a resident, they were in their fifties. They had a house at Hilton Head. They had sold their house across the street of the country club and were building a house in Bluffton. And they wanted a home base next to their doctor, their friends and their kids who lived in that park. But they wanted to lock and leave, and they wanted to be able to walk downstairs and sit outside on a beautiful day or what else and not drive. And not drive, right? And that’s the profile. And it’s very consistent when you get into these mixed use. I guess everyone is a resident by choice, because you can choose wherever you wanna live. But it’s really a renter by choice because they have an option of owning or buying.

[00:21:36] Rico: Oh yeah. One of my writers lives in downtown Duluth. Him and his wife saved quite a bit of money. He likes writing for me part-time in about stuff going on in Duluth. He just started and he lives right on, like right there in downtown.

[00:21:50] Tim: Right.

[00:21:51] Rico: And they rented it. They thought, let’s test out this. We could always go to a different rental place down the block if this one doesn’t work out. So they’re testing out stuff and they love living downtown. They just go down to the restaurants, they go to the concerts on the town green there in Duluth. It’s a beautiful area. You know, it’s a nice downtown, but that took a while to build up that downtown.

[00:22:12] Tim: Right. And we’ll see how the recession affects ownership because it’s more expensive to own. Which means there’s typically, you know, it’s kind of a slow down. And one thing has to reset. Either the price of homes have to come down or your interest rates have to come down. Either way, kind of supply, marketing. It kind of slows down a little bit. And I think that’ll create probably a net zero effect. People who stay in a resident, an apartment longer because they think they can get a deal on a home, they maybe willing to sell less. People still have to move.

[00:22:41] Rico: Right.

[00:22:41] Tim: Or they may say, you know what, we’re going to hang out here and wait for the recession to blow over so I can get a lower rate and afford more home than what I may be able to afford now. So it’s gonna be interesting, but it’s the same kind of tenant, resident profile in both those cases.

[00:22:57] Rico: Yeah, and I think also the way that you all look at, just the look of a place also. I mean, I could see the difference in even the plantings of the flowers when you guys first took over. Whereas before it almost looked like, they just did minimal planting and then later it looks like, wow, this, did they build that up? Or is this just more flowers there? Just the little things like that to me because I notice those things make a difference. Because that tells me they’re paying attention to the detail.

[00:23:26] Tim: Yeah.

[00:23:26] Rico: High Country even, their facade is a lot different than the other places.

[00:23:31] Tim: Right.

[00:23:31] Rico: The other stores there.

[00:23:33] Tim: You eat with your eyes, right?

[00:23:34] Rico: Yeah, I mean.

[00:23:35] Tim: We say it all the time. That’s kind of a big evolution. Tenants, these neutral colors and just slap a sign up on the building.

[00:23:43] Rico: Yeah.

[00:23:44] Tim: It all looks the same. That’s not the current market. I mean, if you look at Avalon, that’s, we broke ground at Avalon in 2012, I mean ten years ago. Look at all those different storefronts. And now each of those. I guess it was ’13, so almost ten years ago, nine years ago. Each of those storefronts as you put new tenants in will express itself. And that’s a really important part of creating that eat with your eyes, that experience.

[00:24:09] Rico: Yeah.

[00:24:10] Tim: I like to say, I’m glad to hear you say you notice those things. If everything is right, you don’t notice anything, right?

[00:24:16] Rico: Right.

[00:24:17] Tim: You walk through it, and it feels good. I don’t know why it feels good. I can’t say it feels good because of the flowers or the lights or the music. It just feels good. But if you walk through and it feels bad, you know exactly why it feels bad. And so, those things, people notice when something’s wrong. And when it’s right, they don’t tend to. They just, it just feels good. So we like to hear people notice when things are wrong, because that means we can go and attack it and fix it. We’ve been doing that ever since we closed in March. Glad to hear it makes a difference. I mean it’s gum on the sidewalks to flowers, to planting, to music, to lighting. To consistent uniforms. Even with outside vendor, like the custodial team. It’s that one vision, one shared understanding of what excellence means and a strive to create it.

[00:25:05] Rico: Yeah, I’ve noticed that. I’ve noticed the uniforms. I noticed security, more security. They’re dressed in a certain way also. Which is good. I mean, people want to feel safe as well, right? To where they go.

[00:25:17] Tim: How many real estate owners have a grooming standards in their operating manuals, right? You know? So not a lot.

[00:25:24] Rico: Yeah. No, no. And you have apparently.

[00:25:27] Tim: And we have. Right. We have to say everything matters, right? Good enough, never good enough, so.

[00:25:32] Rico: Yes. No, I love the idea of Disney World, Crown Plaza. The idea that when people, the way you say when people step on the property, you want people to feel welcomed and safe and know that they’re gonna be taken care of. So it’s all good.

[00:25:47] Tim: We want them to come back, right? We want them to come back. We want people to say, this is my Forum. It’s not mine, it’s yours. It’s yours because you want to come use it. And if there’s something wrong with your property, your Forum, tell us what it is.

[00:25:59] Rico: Right.

[00:25:59] Tim: We’ll fix it.

[00:26:00] Rico: Cool. Well, we’ve been talking to Tim Perry, managing partner of North American Properties. Just a lot going on there and I know there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes that you probably can’t talk about. Retail partners that may be coming in that slowly your team will be sharing who they are at some point. Anything else you wanna tell us, Tim, about things moving forward that you’d like to share that we haven’t touched upon?

[00:26:24] Tim: We’re gonna start our holiday activation this year. So November 18th is actually our tree lighting and our holiday parties. We’ll have an event that day. I want everyone to come out, park on both sides, walk across the bridge, use it, come over. And we really look forward to getting on the true design right? I mean, not just the renderings and things people have seen in the papers, but the plans ready so we can get this thing moving next year. But we’re looking forward to the holidays this year. We’re looking forward to some great new announcements. Keep coming out to the events. That’s the best way to stay engaged with what’s going on with the property. And in 2024 we’re all gonna have a plaza and a whole list of events and new breweries and wineries and distilleries and retailers to enjoy. And it seems like a long time on the front end, two years from now, we’re gonna go, wow, it seems like yesterday. But we’re really big on doing what we say we’re gonna do. And we’ve been saying what we’re gonna do now we’re gonna go do it.

[00:27:20] Rico: Yeah, time flies. Seems like it’s going to take a while, but by the time we get there, you know, it’ll be like, wow. This is the way it’s gonna look, okay.

[00:27:28] Tim: Right, right.

[00:27:29] Rico: So cool. Anyone that wants to know more about what’s going on at the Forum, you could check, follow the social media, the Forum at Peachtree Corners. Right, the Forum at Peachtree Corners. They have a new logo, obviously, I think listeners should know a bit more about that. So follow them on Facebook as well. They have a newsletter, I believe. I think you all have a newsletter that can be signed up on, on your website.

[00:27:51] Tim: You can sign up on the website for email blasts and newsletters and that kind of stuff. And follow our social media. We have a social media coordinator on every property as well as marketing, event planning, and all that kinda stuff. So we’re really active on social media. Follow it, that’s the best way to know what’s going on. That or the webpage. That’s both from physically what’s going on as well as events and what’s coming, what’s going on there.

[00:28:12] Rico: Right.

[00:28:13] Tim: Follow us, I look forward to engaging there more.

[00:28:15] Rico: Yeah, lots of music on Friday night, so keep that going too. And it’s great to see the businesses participating like Ted’s Montana Grill and stuff on doing that popup for drinks. And of course follow us, Peachtree Corners Magazine and our social media. Subscribe to our newsletter, you can find that on our website at LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com because we’re always covering what’s going on here in the city of Peachtree Corners. Check out our magazine, our latest issue, somewhere around here, is coming out and it’s the pets issue. We are currently working on Southwest Gwinnett Magazine in our 19 under 19 edition. 19 kids that you should be looking out for, things that they’re doing. And in the Peachtree Corners magazine, we’ll be doing the faces of Peachtree Corners in the next issue. And so some top leaders and community people that are doing great things here in the city, business people and others. So check us out, follow the Forum. Tim, I appreciate, you’re a busy guy. You have lots going on all over the country, I’m sure. But I appreciate you spending the time with me this morning to be able to do this podcast interview.

[00:29:23] Tim: Absolutely. We travel a lot, but this is home. Two years from now, we’re gonna drive through home and we’re gonna be proud, Rico.

[00:29:28] Rico: Yeah, you live up in Johns Creek, so I mean, right? You’re right close to us. Cool. So everyone, thank you again. Tim, stay with me for a minute. I just wanna say thank you again to EV Remodeling Inc. for being a sponsor, a corporate sponsor, supporting our journalism. The publication, as well as the podcast that we do. Thanks, Eli. Check them out. They do great work. Eli lives here in the community. This is a Peachtree Corners based business. Lots of remodeling work they’ve done. Some actually pretty nice stuff that they’ve done, so check them out. EVRemodelingInc.com. Thanks again, Tim.

[00:30:04] Tim: Thank you.

