In the service of political expediency, it has been insinuated by some in our government recently that only candidates with political experience should be considered for political office. While I obviously disagree, I do appreciate the clear illustration of how a few in our current establishment feel about their constituents, and why we ordinary citizens are putting our hat in the ring to change things.   

There is a certain level of arrogance in telling citizens who make the uncomfortable decision to run for local office that their kind of experience isn’t relevant, that they should wait their turn or earn their stripes; that there is a process to be followed or they are unworthy of the mantle. The lifeblood of local politics is the continuous influx of constituents willing to serve publicly and contribute new experiences and ideas. We want the diversity and inclusion of all people, all thoughts, and all experiences.  

Without it, you get what we have now.   

Experience does matter, and strong leadership does matter. Candidates should not be considered as lesser based on their lack of government experience. Government experience means you know how the sausage is made. It doesn’t guarantee sound policy or decision-making, or that you really put the needs of Brookhaven residents ahead of the needs of city government.   

Our leadership has been piling on generational debt at an alarming rate, some of which won’t be paid off until after most of us are dead. I don’t agree with that. My experience collaborating with the C-suites in several large Atlanta companies to help them achieve large transformational goals, as well as helping them make painful decisions regarding what they can and can’t afford to do, helps me bring a different perspective to local government.  My experience serving in uniform is also relevant.  I’ll be the only veteran, I believe ever, on the Brookhaven City Council. I’m going to ask why and how a lot more, I’m not afraid of incoming fire, and I’m going to cordially but indefatigably disagree more.  I think that is healthy for our city.   

We agree that Brookhaven is something very special. It’s why we’ve lived and owned our house here since 2007 and voted “Yes” for the city in 2012. It’s why our three kids were born on Drew Valley and go to public school here, and why we supported both John Ernst and John Park.  We intend to retire here and we built our forever house to make that happen. We are invested and committed in and to this community to a degree that most aren’t, and I point this out because I believe it matters. Brookhaven matters to us.

I also want everyone to understand that I agree that there is a lot that Brookhaven does right. Choosing between an incumbent and a new candidate is not a binary repudiation of everything the current administration is doing, and it’s unfair to paint it that way. We probably agree on 90% of government business. Where we disagree is what we talk about because we care and want it to be done right. Please don’t paint us as anti-parks, anti-police, and against fixing potholes because we disagree with unaccountable expenditures, massive generational debt, and an arbitrary raising of taxes on our Brookhaven businesses. Five people should not have so much power. I want to fix that.

We’ve heard that certain questions about Brookhaven’s finances have been labeled falsehoods.  That’s possible, but let’s prove it.  I bet everyone would like to see the reserve fund statements for the past 5 years. When we dipped into our reserve in 2022 to fund general operations, we were effectively running a deficit. We are on course to do it again in 2023.  

In the interests of transparency and to restore and maintain faith in government, we should do a forensic audit of our books when we are elected. This shouldn’t be a point of contention for anyone or controversial at all, because we have nothing to hide. We should also have an easily located page on our website that displays all of our long-term debt obligations, including the principal and the total interest over the course of the loans, the balance, rate, term, and payment amounts. With the long-term debt our leadership has obligated us to, we are in the hundreds of millions in long-term debt.   Add tens of millions more if SPLOST is approved. I bet most Brookhaven residents are unaware of that.

Much hay has been made about our low millage rate, but everyone’s taxes went up 10-15% last year as DeKalb raised valuations to catch themselves up after Covid. The millage rate didn’t help us to reduce that large hit, nor did Brookhaven offer to offset some of that massive increase with a lowering of the millage rate. Is that money already spent?  

If our finances are AAA solid, why are we voting on amending the senior homestead exemption this year? If we don’t need that money too, why are we proposing hitting people on fixed incomes in the wallet? I don’t believe our longtime residents should arbitrarily pay more for poor fiscal policy. We shouldn’t also be misled if money is tight because frankly, we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.

In conclusion, I would like to address the assertion on the steep learning curve to political office. Everyone in office was a rookie once, and no one failed out. If a bunch of lawyers can figure it out, I’m pretty sure us parents, engineers, CEOs, successful business people, and yes entrepreneurs, will be just fine.

Blake Beyer is a candidate for Brookhaven City Council District 2.