by Robin Kemp
Three candidates are vying for two city council seats in Morrow. Two are incumbents: Dorothy Dean, who is running unopposed; and Renee Saunders Knight, who faces challenger Hue Nguyen.
Both Nguyen and Knight held campaign events at the Morrow Tourism Center at the I-75 on-ramp.
The Clayton Crescent did not find any campaign finance disclosures filed on the Clayton County Elections site (Clayton County is conducting Morrow’s election) nor on the State Campaign Finance website.
Neither Dean nor Knight returned The Clayton Crescent’s candidate survey. Nguyen’s answers appear below.
Dorothy Dean (incumbent) is cofounder of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, along with Paula DeTar, wife of former mayor Jeff DeTar. The group meets monthly for neighborhood cleanups, the all-ages “Geezer Squad” that does one-time hard cleanups for selected homes in need, and holiday celebrations. Dean’s public-facing Facebook pages haven’t been updated since 2017 but she’s up to date: Dean advocated for a Juneteenth holiday and read the proclamation when the city passed it this year.
Phone (770) 961-4002
Renee Saunders Knight (incumbent), like Nguyen, held a campaign event at the Morrow Tourism Center. The Clayton Crescent has not found any invoices for either event. Former Councilwoman Jeanell Bridges has endorsed Knight, a payroll specialist, who is advocating for a new arts center and diverse representation of Morrow’s many cultures. Knight has pushed back against Nguyen’s claim that keeping the millage rate at 9.081 necessarily means higher property taxes, but does not address the fact that homes worth $250,000 last year did see their property values increase and thus would pay more tax.
Phone (404) 430-2232
Hue Nguyen’s Instagram features her posing with Trump-endorsed Senate candidate Herschel Walker, but she built her campaign website with Democratic strategist Bryan Eastman‘s PoliEngine. She has put up signs saying education is her top priority, but Morrow’s City Council has less to do with education than the recent District 8 special election seat did. Nguyen works for Kuehne+Nagle, the first company to lease space from Robinson Weeks at the Gillem Logistics Center. She opposes the unchanged millage rate, which means higher taxes for those whose property value has gone up and whose homes are valued above the exemption level. Instead, she wants a millage rate rollback, which she says could be offset by bringing new businesses to the city. Nguyen gave “Special Thanks to the Mayor of Morrow for your great support and letting me borrow the beautiful venue” for her Oct. 2 campaign event.
Candidate Survey: Hue Nguyen
Why are you the best-qualified for this seat?
I grew up in the community of Morrow. I watched as my parents worked hard to build a better life for us here. We were welcomed into the community of Morrow with open arms. I attended middle school, high school, and Clayton State University. I know and understand the needs of the citizens of Morrow. This is my home.
I am currently a National Operational Key Account Manager at Kuehne+Nagel, top Supply Chain Management Company in the industry, that globally has approximately 74,000 employees and stations over 100 countries. I am also partial owner of small auto mechanic business at Jonesboro.
I am experienced leader through cooperate profession and entrepreneur. I manage configuration of Key Performance Indicators, continuous improvement, cost-saving-programs, account payable, account receivable, tariffs, procurement, and operations excellence. My leadership skills demonstrate through accountability, execution, and listening.
What are the five most pressing issues in Morrow, in your opinion?
- Greater transparency/responsiveness
- Working with county/GDOT/Norfolk Southern on pedestrian safety
- Outreach to non-English Speaking residents
- Teen programming/outlets (skate park, adventure course, etc.)
- Lowering the millage rate for owner-occupied homes
What is the ONE issue you would tackle first? How would you go about solving the problem?
I would like to tackle youth programming/ outlets first. My goal is to support access to public and private educational resources through afterschool programs, collaborations with parks and recreation, interactive workshops and lecture series in which Keynote Speakers will be invited to present and share their knowledge and tips for success, and sponsor programs that stress the importance of college or vocational fields after high school. My plan is to utilize my connections and influence as a city council woman to push for change in community. I will do this by working with community leaders and tapping into local resources/ volunteers/ non-profit organizations.
What has the city done RIGHT/improved over the past 4 years?
The council initiative to reduce municipal trash bill and street light fees. The initiative to prevent the closing of Lee Street, which continued the development, and growth of small businesses in Morrow.
What has the city done WRONG/failed to improve over the past 4 years?