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Peachtree Corners Life

Peachtree Corners Development Pressures Lead to a Moratorium and More Proactive City Planning



This episode features special guest Shaun Adams, Peachtree Corners’ new Community Development Director who continues as Assistant City Attorney. Shaun’s responsibilities include identifying areas that could benefit from redevelopment, planning, administering, and implementing redevelopment projects, and helping to identify and obtain public funding for projects. Part of our discussions include the 6-month moratorium on new residential development in the central business district which reflects a reassessment of the city’s needs. Included in the podcast discussion was a discussion on zoning and development, emerging market trends, navigating development pressures, and community and business roles. Hosted by Rico Figliolini.

Related Links
Redevelopment Authority of Peachtree Corners: https://www.peachtreecornersga.gov/21… Peachtree Corners City Meeting Calendar: https://www.peachtreecornersga.gov/Ca…

00:00:00 – Shaun Adams: New Community Development Director
00:01:21 – Peachtree Corners Resident Balances Legal and Community Roles
00:03:26 – Community Development: Zoning, Permitting, and Collaboration
00:07:24 – Adapting City Codes to Changing Needs
00:09:54 – Adapting Zoning to Emerging Market Trends
00:12:37 – Navigating Zoning Overlays and Mixed-Use Developments
00:15:07 – Examining Zoning and Development Trends
00:20:01 – The Impact of COVID-19 on Cities and the Growth of Smaller Communities 00:21:30 – Navigating Development Pressures and Public Input
00:25:28 – Leveraging Comprehensive Plans for Strategic Development
00:29:43 – Exploring Proactive City Planning
00:32:23 – Upcoming Agenda and Code Updates
00:33:57 – Upcoming Planning Commission and City Council Meetings

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Peachtree Corners Life

Why Baron Reinhold is Running for Gwinnett County Sheriff



“You have to have a force that people want to join, and that is incumbent upon the leader to create the environment where people love to work. Where they know that their boss has their back. They know that their boss is looking out for their career. They’re invested in training, equipping them, and so on.” Baron Reinhold talks about his run to be the next Gwinnett County Sheriff.

Baron Reinhold, who has a 30-year military background, discusses his varied experiences in the Navy, including leadership roles in nuclear command and reconnaissance. He aims to enhance transparency and accountability within the sheriff’s department through measures like budget audits and public forums. He stresses the importance of restoring public trust by addressing organizational issues promptly and effectively, including staffing shortages and jail safety concerns. Listen in with your host Rico Figliolini.

00:00:00 – Baron Reinhold’s Extensive Military and Community Service
00:01:53 – From Naval Academy to Military Consulting: A Military Career Spanning Decades
00:04:50 – Running for Gwinnett County Sheriff
00:07:05 – Addressing Gwinnett County’s Challenges
00:10:14 – Lack of Transparency in Sheriff’s Budget
00:12:21 – Implementing Command Climate Surveys for Organizational Improvement
00:14:14 – Navigating Jail Budget and Safety Challenges
00:18:21 – Understaffed Jail Struggles with Inmate Safety
00:21:56 – Importance of Effective Leadership in Law Enforcement
00:24:13 – Addressing Staffing Challenges in Law Enforcement
00:28:12 – The Sheriff’s Role in Upholding Constitutional Rights
00:31:20 – Balancing Constitutional Rights and Public Health
00:34:40 – Abuse of Public Funds for Personal Branding
00:36:28 – Exploring Alternatives to Traditional Law Enforcement
00:38:54 – Experienced and Qualified Candidate for Gwinnett County Sheriff


Rico Figliolini 0:00:29

Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliollini, host of Peachtree Corners Life here in the city of Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett county. And lately we’ve had election candidates on the show. Today we have a special candidate who’s running for Gwinnett county sheriff. His name is Baron Reinhold. Hey, Baron, thanks for joining us.

Baron Reinhold 0:00:48

Thanks. It’s great to be on your show.

Rico Figliolini 0:00:49

Yeah, no, I appreciate you being here with us. Barron has a long resume of participation in all sorts of things, certainly in the military. Right. And different posts, different positions that you’ve been in, from everything from a professor of naval science to director of military community management, you’ve been part of nuclear command and control operations, team three. I was looking at that. I was like, wow. Squadron commanding officer, United States Air Force. You on the admiral staff in Bahrain, I guess, during deployment in 2003 to 2004, is that correct?

Baron Reinhold 0:01:32

Well, there’s about three different things in there. I was at US strategic command, and I was also on, that was a combatant command in Omaha, Nebraska, but I was also on an admiral staff out in Bahrain for two years and another admiral staff in Norfolk for two years.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:48

Okay. Yeah. And the list goes on. It’s just. It’s an expansive list of accomplishments. And you’ve been involved in a lot of volunteer work in organizations quite involved in Europe. Some of the past groups included Boy scouts, Kiwanis club. But what I’d like you to do is tell us a little bit about yourself, beyond the resume, if you will, and you know what you’re currently doing, and give us a brief, a little bit about that.

Baron Reinhold 0:02:18

Sure. Well, thanks again, Rico.

Rico Figliolini 0:02:19


Baron Reinhold 0:02:19

My background, I joined the Navy right out of high school. I enlisted for a year and then went to the Naval Academy prep school that year, and then on to the naval academy when I graduated from there. I ended up going to flight school, finishing up flight school, and spent 30, 30 years as an officer all over the world. Just kind of look at the last half of my career, which is most of my senior leadership positions. Right after 911, I was the officer in charge of a number of combat detachments. Our squadron got surged for the next 20 years, doing the most important missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. And after that, I was on that admiral staff, brought the family out to Bahrain, right there in the Gulf region. It was a couple years there, then was in charge of global strike planning at US strategic command for two years. Then the third year there, I was the deputy commander’s executive assistant, went on to command the nation’s, one of the nation’s two highest reconnaissance squadrons, and again spent most of that time in Afghanistan. And then was the officer in charge or the senior officer on the nuclear command and control 747. So, literally, if we had nuclear war, we would be at a different base every night, were constantly on the move. And if nuclear war happened, our ground nodes would be gone, and I would personally be briefing with the president on his nuclear options and executing his war orders from the 747. So that was totally different than my reconnaissance days over land in the combat zones. And anyway, then from there, I went on to command a unit that was in charge of the entire Navy’s 388,000 community management. So we made sure that the entire Navy, over a moving 30 year period, was properly manned in every subspecialty, which was a pretty wild job. And then I finished up, like you said, I was the commanding officer of NROTC Atlanta region. So I had a battalion at Morehouse that had Spelman and Clark Atlanta attached to that, and then a battalion at Georgia Tech that Georgia state and Kennesaw state attached. And we trained all the naval officers and, you know, future Marine Corps officers at those six schools. So that’s kind of a quick 35 year round the horn.

Rico Figliolini 0:04:41

Yeah. Where did you originally come from, Baron? Where did you.

Baron Reinhold 0:04:46

I was born in Rochester, New York, but we moved around a lot when I was a kid, and we settled in Miami when I was in first grade. So I considered Miami until Hurricane Andrew wiped out the house, and my family moved up to Melbourne, Florida. By then, though, I was out of the house and in the navy, blasting around the world. So Miami was the home that I grew up in.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:06

Gotcha. And when did you move back, actually, to. When did you move to Atlanta? Let’s put it.

Baron Reinhold 0:05:12

Well, we did 16 moves since I’ve been married, which is, you know, that’s kind of wild to think about. My oldest daughter did 15 of those. So we moved here in 2015, built a house here in Gwinnett in Suwanee, and, you know, made the commute down 95 or 85, rather, every day. So I got up really, really early, got down there before the traffic got insane. And we usually either try to beat the traffic home or stay until the traffic that dissipated.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:42

Yeah, God knows the traffic has continued to build. Doesn’t disappear.

Baron Reinhold 0:05:48

Yep. But when I heard January 1 of 2020 and then since then, I started a consulting business. So I still do a lot of work down in Pensacola, which is the cradle of naval aviation, which has been a lot of fun because all the senior officers down there, you know, buddies of mine and the admirals and whatnot, and then the students, a lot of them were my former students at my Georgia Tech and Morehouse battalion. So I always get together with them. So I’ve got both ends of the spectrum. The senior most, the junior most people every time I go down there.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:21

That must be fascinating. My youngest wants to go into military history. He’s actually attending Kennesaw. Not quite the place for that, but that’s where he’s starting at, right? Yeah, he’s all into. Especially prior to World War two. World War two and prior, actually, that part. So it’s fascinating to be able to see and talk to people that are involved. So your consulting work is still with the military, I’m assuming? Correct. Okay. And so I guess the biggest question. The first question would be, why? Why run for Gwinnett county sheriff then? Why run for that post? Why do you see that you need to do that?

