Ivan Figueroa

The field of eight candidates vying to be Brunswick’s next mayor was reduced to two on Nov. 2 with Cosby Johnson and Ivan Figueroa emerging from the pack to qualify for the runoff.

Early voting for the runoff to decide Brunswick’s next mayor is currently underway with the runoff Election Day set for Nov 30.

The News sent out questionnaires to both candidates asking their stances on a variety of topics. Here are Ivan Figueroa’s responses in his own words.

The News: Tell us a little bit about why you are running.

Figueroa: My wife Karen and I made our home in Brunswick because we were drawn by the strong sense of community. That sentiment has only grown over the years. We love our neighbors and enjoy walking into town to meet new friends and support our local businesses. In short, we love what makes Brunswick, our home. I had been looking for opportunities to get more involved but having served two terms on a Georgia City Council when my daughters were young, I know the commitment it takes to do the job and do the job right. When I retired last year, Karen and I discussed a run for mayor because in addition to having the time and experience, I have that commitment. In my professional life, I have worked for large and small companies that have provided municipal services to a variety of Georgia cities and counties. In 2011, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed me to the state Workforce Development Board of Directors where I served through 2018. More on my background can be found at VoteIvan.com. While experience and recognition matters, in my book, the most important thing a mayor can offer is the passion to serve Brunswick from corner to corner. We need someone whose priority is our city — our businesses, our residents and our quality of life. Karen and I make our home in SoGlo — you’ll see me often out in our yard or around the neighborhood. Say hello — regardless of the outcome of this election, we are not going anywhere because Brunswick is our home.

What will you do to keep Brunswick moving forward?

Brunswick needs continued focus on economic development. We have a good program in place, but we need a deep dive. Under my leadership the existing program and staff will be given more tools to expand their reach and success. An investment in economic development is an investment in Brunswick. The competition is strong, but we are stronger. A top priority will be to leverage the work of Forward Brunswick, the county, and the chamber to ensure all visions align. A strong team is our strongest asset. We will also work to provide consistent services for everyone. As mayor, I will engage our faith-based community and multiple service resources. We need to recognize that we do have social issues to overcome and that healing and growth together as one community is achievable. Communication and transparency will be a higher priority. The hallmarks of my leadership, and your government, will be integrity and transparency.

What can be done to reduce blight in the city?

One of my top priorities will be to work with the Land Bank to rehabilitate abandoned houses and make them homes again. Brunswick has inventory that can revitalize neighborhoods, address affordability and increase community pride. While those around us wring their hands about the housing crisis, Brunswick has the ability to turn the page on blight and create opportunity through workforce housing. Structures that are burned out or unrepairable should be torn down and the community engaged in the future of those properties. In 2016 the NEWS reported that in just 7 years the City tore down 182 buildings. That program seems to have stopped- but I will work to restart it. On the most basic level, we will work with the trash company to ensure they are collecting all the bins, every week, in every neighborhood. Code enforcement will support our efforts through education and enforcement. Police will ticket and schedule towing for abandoned vehicles rather than leaving that task to other departments. The city will be transparent in plans to repave roads and repair and replace sidewalks so that everyone understands the schedules. Every neighborhood counts and every leader will be held accountable.

What can be done to reduce crime in the city?

Public safety is everyone’s concern, and it’s my No. 1 priority. Major crimes in the city have dropped significantly over the past few years. That said, I have repeatedly warned that when we fail to fill open positions, we are inviting crime. At last count we have over 20 unfilled Officer positions. This is unacceptable and puts our community and our officers at repeated and unnecessary risk. While the city has slightly increased officer’s pay, we fall short of the county and sheriff’s office. We have officers in cars that should have been replaced years ago. Public service, and all those who serve our community will be at the center of my administration. Each employee will know they are valued and above all, responsible to our citizens and businesses. An investment in public safety is an investment in Brunswick’s future.

What should the city do with recreation programs once they take them back from the county?

The question as posed makes the assumption that the city has made a final decision. Ten years ago the city’s parks were in poor shape, as were the recreation programs. The city was also in poor financial shape, so the county took over operations. The Local Options Sales Tax (LOST) negotiations with the county were adjusted to cover the costs. Next year we will face a new LOST negotiation again and now that our parks are in great shape, there have been calls to take back the programs, and expenses and reflect that in the LOST negotiations. Will that be enough to cover the cost and maintain the level of service that we now enjoy? My opponent, who does not pay property taxes, has said if needed he will raise property taxes to pay for this. I am not quite so eager to play fast and loose with taxpayer dollars. My approach would be to negotiate terms with the county that best serves residents and hold them to it. My approach is to ask the property tax paying residents of the city what their desires are on this and all initiatives. Has anyone asked them? I know that I have, and I intend to listen.

How important are the upcoming LOST negotiations?

Every 10 years across the state, each city and county negotiates the split of Local Option Sales Tax (1%). These funds, amounting to millions of dollars for each government, are exceptionally important. It is not only the dollar amount, but also the impact the negotiations will have on the next 10 years of regional governance. Ten years ago, I was on the Johns Creek City Council when we negotiated directly with Fulton County. We had not only the largest Georgia county but 14 cities to negotiate with, including Atlanta. I’ve already had a conversation with our very capable city manager about my thoughts regarding LOST and if elected will lead Brunswick’s negotiation team to ensure we have a very positive outcome. This, and in so many other areas touched on here, is where experience and a true understanding of the workings of government, and the vision and voice of our constituents can come together for the brightest possible future all of us in Brunswick.

What will you do to convince voters to support a SPLOST referendum next year?

Voters rejected the SPLOST last year because of many reasons, from not liking the project lists, poor communication on exactly what was in it for them, to wondering why there were still open and uncompleted projects from years past. These are all legitimate reasons, and ones that can be addressed. Voters I spoke to have also told me they did not feel their voices were heard. I am a strong supporter of SPLOST. My opinion is that we must ensure that all voters have an opportunity to be heard so that the project list reflects their values. We should not have to convince people to vote in favor when they select the projects in the first place. Both the city and county elected leaders have to work hard to earn the taxpayers trust — every day, every project.

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