Molly Lewis, Tom Sanders, John R. Rust and Farris Yawn are on the loaded ballot of candidates to replace retiring Councilman John Beresford, and each believes he or she has the skills to rise above the competition.
Lewis, a longtime nurse who has lived in the Canton city limits two years, said she thinks she can bring a “fresh perspective” to the city council.
“I am totally committed to Canton and plan to live here for the rest of my life,” Lewis said Friday. “I also feel that by not serving on any of the committees I have the opportunity to make decisions without any preconceived ideas and bias.”
Lewis owns a business in Woodstock and said she has also volunteered for the Young Marines by teaching first aid classes.
Public safety has been a point of interest for her campaign.
“We must respect and appreciate our fire, police and streets department,” said Lewis, who wants to bring her “nurturing” nature to the council. “They are people, not pawns.”
A self-described “independent candidate,” Yawn has owned a business in downtown Canton for nine years and said he knows what it takes for the city to move forward.
“I understand the challenges faced by both business owners and residents in Canton and I have a vested interest in seeing both sectors thrive,” Yawn said Friday. “I am a businessman, not a politician and I am truly an independent candidate who will serve the citizens of Canton to the best of my ability.”
Yawn is also a board member and the former vice president of the Cherokee County Arts Council and has been affiliated with multiple other resident organizations including the Cherokee Historical Society.
“I am a big believer in professional associations,” he said. “And I have been involved in leadership positions with many of them throughout my career, and I am currently a member of several such organizations.”
Rust, a retired business owner, said his years in business and work on several resident boards in Canton make him ready for the job. Those boards include the charter rewrite committee and the Commission on Canton’s Future, which he chairs.
“I have been very active in city of Canton government, having attended almost all city council meetings and public committee meetings since 2009,” Rust said. “I know how the city of Canton works, how to listen to determine when it is no longer working at its best and how to suggest corrective action.”
Rust said his general nature is also appropriate for a council member.
“I have been a mediator and peacemaker my entire life and plan to continue that if elected,” Rust said Friday. “I am well educated and have a lifetime of business experience that will be valuable to the city of Canton and the city council.”
Sanders believes it’s his 35 years in public safety and the 12 years he spent on the Holly Springs City Council that makes him qualified.
“The city council makes decisions that affect us all,” Sanders said Friday. “Having served many successful years on the Holly Springs City Council, in which I led the public safety committee and spearheaded a transparent, efficient government operation, I know my experiences can bring needed leadership and problem-solving to the Canton City Council.”
Sanders served as the chair of the Holly Springs Public Safety Committee and has been involved with Safe Kids Georgia for 25 years, he said.
For all four candidates, economic development in Canton is an important issue, particularly concerning the southern end of the city, which was hit hard by the Great Recession.
Yawn said the Main Street Program could take steps to benefit south Canton with multiple methods.
“While it was developed with a downtown core in mind, many of the time tested procedures could be easily adapted to that area,” he said. “I would also encourage the property and business owners to work together to promote south Canton.”
But in general, Yawn said Canton needs to be more “business-friendly.”
“The council must have all the city departments review their policies and procedures as it relates to starting and operating a business with an eye toward cutting overlapping and conflicting policies,” he said. “I believe that the economic development director’s office should become a clearing house or one-stop shop for business owners looking to start or grow a sustainable business in Canton.”
Sanders said Canton needs to work to bring businesses to the city and keep them.
“The city must develop a strategic plan and establish a blueprint to guide development,” Sander said.
Public safety should also be improved, and the working relationships between city departments should be strengthened, he said.
Canton should also re-invest in the city’s vacant and underutilized sites, Sanders said.
Lewis said there is work to be done in south Canton.
“South Canton has been hit hard and does have a lot of issues,” said Lewis. “First and foremost, it just needs a good redevelopment plan. We need to talk with the current business owners in these areas to see what type of commitment they have to Canton and what they are looking forward to as merchants in this area.”
Lewis said the city council needs to have an ongoing conversation with the business owners in the area.
“It is imperative that council members are known to these business entities so that they understand how much we appreciate them choosing Canton as a place to begin, grow and prosper their business,” she said.
For Rust, development in Canton is something worth working on.
“Economic development in Canton is totally dependent upon the viability of the existing businesses and the new business we attract to our city,” Rust said. “We need to reduce the start-up business costs for all businesses and keep regulation from inhibiting business’ growth and profitability.”
Rust said he would also like to get the business owners involved.
“Canton is a great location for business,” he said. “If elected, I will form a business advisory council and seek regular input from business owners on how Canton can improve our business environment for both existing and new business.”
MEET THE CANDIDATES:
Occupation: Nurse, business owner
John R. Rust
Occupation: Retired owner of executive search firm
Occupation: Publisher, bookseller