Baron Reinhold 0:07:05

Well, I mean, really, there are a lot of reasons. First, we did exhaustive study. We could have lived anywhere we wanted to when we moved here, and we did a lot of study, a lot of research, and Gwinnett county was the place to move to, you know, in 2015. And, you know, it’s been great. And, you know, we’ve seen a lot of changes, and almost all of those have been in the wrong direction in the last three to four years, whether it’s, you know, school board problems or taxation rates, you know, we have high. I think, well, I don’t think. I know. We had the highest number of people, you know, having a problem with their property taxes and appealing those. So those are going the wrong direction. And then certainly crime and just everything that the sheriff’s office is supposed to be doing, they’re failing in a major way. And so seeing what Butch Conway did for a quarter century and then seeing what’s happened since Sheriff Taylor took over, it’s night and day, and any county can only really be as good as the sheriff and the law enforcement. And since the sheriff is the senior law enforcement officer in the county, that’s a direct reflection on who’s doing that job. So, bottom line is, I think Sheriff Taylor’s doing a horrible job, and I think I can do. I think I could turn the county around completely.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:27

Now, the sheriff, so then people understand the difference, right? Gwinnett county police and the sheriff department. Two separate entities. Right. Gwinnett county police has the police officers that arrive on the scene of a crime that patrol the streets and stuff. Right. Gwinnett county sheriff has other responsibilities, including the jail system, serving subpoenas and such. Right? Correct. So two different. Just want people to know that two different areas. One of the things that, quite frankly, to my audience, we’re not fact checking any of this, but Baron is one of two candidates running. We have the incumbent, Sheriff Kebo, and we have Baron running. One of the things you want to do, based on what you’re saying, is that you want to be able to do full audit. How will you ensure that the audit’s done correctly and that it’s. That it’s open, impartial, transparent. How would you plan to do that?

Baron Reinhold 0:09:30

Well, just one thing before we go on. There’s actually five people running against the incumbent right now.

Rico Figliolini 0:09:37

I’m sorry, you’re right.

Baron Reinhold 0:09:39

So there’s three.

Rico Figliolini 0:09:40


Baron Reinhold 0:09:41

Unfortunately, it’s a partisan race, which I don’t think it should be, but I guess people aren’t interested in what I think on that. So there’s two Republicans and three other Democrats that are running against the incumbent on the Democrat side. But so, obviously, nobody is happy with how he’s doing, otherwise we wouldn’t have so many people running for that position. But, yeah, so the issue is when Butch Conway, who was the sheriff for 24 years here in Gwinnett county, who incidentally, endorsed me over all the other candidates, even though a couple of them worked for him or with him, one of them worked directly for him for about twelve years. Butch, when he left, he had a budget of $105 million. Right now, Sheriff Taylor has a budget of about $170 million, and he’s got almost about half of the deputies and jailers have left. So he’s got a force that’s half the size, and he’s got a budget that’s $65 million ish more. And so there’s money being spent in crazy places. Obviously. We know that from day one when he repainted all the sheriff’s cars with his name on the back of them. Again, a waste of taxpayers money. But there’s a lot. Where is the money? That’s the whole issue. You can’t trust government, you can’t trust law enforcement when money’s being squandered on frivolous things. And you can’t. I mean, I’ve put in all kinds of requests for, you know, freedom of information act stuff, but I didn’t know that you have to pay for all that. So I figure, okay, I’m a taxpayer. I want to know where this money’s being spent, or I want to know how many. How many deputies we’ve lost every year for the last four years. And, you know, if you want to know that, which is right on a spreadsheet, you got to pay $150, or you got to pay this, or they slow you the information, even if you do pay. So those kinds of things are frustrating. You know, you talked about transparency. I mean, I want to do an audit. You’d have a professional, reputable agency come in and do that, or organization and find out where all this money’s been spent. I mean, if you ground zero of building trust with the citizens of the county, it’s based on knowing facts. And I can’t find facts. And I’m in this race without paying a lot of money. So I think we need to do this audit. We need to flip the table, make it public facing, even if it’s pretty damning, whatever the results are of that, the public needs to know. And you need to snap a chalk line and say, okay, this is what happened before. This is when I took over. And this is what happens from here on out. And it’s not just a budgetary chalk line. I’m talking about in the Navy, every time a commanding officer takes over, they do something called a command climate survey. And again, that’s snapping another chalk line, but that’s more typically with personnel and programs. So what that does is the entire unit gets to give an anonymous. Takes an anonymous survey that’s very in depth. And then they get a free flow. They can type whatever they want at the end of that. And so as a new CEO coming in, new commanding officer coming in, you get the results of all that, and you get to see, okay, if it’s just one or two things, you know, maybe it’s a. You know, maybe it’s not all that important, but it’s good to know. But if there’s huge blocks of ink on, okay, this is a major problem, then it gives you, the new person, the information you need to, a, know that there’s a problem, b, address that, bring all your people in and say, this is obviously a huge issue here in this command. Here is my plan. You bring in people so you can all talk about what that issue is, what the background, why there’s that problem, and then come up with a solution. And then you brief personally, as the CEO, you brief all your different levels of rank, and then you give them an opportunity to give you feedback face to face. And so those kinds of things are critically important for a new boss coming in. And we will do something like that, not only with the people who are currently at the sheriff’s office, the deputies and jailers, but I’ll have surveys sent out to those that left because obviously they left for a reason, and I know why a lot, a lot of them left because I’ve talked to scores of them. So that’s important information.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:04

Sure. I would imagine also that a place like the county jail system, the sheriff system department, I mean, if they’re, if they’re expending money, there’s probably usually bids for certain things, contractual bids. There’s discretionary funds that can be spent on certain things because you don’t want to hamstring a department. There’s usually a budget level where you can spend money up to before it needs to go out on a bid system or some other thing. It could be in $170 million. Budget could be complicated doing that. It could take some months doing that. In the meantime, whatever you find, like you said, you will be able to address at that point. In the meantime, while that’s happening, because that could take several months, you’re going to be hitting the ground. You would hit the ground running. I know there was some other things that you were talking about, like measures that would implement, that you might implement to improve safety and reduce high rates of inmate injuries or deaths in the jail. Has that been an issue? Now, I haven’t myself looked at those issues. So tell us a little bit about that, about what you’re looking at and what you would implement day one for that week. Right.

Baron Reinhold 0:15:23

So right off the bat, well, literally on day one, during his press conference, Sheriff Taylor implemented. He did away with something called the rapid response team. So the rapid response team are trained personnel where if there is an issue going sideways and deputy is in danger or a jailer is in danger, then the rapid response team is rapid. They’re in there within seconds and making sure that you, you know, the deputies are okay and that the inmates are okay, too, because, you know, obviously, if things get out of control, people are getting hurt. So you take away the most important tool of, on day one of how to keep your own personnel safe, and you give them no tools to replace that. It turned into an immediate catastrophe. I mean, one of the people that’s been helping me on my campaign was the 2019 deputy of the year, and she was in the, in our jail, which is one of the biggest in the country as a jailer for, you know, I think, 18 years. And so she was training other deputies and other jailers how to do their job, not only ours, but, you know, other sheriffs would send theirs in, too. And they begged her to stay on and continue training. She was going to leave when Sheriff Conway left. She stayed on for six. Well, she stay. Asked her to stay for six months. She agreed to, and within two weeks, she left. Now, she left because she saw what was going on and how she saw the writing on the wall immediately that, okay, we’ve got no way to maintain control because, you know, if we’re, if people are getting hurt, we can’t protect ourselves, let alone the inmates.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:02

And let me ask you a question, though. Obviously, I would imagine when Sheriff Akibo came in, there was a reason why he stopped it because there might have been, there was all these things going on right there.

Baron Reinhold 0:17:15

Well, yeah. He said if you go back and read the news clips in 2019, 2020, his justification for that was that there were some charges leveled against the rapid response team of using excessive force. And if that’s true or if that’s not true is a new leader. You come in and you, you, you deal with the problem. What he did was he came in and got rid of the tool. He even said, hey, it’s a good tool, but it’s being misused. So, you know, you don’t get rid of the tool. You, if people were being abusive, then you discipline them or you fire them and you keep the tool and you train more with those data points to make sure that, you know, abuse isn’t taking place.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:00

Okay, fair enough.

Baron Reinhold 0:18:01

But obviously, you don’t come in and you undercut your, your entire, all of your deputies and all of your jailers and don’t give them any tools to maintain control of the jail. So as they started leaving, things just have continued to spiral out of control. A jail that is supposed to have about 50 people per shift currently has about 20 people per shift. They used to have, the inmates used to have 8 hours a day out of the cell. Now they’ve got 1 hour a day. They’re locked up 23 hours a day. It’s crazy what’s going on in the jail right now.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:34

It seems like there’s not enough people. I know I’ve spoken to people in the Gwinnett police and such. There’s budget money there to hire, but there’s not enough applicants should say qualified applicants.

Baron Reinhold 0:18:47

Well, that’s only part of the issue. I mean, yes, law enforcement has had its challenges since 2020, but the reality is if you are an. An agency or a sheriff’s office that is, you know, is led by a good leader, then guess what? People don’t leave.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:07

People come there.

