Leslie McPherson is a native of Delray Beach, Florida, who relocated to Villa Rica in 2008 to be near family. She was elected to a four-year term on the City Council in November 2013 and took office in January 2014, and was then re-elected to a second term. Before that, she served as one of five appointed Planning & Zoning Commissioners. McPherson has a degree in business and is a graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development.
She completed the state-mandated Newly Elected Officials Institute through the Georgia Municipal Association and continues to further her understanding of local government by participating in courses offered through the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at The University of Georgia in Athens. She also regularly attends conferences on local, state, and federal government-related topics. She and her husband Mike are members of First Baptist Church in Villa Rica.
Why ar you seeking re-election?After the previous years of city manager turn over, we have now reached a good level of stability both in management and experienced, trained staff. I believe the experience and knowledge I have gained over these past years and the part I have played in the momentum we have going with tackling our big infrastructure challenges, while also preparing for significant growth is a major benefit to Villa Rica.
What are your top three goals for your term if elected?Smart managed growth
Water independence continued revitalization of downtown and of blighted areas
What should the city do to manage its inevitable growth?There is a reason we had a traffic study done; the growth is coming and we have to prepare for it. With Villa Rica being right off Interstate 20, we have got to be able to move cars and trucks. We have seen what can happen by looking at Douglasville. We have state roads running all through Villa Rica, so working with the Georgian Department of Transportation (GDOT) is a must. Prepare for more roundabouts, but also for more options for getting from point A to point B. The much-anticipated North Loop Bypass goes to bid next spring.
We have done much to prepare for future growth by completely rewriting our planning and zoning ordinances along with our building codes. We have a significant housing shortage, but we also have major projects in that area about to take off. Single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments are all part of the mix. I think we should prioritize quality over quantity and I want us to be careful in the area of not getting too heavy with apartments. People are more invested in a community where they have homeownership.
Other than growth, what is the toughest issue facing the city, and what do you think should be done?Water/sewer infrastructure and water independence. We are currently doing what needs to be done. After making the water/sewer enterprise funds self-sufficient and in the black, we were able to finally have funds to make improvements and repairs. However, with all the needs, those funds are not enough. We worked hard to qualify for very low-interest loans through the Georgian Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA), which will be a big help. While I’ve been out knocking on doors in Ward 3, I can’t tell you how happy the citizens on North Avenue were to hear that the new water line is on the way. They have suffered from low water pressure for years. It’s kind of nice to be able to take a shower and flush a toilet at the same time.
Searching for options that can make us water independent, and not at the mercy of who we have to buy from, has been an ongoing research project. We don’t know the answer yet, but it’s not because it isn’t continuing to be worked on.
How would you describe the overall “climate” of Villa Rica, in terms of economics, livability, and relations within the community? What areas need improvement and where are we on track?I love Villa Rica and living in Carroll County. We have a diverse population culturally and age-wise, along with singles and families. Most people I run into like it here and are good neighbors. They also want to be a part of seeing improvements. One of those is the continued revitalization of our historic downtown. An effective code enforcement department also plays into that improvement. No town is without some problems, but thank goodness we do not mimic the larger cities that have seen high spikes in crime and a lack of support and positive relationship with their law enforcement. That’s not us. Some concerns I have involve economics. At this time, the middle class is being priced out of homeownership with the corporate buy-up of homes and turning them into rentals. Government policies higher up the chain are making everything cost more, which is making it difficult on the poor, the middle class, and small business. And frankly, I believe it’s government policies that are responsible for people not going back to work. Look at the help wanted signs. You see them all over town and across the country. Why would you go to work when you get enough government benefits to stay home? Some of it is out of our control at the local level, but we need to get creative and work with our state legislators on coming up with solutions for the things we could have a positive impact on. One of those may be the aforementioned home buyer issue.