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City Council Member Candidates for District 5

By Carlen Ruth Hultgren

On November 2, the city of Atlanta will be voting for, among other things, a new City Council Member from District 5. The current longtime Council Member and East Atlanta neighbor, Natalyn Archibong, is running for Atlanta City Council President, leaving the field for Council Member wide open.

Five candidates qualified last month and are going forward: Samuel Bacote, Liliana Bakhtiari, Katie Kissel, Mandy Mahoney, and Doug Williams.

The Porch Press reached out to each of the candidates, with the following four questions:

  1. How long have you lived in the district?
  2. What have you done for your community since living in District 5?
  3. What is your position on development in the district in relation to historic preservation, green space, single family housing, and small businesses?
  4. What would your constituents most appreciate about you as their councilperson?

Their responses follow. They were limited to 200 words. If you have more questions, reach out to their individual campaigns for more details. The Porch Press would like to thank all the candidates and their campaigns for participating in this article.

And please make sure you are registered to vote. There have been more voting roll purges, this year, in the state of Georgia. EVEN IF YOU VOTED IN THE SENATE RUNOFF IN JANUARY, YOU MAY NO LONGER BE REGISTERED TO VOTE. Please check your county website to register or to confirm that you are still registered. The last day to register is October 4 to vote on November 2 or November 30 (if there is a runoff or special election). Your vote does make a difference.

Samuel Bacote

By Carlen Ruth Hultgren

My wife, Lisa, our two children and I have lived in District 5 for six years. We also lived in Candler Park for a decade, so I am familiar with constituent issues of living in Dekalb as a citizen of our city.

As Vice President of the Glenwood Park neighborhood association, I advocate improving community “quality of life” conditions. Some examples include performing streetlight status checks or championing street “calming measures” in District 5. I am currently working with business owners and City officials examining traffic to improve safety at a busy intersection in District 5. I have also helped bring meaningful development to District 5 producing jobs and affordable housing units.

District 5 will continue to attract more development and people. We will work to accommodate “smart” growth along with respecting our history, green space, existing housing, and businesses. Our culture and identity must be protected.

I am an authentic example of a servant leader in that I put people (and neighborhoods) first, I listen more than I speak, and I checked my ego at my parents’ door many years ago. I haven’t used it since and won’t use it as councilperson for District 5.

Liliana Bakhtiari

By Carlen Ruth Hultgren

My name is Liliana Bakhtiari. From a young age, I’ve helped out at my dad’s pharmacy in the district next to the Butler Street YMCA, but I’ve lived in District 5 for 15 years and owned my home for 10.

I continued my work in D5 through mutual aid by organizing supply drives for our seniors, food distributions to communities like Amani Place, community blood drives, as well as seasonal toy drives and school supply drives. I’ve also worked with local attorneys to assist families facing eviction and foreclosure, and led fundraising efforts to support our unsheltered and immigrant communities.

This work made it clear to me that it’s crucial for us to proactively plan for HOW we want our neighborhoods to grow, striking a balance of affordable housing, greenspace, economic opportunities, and accessible infrastructure.

As our next Council Member, I’ll work with each neighborhood to create their own masterplan, including conservation zones, greenspaces, density layout, pedestrian/bike infrastructure, and neighborhood commercial districts. This vision for participatory planning is exactly what sets me apart. I’ll proactively work to make our community safer, more affordable, and an overall better place to live. My direct cell is (404) 644-2190, I’ll always listen.

Katie Kissel

By Carlen Ruth Hultgren

Katie Kissel has lived in District 5 for eight years. A busy mom of two, she has a passion for all things Atlanta and a flock of feisty backyard chickens.

Katie is president of the Kirkwood Neighbors Organization (KNO). Kirkwood is an in-town, racially diverse Atlanta neighborhood featuring protected parks and forests, and homes on the National Register of Historic Places. Firmly committed to historic preservation, Katie recently passed a KNO resolution to preserve The Old Atlanta Prison Farm.

Katie serves as founding board member of Integrated Schools Organization (Atlanta Chapter), board member of Unearthing Farm and Market, mentor, and board member for HEY! Helping Empower Youth, and a legal observer for ACLU. 

Katie believes that increasing housing options close to train stations and bus routes will be critical as Atlanta continues to grow, and that this goal can be achieved while preserving green spaces. 

As Council Member, Katie will build on her experience and successes to champion causes such as increase investment in transportation and water management infrastructure and improve transparency in the budgeting process that directly affect and can improve the lives of her constituents.

Mandy Mahoney

By Carlen Ruth Hultgren

I have lived in the district for seven years. In addition to my career at the intersection of public, private, and philanthropic collaboration, I am a trusted community leader and volunteer. I serve on the boards of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory Law School and the East Lake YMCA, where I was named the 2020 Volunteer of the Year. I am an active volunteer with Drew Charter PTA, have organized food distribution programs for individuals experiencing food insecurity, and championed the community’s Safe Routes to Schools program.

The diversity of people, housing, amenities, and business in East Atlanta are major contributors to its vibrancy and rich culture. If elected to represent District 5, I would be a strong advocate for focusing new development within distinct nodes, while protecting the historic integrity and legacy of the East Atlanta Village. This offers an opportunity to preserve single-family housing and vital greenspaces.

My leadership approach is grounded in the belief that all stakeholders deserve an opportunity to provide input into decisions impacting their lives. Stakeholder input is an important complement to the essential work of policymakers and subject matter experts. I seek out diverse and often disparate perspectives and create processes that are inclusive and respectful of individuals.

Doug Williams

By Carlen Ruth Hultgren

I’m Doug Williams, a District 5 resident since 2002. I have 10,000+ hours of volunteer work, and over a million dollars of improvement working with city, county, state, federal, and private partners.

I served as Neighborhood President & Board member, NPU officer (3, 6 & 5 years).

I founded safety working group for Atlanta DeKalb neighborhoods and law enforcement to reduce crime (2 years).

I was involved in renovating East Lake Park and the Zaban community center (9 years).

I founded and led East Lake Farmers Market and Farm (6 years).

I served as a Dekalb Animal Services Advisory Board member to help fund the new shelter. (2 years).

We can maintain the historic character of our communities while allowing more density, affordability, and trees through thoughtful, inclusive planning. Atlanta will double in size in the next 20 years, and we already have a city that is unaffordable for most Atlantans. We can make it work if we do the work. We must support independent small businesses such as Farmer’s markets, mom and pop retail, & small-scale landlords to nurture an economy that works for our people.

My constituents will most appreciate that I am fair, honest, and get things done through inclusive transparent public processes that build community while we create an Atlanta that works for everyone.

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