Baron Reinhold 0:19:08

So what we have seen in Gwinnett county is we’ve seen sheriff deputies and jailers flee this leadership because it’s untenable. As a matter of fact, I did, a couple years ago, I did this Suwannee Citizens Academy police academy, and it just so happened I got teamed up with a officer who worked for six months under Butch Conway, made the transition, and after a year, he took a significant pay cut to leave the sheriff’s office to go work for the city of Suwanee. And talking to him that night, it’s what every deputy I’ve talked to has said, whether I solicit the question or not, they’re like, yeah, it’s ridiculous. It became untenable, and they left inmate safety.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:53

I mean, it’s always been a problem, I think, in any jail, right, there’s only a certain amount of leeway you can do. Sometimes it can’t be helped, you know, with. You hear about these things all the time on, like, not in Gwinnett sheriff jails, but in federal jails or state jails, where there’s drugs in the jail, sometimes there’s other things going on, and that actually increases the inmate safety issue because other people causing problems among the population, if you will. What tools would you use to improve that or to reduce that? I mean, so it’s not just happening because. I don’t think it’s just happening because officers are being abusive, and some of them have been. It’s also being the other side of that. So what tools can a sheriff have to do? Do you plan on restructuring that whole command of how things are done?

Baron Reinhold 0:20:53

Yeah, I mean, immediately. I’ll reinstate and train a rapid response team. What we need is we need the proper numbers of deputies back in the jail cell. It’s a horribly dangerous job when you are critically undermanned. So the issue now is instead of being in charge of one cell block, they’ve got deputies, at times in charge of two, three, and up to four cell blocks. You know, that is. That is sheer insanity. And when you’ve got that type of. I mean, the inmates know that you can’t maintain control of them, and so things get. You know, things get crazy, and you can’t stop it. So what’s the answer to that? The answer is to keep people locked behind, you know, in their room 23 or in their cells 23 hours a day because you can’t control them. What’s that? Due to the mental health that makes people, you know, more angry. And when they do get out, there’s more problems. So all of these things are precipitated by the fact that, you know, the deputies in the law enforcement is a very tight knit community. So I just went through that, you know, quote unquote police academy. I’m post certified now. I went back in September through December. And, you know, all the guys, you know, a bunch of them were prior, you know, jail or were jailers before they were coming back to get their, you know, their full post certifications. And, you know, those guys, you know, talked in depth about all the different sheriff’s offices around the various counties and about all the different police. But, I mean, they know. And the word. It doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t say it doesn’t matter.

Rico Figliolini 0:22:21

The money.

Baron Reinhold 0:22:22

I mean, money is always attractive. But you know what? You have to have a force that people want to join, and that is incumbent upon the leader to create the environment where people love to work, where they know that their boss has their back. They know that their boss is, you know, is looking out for their career. They’re invested in, you know, in training and equipping them and so forth and so on. And that’s. I mean, the history of, you know, my background for 35 years is training and equipping and leading high, you know, high, highly performing organizations that are the number one of their type in the entire Navy. And you get, you know, there’s a. There’s a specific award called the Battle Efficiency Award. Now, they call it battle effectiveness Award. Same award, just. They changed the name, but you get that when it’s the number one unit of its type in the Navy. We won. We were awarded that back to. Back to back three years in a row when I was the commanding officer. So I know how to build organizations that people love to work in and love to do their job. And that’s what we need here. We need that type of leadership to bring people back. And I know that they’ll be back. I mean, people want to come back. I’ve talked to deputies all the time. They want to work here and Gwinnett, but they won’t work for this sheriff.

Rico Figliolini 0:23:37

Do you. Do you think that salaries or benefits have to change also?

Baron Reinhold 0:23:42

I mean, there needs to be. I mean, right now, if you listen on the radio, you can hear. You know, you can hear the. The Gwinnett county sheriff’s office, you know, spots on there all the time, and they’re, you know, attractive numbers and this, that and the other. But they’re not hiring anybody. I mean, they’re. Their numbers are single digits. You know, people are not coming to their hiring conferences, and they’re not responding to those ads, even though, you know, on the surface it sounds good because they know. They know that, you know, it’s better to work someplace for less money than it is for a boss that doesn’t support you. To answer your question, all of that stuff needs to be looked at, and we need to be the most competitive, pay in the area, and have the best leadership. And because the thing is, after you’ve trained people and you’ve equipped them and built the organization that they don’t want to leave, you don’t want to lose that talent. And those are the two key factors, to have the leadership and to have the money to support maintaining them there so they don’t train, move on.

Rico Figliolini 0:24:45

Yeah. And that’s been, I guess, the problem with law enforcement in the metro area. Right. They get trained in one place, like Gwinnett county has had that, where they train police officers, they work for two years, and then all of a sudden, they get hired away to a different county. Right. Maybe it’s closer to their home. You know, it’s a lot of different reasons. Right. I mean, our peach recorders. Sheriff Restrepo, chief. Sheriff Restrepo is a former Gwinnett county police officer, decided this would be a good place for him to be. Right. So people do leave. So, yeah, I mean, it’s hard enough to find people, even in the private sector, to do things, and it’s difficult all around. So unemployment is low, they say. I guess it’s low, but, yeah, paying bonuses do make a difference, and that’s something a sheriff has control over. Right. That’s not something that has to be decided at the city council level, at the county level, I don’t think.

Baron Reinhold 0:25:46

Well, I mean, certainly the budgets and the money come from the commissioners.

Rico Figliolini 0:25:51

Right. Total budgets. Right. But if you have, like, positions for 40 positions to be filled, but you can’t fill it, you still have that budget money in that line, I guess.

Baron Reinhold 0:26:02

And the other. Your point when you talk about personnel and money is, you know, this. The current sheriff, Sheriff Taylor, you know, has a command staff that’s completely bloated. He’s got all these really high level, high paying positions that he created, and, you know, and it’s like a three for one. The guy who’s actually doing the heavy lifting in the jails or serving warrants. Their pay compared to all of these created positions is way out of whack compared to what’s normative. And that’ll be something that we’ll go back through and rescale that to the right number and have the positions that are needed. But we’re not going to have fat in there, just collecting a paycheck and, you know, having duplicative jobs or whatever else. It’s not happening.

Rico Figliolini 0:26:52

So you’re not just auditing budgets and stuff. You’re going to be auditing the structure of the command. Who’s there? Okay. One of the things that you point out, too is constitutional training, mandating constitutional education, how to enhance the daily responsibilities of the deputies and jailers. So tell us a little bit about that. What you mean by that?

Baron Reinhold 0:27:16

Well, it’s interesting because, you know, 35 years in the navy and every time you have a promotion, you reaffirm your oath to protect the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And, you know, it might seem a little more intuitive, possibly for military personnel because we’re typically overseas and worrying about the people attacking the country and protecting our constitution in that capacity. But in order to do your job in law enforcement, you need to understand how the constitution applies to you. And that has to factor in to, I mean, you have to know because you’re swearing an oath to it, too. So what does it mean? You know, there’s, there are laws on the books and we’ve seen throughout history that there are times when, you know, mandates can come down that are not constitutional. So then the question becomes, is the senior law enforcement officer in the county, what are you going to do about that? And if people don’t understand the constitution, then they can’t work through that. And that’s important. I mean, I think it’s a big problem in America that the Constitution is more and more being ignored. And when you have a mandate that is a potential massive violation of the constitutional rights of the citizens, then the sheriff is the one that needs to engage them and let people know this will or this will not happen. And so, you know the sheriff to know it, then everybody also needs to know it because they need to understand why their command is taking a certain stand.

Rico Figliolini 0:28:50

Okay. That almost begs the question, though. Okay. That if you’re, if you’re, if the sheriff is supposed to enforce mandates that come down, these are, these are laws just like anything else that needs to be implemented. Sheriff can’t, I mean, it’s been done. Obviously, we see it at the federal level where certain laws are being ignored right now, is that right to do, can you slow walk that law, if you will, and not do it? You know, I get it that there’s priorities and that sometimes you might say, well, the priority is not that law. We’re not going to, we’re going to, we’re not going to step through and enforce that right. We’re going to be enforcing these other laws that really are important.

Baron Reinhold 0:29:38

But I wouldn’t put it that way because, yeah, I wouldn’t say, I mean, the laws are the laws and they need to be enforced as long as they’re not violated. For example, you know, you saw, I mean, I guess probably the best current example might be that in some counties during COVID you saw sheriffs arresting pastors for having church on Sunday. And in other counties, you saw sheriffs standing literally in the doors of churches, preventing, you know, state police from coming in and disrupting the services. So the question then becomes, you know, if the constitution is the authoritative law of the land and our Georgia constitution is also, you know, the authoritative law in Georgia, then unless there is something that says, okay, there’s no more religious freedom, then your job is to understand what is and what is not a legal declaration. And so you have to, because at the end of the day, the individual citizen, the last person between their constitutional rights being violated or not, is the sheriff of that county. So I’m not saying it’s normative that that happens, but I’m saying you have to recognize if something comes down that is not constitutional, it’s your oath. It’s your obligation, if you actually are going to fulfill your oath, to make sure that your citizens rights aren’t violated.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:03

Okay, I don’t disagree with you. I just. And we could leave it at that. But it’s just, someone has to, it’s like everything else. Someone has to decide then whether that’s unconstitutional. Now do we leave it up to the courts to decide that or the individual sheriff, lead sheriff, chief sheriff in a county to decide that? You know, and every county needs to be different.