Lack of transparency in legislative and financial transactions. Citizens are not afford the appropriate time to review and respond to legislation proposed by the council. In addition, there are no monthly town hall meetings to hear the residents’ concerns or ideas. As relates to financial transactions the city is not fiscally responsible when making decision on spending on projects.
Define “transparency” in your own words.
Transparency meant the government allows people to participate in the democratic process and to keep informed of government budgets, spending, and projects in timely manner.
What specific changes will you make if elected?
My goals are support accessibility of public education resources, enhance multicultural celebrations, and promote small businesses development.
What THREE services does Morrow need most right now?
- Teen programming
- Monthly LISTENING SESSION for residents to share concerns/ask questions
- Monthly PRESENTATION for you to tell residents how City Hall impacts them directly
I believe that supporting the addition of a 20,000 would create revenue and attract art and cultural event in Morrow area.
What are your thoughts about recent staff turnovers at City Hall?
It is concerning to me. I am concerned about the reasoning behind staff changes. I know that currently there is no human resource department at City Hall. I think if we are going to attract the best and brightest to Morrow we need to position ourselves with strong human resource services to address these issues.
What are your thoughts about the city’s property tax millage rate?
I oppose any increase of taxes on property or millage rate! An increase of any taxes during a worldwide pandemic is an unnecessary burden to property owners. There are two elements to calculate property tax, which are the fair market property value and the millage rate. The fair market value assessed by the county and the millage rate determined by the city. However, the municipal government (Mayor and Council Members) have the option to rollback the rate to offset reassessments of existing property, so that the new rate is neither an increase nor a decrease in actual taxes. On 9/28/2021, the majority of the council team voted to keep the same millage rate at 9.081 mills, which effectively will increase the city property taxes for all due to the properties increasing in value. Morrow City has an option to rollback the millage rate to 8.66 mills and be able to sustain the operational costs. For instance, Peachtree City and Berkeley Lake City rolled back their millage rates to allow property owners to feel an ease during the worst pandemic in modern times.
Describe the city’s current racial climate.
Morrow is the city of tomorrow. The blending of cultures and the appreciation of different ethnic groups makes Morrow a special place to live, work and play.
What do you think homeowners in Morrow want/need?
The home owners in Morrow need a person who will speak up for them as it relates to increase of taxes, keeping our city clean, refurbishing our parks, and maintaining our streets and infrastructure.
What do you think renters in Morrow want/need?
Renters need quality, affordable and accessible housing.
What do you think business owners in Morrow want/need?
Business owners want and need a seat at the table to discuss planning, business development and opportunities.
Will you make yourself available to the press immediately before and/or immediately after every council meeting?
Will you support greater representation of diverse faith communities at city functions (e.g., non-Christian invocations, interfaith summit, etc.)?
Have you accepted campaign donations from anyone who does business with the city? If so, who and how much?
Should the city incorporate solar power and electric car chargers for city light-duty vehicles and cars?
Will you change city trucks/cars that aren’t used for heavy-duty towing, etc. (such as Code Enforcement/Public Works/City Hall) to electric/hybrid models?
Where would you cut spending and where would you increase it?
LESS: City-sponsored events, Consulting fees, Personal services, Meals, Olde Towne Morrow/The District
MORE: Sidewalks, Streetlights, Experienced police officer recruitment, Small business assistance, Public relations, Employee training, Historic preservation, Energy efficiency, Teen programs/resources, Code enforcement, Drug interdiction, Professional interpreter(s), Elections operations, City fleet fuel costs, Walkability, Bike lanes
How would you grade the city on each of the following?
- Returns calls/texts/emails within 24 hours: B
- Openness/transparency: D
- Responsiveness to citizen concerns: D
- Open-door policy for residents: D
- Ease of small-business permitting: C
- Current cityscape/built environment: C
- Job creation: C
- Fiscal responsibility: C
- Stewardship of city resources: C
- City-sponsored events: B
- Resources for teenagers: D
- Drug activity: B
- Racial reconciliation: B
- Housing stock: D
- Affordable housing (rent): D
- Walkability: D
- Tree replenishment: D
- Noise abatement: B
- Police responsiveness: B
- Party houses/Air BnB enforcement: D
- LGBTQ+ friendliness: B
- No-bid contracts: C
- Small business support: C
- Religious diversity: C