"I come from a proud family that has been involved in public service for as long as I can remember. I want to work for you. We need to create more living wage jobs, improve our transit system, and make early childhood education a top priority.
For far too long, there has been a disconnect between the leaders of Gwinnett County and its residents. According to the data via US Census (2017 ACS 5-Year Survey) minorities make up 48.9% of the county's population but the county's leadership is almost entirely white.
In a 2015 article, The Atlantic stated Gwinnett County was the "Most Diverse County in the Southeast. Yet it is a county almost exclusively represented by white elected and appointed officials."
All departments of Gwinnett County should be reflective of the community it serves. Of course, our goal is always to hire the best possible people regardless of race or ethnicity, but a concerted effort should be made to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. This is made possible by creating an environment that champions diversity and inclusion and it starts at the top with the Board of Commissioners.
I am committed to improving transit in Gwinnett County. The existing system, Gwinnett County Transit, does not serve the entire community well but can serve as the foundation to build a better system.
An improved and efficient transit system will bring many benefits to the County:
Economic growth and greater economic development opportunities
Better access to job opportunities for teenagers and young adults entering the workplace
A greater sense of independence for residents with disabilities and senior citizens
Reduce energy consumption, carbon emissions, and particulate pollutants.
Long-term economic health and less inequality resulting from the burden of car ownership by the working poor
Public transit represents an opportunity for Gwinnett County to prosper through the development of attractive, walkable communities around transit stations.
To ignore our responsibility to the residents of Gwinnett and the county's prosperity by not implementing a comprehensive, long-term transit plan is not an option. We would be missing a golden opportunity to improve our quality of life and to create the foundation for long lasting, sustainable economic growth in our community.
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
52% of our kids in Gwinnett County, between the ages of 0-5, are not kindergarten ready. These numbers are alarming, to say the least. The children of Gwinnett County deserve more, which is why I am an advocate for a County sponsored, Early Childhood Education Program in partnership with both Gwinnett County Public Library and Gwinnett County Public Schools.
Research has shown that children enrolled in Head Start programs benefit by receiving formal education before kindergarten. According to some studies, children enrolled in these programs are better behaved and have higher IQ scores upon enrolling in kindergarten than their peers without formal education. Likewise, it was shown that children enrolled in Head Start programs learned quicker than children not enrolled in these programs.
If a child is not reading at grade level by the 3rd grade, they are facing a significant battle through the rest of their education. In Gwinnett County, 58% of our children are not reading at grade level by the end of their 3rd-grade year. Unfortunately, not only are children negatively affected by not being educated at early ages, but the negative effects often reverberate through society. A study conducted by the Abecedarian (ABC) Project concluded that children with a formal early childhood education scored higher on reading tests during subsequent school years. It was also shown that the children who did not receive any formal education in their pre-kindergarten years were more likely to struggle with substance abuse and delinquent behaviors in their early adult years.
Improving the early childhood education of children in Gwinnett County is one step that can be taken to improve the county, both economically and socially. It has been shown that children should begin to receive education before kindergarten since children experience substantial brain development during these early years.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING / HOMELESSNESS
You may have heard the saying "Gwinnett is great". However, in spite of being a great place to live Gwinnett County has many social problems, including homelessness. These issues have grown steadily worse after decades of a neglectful Republican administration. Our county government needs to do more and coordinate more closely with nonprofit social service agencies to address issues like homelessness and opioid addiction in our community.
In a 2015 report by Georgia's Department of Community Affairs; Gwinnett has the largest homeless population of any metro Atlanta community that's not the city of Atlanta. Because the homeless situation is not so apparent, many in Gwinnett are not even aware there is an issue but our social services and public services are feeling the strain, a much more robust response is needed to keep the problem from getting even worse.
I believe that small business is the backbone of America. Aside from contributions to our general economic well-being, small businesses also contribute to growth and vitality in specific areas of economic and socioeconomic development. Small businesses do the following:
Provide opportunities for many people to achieve financial success and independence
The success of local small businesses should be a permanent goal of the Gwinnett County government. Our county has a significant interest in fostering the success of our resident small businesses. As a small business owner, myself, I understand the struggles many of our resident business owners face daily.
I would like to see the creation of a Gwinnett County Small Business Certification program, that would provide advocacy, training and procurement opportunities for small businesses within the county. The Small Business Certification program would partner with the cities, within the County, to foster a nurturing environment for startups and existing businesses. Gwinnett County and the cities within are major purchasers of goods and services, they stand to gain from improvements in expanded business opportunities for local small businesses. The county should be committed to ensuring that the resident small businesses have adequate opportunities to succeed.
We are fortunate in Gwinnett County to have a relatively low crime rate. We should be very thankful that we have such a professional and proactive police force. There is always room for improvement, especially in the way our Police are trained to handle people with mental illness and drug addiction. There is also a need for more specialized sensitivity training on dealing with people from different racial or cultural backgrounds as well as a variety of sexual orientations.
We need to make sure our law enforcement officers and other first responders are trained well for all situations as well as compensated well for their training. Too often we’ve seen our officers leaving for other jurisdictions simply because they are offered a better pay package. On average Gwinnett is paying 20k less than surrounding municipalities and counties for starting police officers. I want to see us pay a competitive wage that will help us retain the best and brightest police officers.
A highly trained community-based police force will keep us safe and help us maintain a livable community.