Baron Reinhold 0:31:26

Yeah, if there are subtle things. That’s right. But yeah, something as egregious is, okay, you are not allowed to go to church. I mean, that is a gross violation of your religious freedoms, period.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:37

It is.

Baron Reinhold 0:31:38

I mean, you can, people might want to argue that, but it’s a gross violation.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:44

Okay. I could see that, you know, of course, the CDC and we don’t have to get into the politics of this, but, you know, if they feel it’s a health issue.

Baron Reinhold 0:31:52

You know, they’re, their feelings don’t. Don’t get to supersede the constitution, that’s for sure.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:00

Yeah, no, I get it.

Baron Reinhold 0:32:02

And whenever it does, that puts our entire society at risk. I mean, I’ve seen societies collapse, and I spent most of my life in those areas because of, you know, things getting out of control.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:15

And so, and I agree, it’s. It’s a fragile.

Baron Reinhold 0:32:18

We can’t allow that to happen here in the United States.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:21

It’s a fragile system. And we’re constantly fighting to keep democracy or our republic alive, if you will, because it doesn’t take much for, like you said, it really doesn’t take much, especially when we had the riots during the COVID time. Remember what CNN was almost broken into during the riots then? I just, like.

Baron Reinhold 0:32:44

You forgot the mostly peaceful riots.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:46

The mostly. Yes. Yeah, we could talk about that at some point, right.

Baron Reinhold 0:32:52

But, yeah, if you’re a cigar guy, come over the house and we can.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:56

Cigar and bourbon. There you go. Jail dogs program. So, I mean, that. That’s one of the things you mentioned, I think, in your. In your program about jail dogs, about branding. Right.

Baron Reinhold 0:33:12

This is another example of. That’s insane that that program went away. Okay, so here’s a program that literally cost the taxpayers zero, not $0.01. It’s a phenomenal program for the mental health of the inmates. And, I mean, it’s a huge incentive for them to be on good conduct so that they can actually get an animal, so that they can train that animal. The mental health aspects of that are off the chart. And the jailers loved it because people would behave so that they could be in line to get a jail dog assigned. They would train the thing, have all this feeling of accomplishments, this, that and the other. The dog obviously is good for the dogs because they got saved, they got adopted out. And it was just, like I said, it didn’t cost a penny.

Rico Figliolini 0:34:03

So why was that? Is, is just.

Baron Reinhold 0:34:04

That’s just another example of failed leadership.

Rico Figliolini 0:34:09

Other things. You’ve mentioned vehicle branding. Right? So we’ll hit some of these other things quick. So vehicle branding was one. What’s with that?

Baron Reinhold 0:34:19

Yeah, exactly. What is with that? So right when we were right, when sheriff Taylor took over, he took all the county cars that belonged to the sheriff’s office and he. Yeah. Had his name painted on the back of him. I was like, okay, okay, seriously, you paid 100. Who God only knows how much money, you know, however much it is, if it’s over one cent, the Navy would call that fraud, waste and abuse. But the bottom line is, you know, he’s got his name spray painted all over these vehicles and county expense. The irony now is he, he can’t drive a sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle up to a polling place because that’s, that’s, you know, campaigning. So if there’s a problem at a polling station, he can’t respond.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:01

Think about that.

Baron Reinhold 0:35:01

Yeah, so anyway, but it’s, it’s just ridiculous. That is, that is the pinnacle of arrogance and egotism in my mind. And, you know, to spend that money that frivolously on something like that.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:14

All right, beyond that, let’s talk about reassigning personnel. Part of it was bodyguards and drivers to other roles that benefit the short.

Baron Reinhold 0:35:23

So when, when you’re critically short of personnel to begin with, he’s got a bodyguard that goes around with them. He’s also got a driver. Actually, I think he’s got two drivers or has had two drivers. So, I mean, that’s manpower that’s critically needed in our jails or serving warrants because right now we have about 50,000 unserved warrants because more warrants come in than can get served every day because we’re critically short and people won’t work for this sheriff. So every day the warrants stack up. They can only serve so many. So every day he’s in office, you know, we’re just going to keep getting more and more warrants. I mean, I should say that aren’t, that haven’t been served.

Rico Figliolini 0:36:04

Okay. I don’t have anything against bodyguards. I mean, things can happen, right. It’s not, it’s not a study. It’s a violent society sometimes. So I don’t see why not have a bodyguard. But serving warrants, though, it’s a different story. Can’t that be done by private services contracted for, to be able to stem through that? I mean, a reasonable thing?

Baron Reinhold 0:36:27

Yeah, I think it’s reasonable. Especially when you don’t have the manpower or they won’t work for you, then, yeah, you better figure out a solution. And, but, you know, the last official number that I got, it was, you know, am I allowed to say leaked to me it wasn’t gotten through FOIA because I don’t have that much money to keep asking these questions to try to get official numbers. But this was an official number. It was 48,632 as of about a month ago. And every month it’s been going up.

Rico Figliolini 0:36:57

So, and to be fair, I mean, a lot of that may have been before his.

Baron Reinhold 0:37:02

Oh, yeah, like you said. But the fact that the numbers skyrocket because it’s warrant division is, you know, is been decimated. And by people leaving, we’re not getting. Every day that those individuals are walking around without having been brought in is a potential death or a potential violent act or a potential robbery or whatever else. So these are important things to get our arms around.

Rico Figliolini 0:37:31

It’s good to have that discussion. I mean, definitely, especially. It’s one thing to, to be one of, to voting for one of over 330 house reps. You know, they do make laws that affect people and stuff, but the sheriff system really has to be taken more seriously. Have we, towards the end of our time together, Baron, is there anything that we haven’t discussed that you want to share?

Baron Reinhold 0:37:58

Well, I would just again ask people to go on my website, it’s Baron Forgwinnett, and look up my background and look up all my proposals. At least my initial day one proposals are on there. Like I said, there’s a reason why Sheriff Conway, who was the sheriff for a quarter century here in Gwinnett county, endorsed me. And he sat down and he said, Baron, you’re the only person with the background and the senior level experience in command and the senior knowledge of budgets and how to make things happen and how to apply for money and how to engage the commissioners and on and on and on and with the personnel experience with running the entire Navy’s 388,000 personnel and keeping that manned. And part of that responsibility was the bonus structure for the entire navy and administering that. I mean, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses across the Navy. So, yeah, it’s obvious from his perspective that I’m the only person qualified that’s running to do that in a manner of sustained, superior performance, which is my track record. So I’ve always loved people. I’ve loved serving people my entire career. That’s the biggest thing I miss about the Navy is the fact that as I got more responsibility and more seniority, I could affect more and more people’s lives and their families lives and advocate for them more powerfully in their career. So I’m, you know, I’m looking forward to, you know, doing that leadership aspect, but also bringing our county and making our county safe and our jails safe and, you know, basically making it safe for, you know, the taxpayer or the tailor for the deputies and for our inmates. That’s, that’s the bottom line.

Rico Figliolini 0:39:49

Okay, so, okay, cool. People know where to find out more information. You’ve been out. There’s early voting going on, but we’ve recorded this. This was recorded on the 8th, on Wednesday. And so there’s early voting going on. I think that, I’m not sure when that ends.

Baron Reinhold 0:40:07

Early voting ends the 17th.

Rico Figliolini 0:40:09

17Th. Okay. The Friday before election day, which is May 21. And you’re running on the democratic?

Baron Reinhold 0:40:19

I’m running on the republican ticket.

Rico Figliolini 0:40:21

Republican ticket.

Baron Reinhold 0:40:22

And the primary. You know, it’s Mike Baker and I that are running against each other on the republican side. And then Kebo Taylor, who’s the incumbent, and Curtis Clemens, Joe Mark and Brian Whiteside are running on the Democrat against.

Rico Figliolini 0:40:38

So as opposed to people listening to this, as opposed to school board races, which are decided on this election May 21, since it’s a nonpartisan or deemed nonpartisan this race, once the ballots are decided. So if you’re looking to want to support Barron, obviously you need to pull the republican ballot to be able to do that. Or the democratic ballot if you want to vote on that side, too. Either way. And then the election actually runs through until November where decisions are made. Right.

Baron Reinhold 0:41:11

So November, if I’m the candidate, then it’ll be running against. Well, there was probably going to be a runoff, my guess, on the Democrat side, since there’s not. But whoever wins that is going to be hopefully who I’m running against.

Rico Figliolini 0:41:26

Yeah, that seems like it. Well, Baron Reinhold, I appreciate you taking your time speaking to me about the issues of where you feel passionate about and how you feel you would handle the Gwinnett County Sheriff Department. People know where to reach you now, or at least where to find your information. And if they want to reach you via email or phone, the information is on your website, I’m assuming.

Baron Reinhold 0:41:50

Absolutely right.

