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Debate series opens with District 4 Forsyth county commission

What’s next

The Forsyth County Republican Party debate series continues next week as follows:

* April 25 — Board of Education: District 3 at 6 p.m. and District 5 at 7:30 p.m.

* April 27 — County coroner at 5:30 p.m. and sheriff at 7 p.m.

Both debate nights will be held at the county administration building in downtown Cumming.

* Also: The final day to register for the primary is April 26, and advance voting will begin on May 2.

CUMMING — Voters got their first chance Monday to see the candidates for the District 4 seat on the county commission face off in a debate organized by the Forsyth County Republican Party.

Incumbent Cindy Jones Mills is facing a challenge for a second four-year term from Kelli Warren, an educator, in the May 24 Republican primary.

No Democrats are running, so the winner next month will represent the district, which includes most of north Forsyth. Only District 4 residents can vote in the contest.

While the candidates shared similar views on some issues Monday, they showed a deep division on others, including how they are elected and the creation of additional cities in Forsyth.

“I strongly, strongly support districtwide voting,” Mills told the gathering at the county administration building in downtown Cumming.

“Lake Forest is the most sought-after subdivision in District 4, has the strongest voting percentage in our district, I think. The last time people were elected for District 4 countywide [2008], the commissioner running didn’t even show up for the meet-and-greet there.”

Warren took the opposite stance.

“I support countywide voting,” she said. “The board of commissioners sit and meet and make decisions about the entire county, and we are one Forsyth, we are not south Forsyth and north Forsyth. We need to be making decisions that affect the entire county.”

Similarly, a discussion on potential new cities in the county drew different responses.

“The way I see it, if there is a group of people that live in a certain area and they want to make a change, they should be able to have a choice to make that change,” Warren said.

Mills said support for a new city would depend on the cost to taxpayers, but that studies on cityhood should show the pros and cons.

“If anyone wants to have a city, they need to pay for that city,” she said. “If they want to have that city, then studies need to be conducted that show a fair and accurate portrayal of that city on both sides of the equation.”

Both women were asked by moderator Joel Natt, a Republican appointee to the elections board, what the county would look like in a decade.

Warren said the south end of the county likely would look similar due to the lack of space for new development, but that District 4 could be much different.

“I would like to see District 4 with more homes,” she said. “I mean [the area is] definitely going to have growth. But I’d like to see more of the neighborhoods that were built back in the late ’90s and early 2000s that were street cut and not clear cut.”

Mills responded that she wanted to see residents have input on a plan for north Forsyth, adding that she is pursuing a subarea designation that would feature a trail system.

“It was a trail system that you could put in and it would take the Big Creek Greenway, and as it spreads into north Forsyth, it would encourage a trail system sort of to go east to west,” Mills said. “It would have spurs that come of the trail system and it would highlight our natural resources.”

Responding to a question from Warren on alleged remarks by county staff that the trail spurs would resemble the Atlanta Beltline, Mills said the staff member had been misquoted and mischaracterized on social media. Furthermore, she said, no such plan has been adopted.

The debate was the first in a series of three organized by the local GOP. Two more debate nights are planned next week, on April 25 and 27.