Editor's note: Patch reached out to Canton City Council member-elect Sandy McGrew as she prepares to be sworn into office tonight before the Canton City Council meeting, which gets underway at 6 p.m.
McGrew will replace outgoing City Councilman Bob Rush, who decided not to seek re-election to a second term.
McGrew discussed what challenges she believes Canton faces and her ideas to help solve some of the city's longstanding issues.
1. Now that the election is over, how have you been preparing for your new role?
The newly elected council members spent many hours with the different city department heads learning what each department does and meeting some of the key people who carry out these jobs. Each department head gave us a manual or information summary packet, which will give us a greater understanding of what they do. But reading all of the journals and manuals won’t take the place of actually hearing about, seeing and doing what needs to be done. I’ve also been reading the City Charter and looking more closely at a map of the city to become even more familiar with the streets and neighborhoods. And as always, I’m listening to Canton’s people and hearing what they want for our city. Downtown business owners want the parking situation to be resolved, seniors want to make sure that they continue to receive their homestead tax exemption and many residents want more shopping and dining options. And everyone wants low taxes.
2. What are some goals you'd like to see the city and the city council achieve?
Before setting any new goals, I would like to make more progress with what is already on the table. After a little time on council and working, I think that I’ll have a clearer picture and be able to set reasonable goals with the other members of council. Of course, our goal will always be to provide superior services for our citizens with the least amount of spending and improving the quality of life by keeping our city in good repair and well maintained.
3. What are your thoughts on what could be done to bring in more businesses and activity into downtown Canton?
I’d like to get a detailed inventory of vacant store fronts and commercial buildings to think about what would be a good fit for those sites. I plan to spend some time with Canton’s Economic Development Coordinator Matthew Thomas and Cherokee Office of Economic Development President Misti Martin. They are experts on development and have much to share. People are telling me that they want more restaurants and places to shop in downtown Canton, and in Canton in general. It’s all going to come together, one puzzle piece at a time. I think that we need to get our city in good repair. This, in turn, will make us a more desirable home for prospective businesses and residents.
4. What efforts do you think should be taken to enhance public safety — police as well as fire — in the city? Our police and firefighters are already doing a stellar job. We need to keep their equipment updated and provide training opportunities for the personnel.
5. What are your thoughts on how the city should tackle its debt? Would you be in favor of a millage rate and/or water/sewer rate increase to help mitigate the debt? I am not in favor of any tax increases; who would be? Let’s first look at the existing budget and see where money can be redistributed, and where areas can be trimmed down a bit. The council has been doing a good job at chipping away at the debt. We’ll continue to chip away at it, in every way possible. Our priority is — as I’ve said many times — to give the citizens superior services for the least amount of spending.
6. What do you think are some of the biggest obstacles the city and the city council face as a whole?
I see that we need to put the issue of the fire services to rest once and for all. To merge or not to merge, that is the question. We need to put all the facts on the table, do our research, talk to the experts and make the decision and move on. Our firefighters have been held in limbo for long enough. It can’t be good for their morale and the citizens are calling for a resolution. This will be a priority. And, the infrastructure is also a priority. We must get our water system in good repair and well maintained so that Canton can have clean drinking water everyday.
7. What should Canton residents expect from your tenure on the council?
I can only answer about what they can expect from me personally because I’ll be one of seven — counting the mayor — cogs in a wheel. From me they can expect communication, honesty, civility and cooperation with the other council members. I will do my homework and research and I will represent all of Canton. I will always make the decisions that will benefit the citizens while keeping spending to a minimum.