Rico Figliolini 0:41:52

So hang in there with me for a minute. Everyone else, I appreciate you joining us listening to this. We’ll be doing some other candidate podcasts over the next week or so a few days. There’s a few more that I’ll be interviewing different races, so check it out and, you know, share this with your friends. Appreciate your time. Thank you everyone.

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Peachtree Corners Life

Yanin Cortes Shares Why She’s Running for Gwinnett County School Board



May 21st Election Decides Gwinnett County School Board District 3

Peachtree Corner resident and Cuban immigrant Yanin Cortes shares her journey from struggling with English in her first year in an American elementary school to running for the Gwinnett County School Board. Endorsed by local leaders, she highlights system strengths and challenges. Yanin is a talented singer, entrepreneur, and mother of three who stresses the importance of community support, clear policies, and continuous improvement to address new challenges. Listen in to hear more about this candidate and the upcoming election. Hosted by Rico Figliolini

Yanin’s Campaign Website: https://yanin.org/

00:00:00 – Yanin Cortes Runs for Gwinnett County School Board
00:01:41 – From Immigrant to Aspiring Musician
00:03:55 – From Music to Family and Entrepreneurship
00:05:48 – From Educator to Entrepreneur: A Diverse Journey
00:08:09 – Pursuing a Passion for Education and Community
00:10:12 – Celebrating Gwinnett County’s Diverse School System
00:14:36 – Navigating Discipline and Safety Challenges in Schools
00:17:22 – The Role of the School Board: Oversight and Support
00:20:10 – Balancing Community Input and Systemic Realities
00:22:51 – Implementing Policies: Complexities and Challenges
00:24:29 – Improving School Safety and Restoring Trust
00:28:48 – Navigating Diversity in School Systems
00:31:50 – The Joys of Family, Community, and Running a Restaurant
00:35:17 – Advocating for Community and Children in School Board
00:37:57 – Importance of Voting for School Board

Podcast Transcript:

Rico Figliolini 0:00:01

Hey, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life, where we begin to see a lot of electioneering going on, a lot of more things going on out there as far as this May election, May 21. That’s coming up in a few weeks. And this has several nonpartisan races that are decided this May versus a primary and final elections in November. So what’s happening this month is extremely important to you, and you need to be aware of it. And this is one of several podcasts we’ll be doing with candidates. And I appreciate Yanin Cortes showing up and speaking with me about her race for Gwinnett county school board. Thank you for being here this morning. Appreciate it.

Yanin Cortes 0:00:44

Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure, too.

Rico Figliolini 0:00:48

Sure. Love to hear more about why you’re running and stuff. I just want to give some background about you. So this is for actually district three election of Gwinnett county school board, which represents geographically Peachtree Corners, parts of Norcross, Berkeley Lake, Duluth, Suwannee and Sugar Hill. Fairly large District 31 schools, public schools in that district. And you entered the race with actually several endorsements already. So the retiring board member that’s been representing Peachtree Corners in this area for like 28 years, Mary Kay Murphy, has come out and endorsed you. Amelia, Mike Mason has endorsed you, and so has representative Scott Hilton. All of them, Peachtree Corners residents, all of them involved so heavily in the community. So some great support you have. Now, I’d like to hear, you know, I’m sure the rest of us would like to hear a little bit about, you know, why you’ve decided that you want to run, but tell us a little bit about your story and then why you’ve decided to run.

Yanin Cortes 0:01:51

Sure. I am a first generation immigrant. I was born in Cuba, and I came to the United States when I was ten years old, and we migrated to Hollywood, Florida. Out of all places. Yes. And it’s funny because everybody says I went to Miami, but that was not my story. And Hollywood at that time was a very american town, all american town, although the Cubans were living somewhere in Miami. And I probably was one of two children in the class that spoke Spanish. And it was a hard year for me. I call it the year of silence, since it was really hard to just talk to anybody. But I had amazing teachers that guided me, that were there for me. And I think that’s where my love for school started because I had so much support. And being an immigrant family here, it’s a very hard thing to go through, especially parents coming, not knowing the language, working two jobs to making sure that people have, that we had food on the table. So I went through the whole years and I kind of went into music. And for a while there, and after I graduated high school, I decided that I wanted to be a famous singer. You know something? The dream of everybody, they just want to be. And I went through auditions and I wrote songs, and I spent a lot of time on track. And I got signed with company EMI.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:46

Oh, wow. Yeah, sure. Famous record company. Sure. Label.

Yanin Cortes 0:03:50

Yes. And I got to travel the world first. The first signing was with a group. It’s a three girl group, and we represent. And we went all over the place in Europe. And then after that, I decided that I wanted to just have my own thing and write my own songs and decided to be a solo artist. And I got signed with EMI also, but in South America. But after that, somehow in between that, I got married, I started having kids. And then I decided, oh, I don’t want to be traveling all the time. I need to pay attention to my kids.

Rico Figliolini 0:04:27

You have three.

Yanin Cortes 0:04:28

Well, my son, at that point, he was only one. And my husband has supported me because he’s also a musician. He was also signed with Sony and, you know, but then we just came back to Miami. Now this time Miami, and I went back to school and decided to go for education. And my husband went to FiU and he said, well, you know what? Don’t worry. I’ll go study hospitality and business administration, and we’ll go move to Atlanta and open a cuban restaurant. Your mom was amazing chef and cook. And you will sing whenever you want to. You will have. You can on the weekend. There’s a good. Yes, it is. He is amazing. He is wonderful. And he made that dream come true. He did. And we both graduate. I graduated when I got to Atlanta. I transferred to Georgia State, and that’s when I finished school. But we opened the restaurant in between that, and I started teaching at Shiloh High School.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:40

So you guys own, actually, mojitos in downtown Norcross? The crossing. The crossing in downtown. No, cross as well. And the mojitos at the forum. Yes. Entrepreneurs, talented singers. It seems like it. And you were a teacher at Shiloh High School for a while, too, right? A former educator, yes. And. And you’re. And you have three kids?

Yanin Cortes 0:06:11

I think I have three boys. I call them boys, but they’re men already.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:15

Two of them, sure. Yeah, I would imagine. Well, so one of them still home, I guess? Or are they all home, or does that work.

Yanin Cortes 0:06:25

Yes. I also have a nine year old. We started over again somehow. Don’t ask us why, but it’s an amazing experience. I think as you grow older, then you say, oh, maybe I should have done that with the other one.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:37

And that’s interesting. Yeah. The last one, I have three kids, and the youngest is seven years apart from the middle one. So, yeah, you get to see that. And I also come from immigrant parents. I was first born in the States here. So I can appreciate coming from a household that had no english speaking. And I think my kindergarten or first grade teacher had my parents in because I was speaking half Italian, half English. They can understand everything I was saying. So I can appreciate the difficulties of a young family and educators that were present with you at the time really does make a difference, because I think if you had the wrong teacher, you might not have been as fortunate. Right?

Yanin Cortes 0:07:21

No. I have to say teachers were amazing for me, especially in high school afterwards. And at the beginning, they were there to guide me. They were there to support me. They knew that I was going through a rough time. And then in high school, my music teacher was an amazing teacher because it was like a family. We ended up in this choir. There was only 14 of us, and we were like a family for the whole four years, and that kept me going. And you have some people that if you were struggling in a subject, he will go, hey, what’s going on? And let’s go. You have to do this. I know you love singing. I love. I know you love doing this, but you always have some inspirational, some person that. A mentor that tells you, hey, let’s go for it.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:17

Curious. What instruments did you. Did you play, or did you.

Yanin Cortes 0:08:22

I was singing all the time. I played guitar a little bit, but I wouldn’t, like, even dare say that in front of people because they make me play or some horrible song.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:34

Have you sung at the restaurants?

Yanin Cortes 0:08:37

Yes, I used when we opened the restaurant in 2008. I’ve been singing ever since then. Friday and Saturday night. I took some time off when I had Lincoln, my. My youngest. But right now, I’m still singing every Saturday night and forum location.

Rico Figliolini 0:09:01

Cool. So let’s get. Let’s dig down a little bit about why. You have great background, obviously good endorsements, but why are you looking to run for Gwinnett county school board? What is motivating you to do that?

Yanin Cortes 0:09:14

Well, I love this community. Kids are my passion, too. They. I can see their faces light up every time they learn something, and I think that we should keep that going. And I think being a member of the school board will help. We have a lot of immigrants coming into our county right now, and our county is the most diverse county, and I think it in nation. And it’s incredible that we have such a diversity, such a love. Guene county has always loved education, so I wanted to make sure that I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to encourage people. I wanted to be the voice for the parents that have concerns and just voice that to. To the schools. And I wanted to be the voice for our community saying, hey, we want to make sure that our tax dollars are spent wisely. And I know that we all have anxiety, but I believe that Gwinnett county has an amazing school system. We just need to come together and talk and come bring consensus and just making sure that we’re working together to achieve success for all students, you know.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:45

That’S great to hear. The county has gotten, like you said, it’s actually a majority minority. It’s changed over the decades. I’ve been here since 95. My kids have gone, all my kids have gone through public school the same way I did in New York when, before I came here. Simpson elementary Picnicville, Norcross they went through the IB program at Norcross. In fact, the two of them that went through IB, if they hadn’t gone through, I think they wouldn’t have done as well. The IB program really taught them how to write, how to be critical thinkers, how to mold things together, subjects. So the school system has done some good things, right? Yes. What do you think they do well at the school system right now?

Yanin Cortes 0:11:32

Well, definitely those programs, the IB program, the early learning for. They have a play to learn program right now that they, including the parents, to come before they get to school so they can learn how to teach their kids to be ready for kindergarten. We have the program. A lot of people don’t know about it, but it’s amazing because it just prepares. We have all the stem programs that we have right now with a paltry weekend. We have just different alternatives for students that are looking. I think there’s a pathway to careers that they’re developing in some of the schools that if a kid wants to go to trade school instead of college, he’s going to have. He will have that ability to concentrate on that. And some people don’t know what they want, but if they’re guided, and I think this is one thing that we can concentrate that I will fight for in the school board. Okay. Yeah. What else do we have? We have a lot of things that are amazing. The sports, amazing sports here. That sports people think it’s just one of those things, but it drives kids. It gives them discipline. It makes them do their best, because they know they have to be good. They have to do good in their studies so they can go and participate in the sports. And the same thing with music. Marching band was a haven for my kids because they were musicians. None of us came out. So both of my kids were marching band, and the teachers were amazing. Mister Ventura, Pinckneyville, I love him so much. He was guidance for my kids, and he has that tough discipline. But at the same time, you know.

Rico Figliolini 0:13:39

I can appreciate that. Yeah. These teachers that teach in Gwinnett county schools are underserved, I think, in some right way. So under respected by some people, but they’ve done a great job. I totally agree. Sports has been a tremendous drive. I mean, more sports athletes come out of Gwinnett County, Gwinnett county, and Norcross High school, but even some of the other high schools, for sure. And not just football or baseball or soccer, but volleyball, lacrosse. I mean, this city and this county has produced so many athletes, even theater and music, like you said. I mean, the theater at Norcross has done great, and some of the other high schools as well. So there’s lots there. But there are big challenges, right, to the school board, to the school system, I should say. School board has been changing over the last few decades. Different representations have come in. Tools have changed also, right? Social media has made it a little difficult. TikTok, Instagram, not that they’re bad apps. They’re just like anything else. They’re used badly sometimes. Right? Yeah. So you have disciplinary school safety issues. We lockdown school shootings, although we haven’t had any that I’m aware of in Gwinnett county that are. That were inside of school sometimes. Shootings on. On high school campus, maybe, but mostly, it’s unrelated to the students sometimes. So what do you see as challenges to the school system and when, with regard to discipline, school safety?

Yanin Cortes 0:15:15

Well, school safety has to be a priority. It has to be the number one. Just because if we don’t have. If the teachers don’t feel safe, if the kids don’t feel safe, there’s no learning going on, because everybody’s just worried about survival. Right?

Rico Figliolini 0:15:31

And we.

Yanin Cortes 0:15:33

I think the school board went through a very difficult time about a year ago when they. Two years ago, really, when they decided to change the discipline policies, and. And it created chaos, in a way. And some of the teachers didn’t know what to do. Didn’t know if they were afraid to discipline, and that caused a lot of confusion in the system. But they did go back this year, and they decided that they were going to take back and try to go back to the old way. And I think that was a great decision. But it took some courage from people to say, Mary Kate Murphy was one of those people that said, we need to. I take my vote out this one. Can we go back to the place where we were, where we can control our classrooms, where the teachers have the power to control their classrooms, where the administrators have the power to control their building?

Rico Figliolini 0:16:39


Yanin Cortes 0:16:42

So I think it’s getting better, and we still have a lot of work to do. It’s just that I think it was something that’s kind of set us back a little bit. But I have faith in Gwinnett County. I know that we will go through this. I’m running because I want to be that pathway to, hey, we can get through this.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:06

So what do you find then? The role of the board? Right. You’re volunteers, don’t get paid. I mean, this is stipend, but it’s really not considering the size of the budget. This county, I don’t think anyone ever gets paid well, and they do it for the love. You know, you’re running because you want to be on the board, because you want to feel like you can provide your guidance. So. But what is the role of the board, in your mind?

Yanin Cortes 0:17:34

The role of the board is three main goals and pretty much hiring and firing of the superintendent. Overseeing. Not overseeing, like, micromanagement, but making sure that all the laws that are already in place are being followed, and. And also just giving support to the superintendent so that they can achieve their goal. Approving budgets, making sure that we don’t go over budget, and that it is appropriated to things that will benefit the students and teachers because they’re the heart of this whole thing. We can say this or that, but the students, we have to make sure that we have quality educational systems for them. We have to make sure that we have. The teachers are being taken care of, that they have competitive salaries, and that they’re being supported. So the school board is in charge of overseeing or just making sure that everything. Everything is running how it’s supposed to be. Okay, but we are not supposed to make policy unless it’s something that is, that we notice, that is somebody’s not following what they’re supposed to be doing. But usually the superintendent is the one that makes everything happen, and we say, okay, yes or no? And we come together and saying that.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:20

All right, so there’s leadership. You guys are there to make sure and guide that leadership or policies to make sure. I mean, you all have a vote on the board. So obviously budgeting and all that, anything that happens, the board is voting on. And it’s not always unanimous. Right? I guess that’s good. Yeah, I mean, that’s a good thing. I mean, you don’t want. I mean, it’s good to be unanimous that you all are in agreement on things, but it’s also good to have diversity as far as opinions go. The fact that the disciplinary changes that happened two years ago were reversed now two years later because people are honest about failure of it and how it would work. So going to the role of the community then, because two years ago, pretty much that was the response from the community. So the whole idea was not just a response from the community, but it was also the people that were elected to the board decided that that’s what they thought should be done because the community maybe was voicing that opinion or the loudest voices were out there. So there’s a role for the, for the community. Sometimes it could be right or wrong.

Rico Figliolini 0:20:34

Right. But what do you, what do you see as that role from the community?

Yanin Cortes 0:20:39

Obviously, we have to pay attention to what the community says because they have concerns sometimes. I think that not every. Some people think. I don’t know. What I’ve encountered is that everything is magical and happens in a magical way, but there’s so many, so many levels to everything and, okay, well, this happened because of that, and they tend to blame one person alone. And in reality, I mean, it’s a huge system and we have. I know, I ran the restaurants, so I know that even though you have some policies, not everybody’s going to follow those policies in the way that it was intended to be followed.

Rico Figliolini 0:21:30


Yanin Cortes 0:21:30

And it’s hard because we are a lot of people, but we all one, you know, we are that school system. Right. So. But we all bring different perspectives into that, and I think they’re all valuable because everybody has a different need in their mind and how we see the world. So the community should be heard and should be paid attention to. And that is when we get together and we say, okay, the community is asking for this. Is this reasonable? Is this going to work in the school system? I think the problem was, okay, the community is saying this and we need to do that or we need to change the laws about this. Yes, but what would that entitle? And how can we accomplish that without bringing the whole system down. Yeah. We cannot burn the house because they won’t have a house anymore. Right.

Rico Figliolini 0:22:34

That’s a great way of looking at it. Yes, for sure. And you’re right. I mean, there’s thousands and thousands of employees in the county, and not everyone will. Just. Even a small business, like with 30, 40 people, not everyone follows that policy the way you said it, so I could say that. And you’re right, because even though you may agree on the subject to implement, it gets complicated. Right?

Yanin Cortes 0:22:58


Rico Figliolini 0:22:59

It’s like Congress, when Congress passes a law, people think that, well, that’s. That’s the law. Whereas now the department that has to take care of implement that law now has a set of guidelines and policies to deliver that. And that could be completely different than what was intended by the law. So I can understand the disciplinary and policies changed because they were trying to address something, but in the end, it didn’t address it properly, I guess. And this is why there was more problems there. So there’s a lot of action. Right? There’s a lot of action.

Yanin Cortes 0:23:39

Sorry, I’m not used to talking like that. But, yeah, that’s something that we can learn, definitely. When we. When something is done and it’s not successful, it’s an opportunity to learn and just to go forward. And I think that’s the mentality that we have to have for our school system that we love in our community. That is the mindset that we have to. Let’s not just point fingers at everybody. Let’s go forward.

Rico Figliolini 0:24:10

Cool. Good way of looking at it. I think if you’re elected to the school board, are there any particular actions you’d like to see happen or policies that you would like to see implemented? Anything new that you’d like to see, any actions that you’d like to see the board do once you’re elected?

Yanin Cortes 0:24:28

Well, definitely. My main safety, like I said, is, number one, making sure that whenever we have a policy that is in place, that we follow it, but that we have training for the teachers, training for the administrators, that we. That we have a plan that works and. Or that the people that are managing that portion because operations is more left to the superintendent. We are governance, and the superintendent is in between both of them.

Rico Figliolini 0:25:03


Yanin Cortes 0:25:04

Governance and operations. So at one point, we just have to talk to if we have a concern, and I think it should be in a diplomatic way, and I think it should be in a civil way. And lately we haven’t been seeing, because we have the same objective. The objective is to have a great school system, and I think that should be the vision.

Rico Figliolini 0:25:31

Do you think the school handles diversity well, the school system?

Yanin Cortes 0:25:37

I think Gwinnett county has been one of the pioneers in that because we have been diverse for a long time. I think when we go into just making everything a blend game or a politics get into the school system, that’s when we lose, because we will start saying, oh, this is. We’re. Like I said, we’re all different. I think it’s a plus for us. I think we can make this an amazing example for the whole nation. And I think when Gwinnett county has been taking steps towards that.

Rico Figliolini 0:26:14

Cool. Now, you’ve been running as, obviously, you’re running as a candidate right now. Are there priorities as a candidate? I mean, are you. You knocking on doors and stuff? I’m sure you’re meeting people. What are you hearing out there? You know, what are they, or what are people saying to you that you can share?

Yanin Cortes 0:26:34

Well, pretty much the concerns about safety, concerns about high quality education and what is happening to. There’s a lot of anxiety right now about the school system. I think it’s because it was caused because of the discipline implementation policy, that it was chaotic, and everybody just. We need to gain that trust back, I think. And we can do that by just. The school board, honestly, has been acting. They’re always in a fight right now, or it looks like. It seems like that. And would you project that to people? It doesn’t project any confidence. And so, I mean, you see a situation from the outside. You have no idea what’s going on in the inside. It doesn’t tell you the whole thing, the whole story, but there’s a lot of things that go on and that people are working very hard. Our teachers are working really hard every day to teach our students. Our administrators are doing the best possible things that they can do for the teachers and our students. So I believe that’s happening. I just think that because of the discipline fiasco, that’s if we are, the school system has to recuperate. And also, we have a lot of immigrants coming in our system right now, and it’s creating. The graduation rate is not being measured, in my opinion, the way that it should be measured, but that we have no control over that because that’s all over the country, right?

Rico Figliolini 0:28:22

Yeah, for sure. So the system is. Yeah, any school system that has an influx of a lot of immigrants, there are challenges. Right? Language, culture? A little bit. Although we are a multicultural county, I mean, it’s just like we have representative of, I don’t know how many. Over 150, I think, different nations in our country, and certainly from the Pacific Rim in Asia to Latin America to other countries as well, coming. Coming here. So there’s always going to be challenges, I guess so it’s good to have someone, I think, that understands those challenges that’s closer to the immigrants experience than not. Do you think your business background prepares you for the school board?

Yanin Cortes 0:29:10

In some ways, I think so, definitely. I think having the opportunity to have mojitos and the crossing and been an amazing experience for me because I have dealt with, I call it two kinds of customers. Right. Our employees are our customers because we have to make sure that we provide a good working environment for them. And our customers that come in every day and they’re asking for a specific product, are we supplying that to them? Are we providing good customer service? Are we. Are we understanding what they want from us either from. Are we managing the situations that we’re supposed to. It just teaches you. And we have every. When you go on a Saturday night to mojitos, every nation is there. Sometimes I sing and I go, okay, who do we have? Anybody from Mexico. Anybody from here. And then people can. Ukraine. Yes. And everyone like, oh, my God, there’s, like, people from everywhere in the world in this place.

Rico Figliolini 0:30:23

Oh, for sure.

Yanin Cortes 0:30:23

Just having a good time. And everybody has a different culture. And sometimes when I’ve had the problem with employees not understanding each other or maybe some. Some kind of disagreement, I find that it’s mostly because they have a different culture, and the way that they thought about this is the other person is different. It thinks about it in a different way. So we do have a challenge. It’s a big challenge. But that is why we. I believe we have to find a common thing. Okay, you have a problem with this employees. What is wrong? What is your problem? And then they will talk to the other, and at one point, they would see that they were both looking for the same thing, but in different places.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:14

And that’s amazing. I definitely, you know, that is amazing. You’re right. I think, in that regard, that we all want to go to a certain point. It’s just how we get there. And you’re right. Culture is really. I mean, I grew up in a neighborhood that was jewish, italian, and keep and tell people when I. When that’s the case, you know, I grew up on meatballs and matzo balls. You know, it was all. It was all family, and we all ate and eating around a dinner table, made everyone equal, you know, we sharing foods and stuff. But so that’s what I see, you know, when I hear restaurants and stuff. And that’s a difficult business also. So you guys must have been through a difficult time, even through COVID and. And just even running a business like that with help and employees.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:06

So I can imagine.

Yanin Cortes 0:32:08

And they become part of our family. It’s one of the things that I never say people that work for us. I say people that work with us to make this happen. Right? And, yeah, and it’s incredible because I have seen they got there, and before, when we hired, when they were hired, they had no family. Now they have a kid, and they’re still there. And some other people that had been through the restaurant, and then they left and went to college, and now they come back and say, hey, look, I graduated from college, and I went to this, and I always want to know. I have some of the kids that worked in the restaurant always coming back. And so you’re. You’re my mom. You’re like my mom, my second mom, and they all. And it’s just an amazing experience because you become so close to everybody and you feel what they’re going through. COVID was horrible for everybody, but I think it was an amazing thing when we couldn’t open and we didn’t. And some people just called me because I will work. I don’t care if you pay me or not. And. Or we decided, okay, you guys go home. I don’t want anything to happen that at the beginning when nobody knew what was going on and go home, we’ll pay you. And then I told Luz, I think we’re gonna run out of business, but lose is my husband. But it all worked out. Cause everybody knew that we had to survive that, right? And hopefully, thankfully, nobody in our. In our staff gets sick. Nobody in our family got sick.

Rico Figliolini 0:33:47

And everybody’s, you know, well, that is fortunate. That is fortunate. And I know the community supports mojitos at the forum and stuff. People always talking about. It’s like one of. One of the great icons in pastry corners. So we’ve talked quite a bit about the roles and everything. Is there anything that we haven’t spoken about that you’d like to share? I just think.

Yanin Cortes 0:34:12

I just want to tell you that my family loves this community. We love the schools. We actually moved to Peachtree Corners because of Simpson Elementary. I was looking around, and I was like, okay, this is the best school. This is where we’re going. And I remember that I didn’t even look at the house that was the only house left for sale in 2006, the house were flying off the market like hotcakes. I think this and some elementary, it was the home for my kids and Pinckneyville and Norcross. And I care for my community. I really care for our children. I want to make sure that people are looking at, looking at our school system in that way. I want them to have that love and passion for our community because I think that would, it will create something good, and that’s what I want to be there for. I know that my experience will come in handy in the school board. I know that I would be able to talk to the other people, the other school members, and talk to them and say, well, I believe this, and this might work like that. And then if they have to listen to their point of view, and somehow I think that I will be able to come into a conclusion and this is the best for our children because that’s the most important. Our children, our teachers and just our school system for our community.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:41

Very good. I was going to ask you to sell it to make sure people come out to vote, and you just did it. Where can they find out more information about your campaign, Yanin? Like, what’s the website address?

Yanin Cortes 0:35:56


Rico Figliolini 0:36:02

Okay. And they can go to that site, find out a little bit more information, contact you if they have questions, or maybe even ask for a yard sign if they want.

Yanin Cortes 0:36:13

Yes. That would be great. It’s funny because my son was, we were coming from school and he’s like, look at this. Look at your signs everywhere, mom. And I was like, oh, my gosh. I don’t know.

Rico Figliolini 0:36:30

They got to be special feeling I’m sure.

Yanin Cortes 0:36:33

A humble person that kind of intimidates me to see my name everywhere. That’s not like my style, but I, but that’s what we have to do is it’s, it is an election, after all.

Rico Figliolini 0:36:45

Yeah. Yes. You definitely have to be out there. And I understand you’re, you know, a quiet person that way, been told. But you have, you know, you, I think you expressed yourself really well here. So if anyone has any questions, they certainly can put questions to you on the comments below, depending on where you’re watching this, whether it’s YouTube or Facebook or on Twitter, which is where this goes live in a few days. So this not live now, obviously, this is simulcast live for those that may be watching it or post watching it afterwards. So I do appreciate your time here. Yanin Cortes, running for school board district three. And thank you very much for being with us.

Yanin Cortes 0:37:28

I just wanted to remind you, early voting is going on now until May 17, and then the election day is May 21.

Rico Figliolini 0:37:38

Excellent. Appreciate you doing that. So don’t forget, go out there, because, again, this is actually the only vote that you’ll be making for Gwinnett County School board, does not happen in November. This is a nonpartisan race, and you all better be out there, because otherwise decisions will be made in May, not in November.

Yanin Cortes 0:37:57


Rico Figliolini 0:37:58

So the final election day, actual election day, is May 21. So cool. Thank you for being with us. Appreciate you sharing your opinions, Yanin. Thank you.

Yanin Cortes 0:38:07

All right. Thank you for having me.

Rico Figliolini 0:38:10

Sure. Hang in there for a minute. Thank you, everyone, for being with us.

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