In Their Own Words: Councilwoman Dr. Catherine Foster Rowell

City of South Fulton residents are set to vote for councilmembers in Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7. Election Day is November 5 and early voting is underway. We reached out to the incumbents with a few questions to learn how they think they’ve performed and what they hope to accomplish if re-elected. All responses were sent to us electronically and have not been edited or altered in any way.

Councilwoman Dr. Catherine Foster Rowell represents South Fulton’s District 1. In addition to her elected duties, she also maintains  employment with Fulton County Schools as a School Liaison at A. Philip Randolph Elementary School.

Q1: What has been your greatest achievement since being elected to the South Fulton city council?

A1: Having sponsored/co-sponsored over 40 ordinances and resolutions focusing on meeting the statutory requirements to adopt all municipal laws on a range of subjects, from the criminal code to telecommunications, before the end of the two-year transition period.

Q2: What steps have you taken or championed to increase the safety of your district?

A2: The majority of District 1 crime has been shoplifting along the Cascade Road commercial corridor. A series of meetings were scheduled with our Mayor, Police Chief Keith Meadows and I, to meet with the store managers of Publix, Walmart, Home Depot and Kroger to discuss their shrinkage challenges and crime stats for the area. As a result, Chief Meadows has increased foot patrols and a number of strategies have been employed to address the shrinkage issues that were identified.

Last year, during the budget sessions, I advocated for lighting across the entire city to address public safety concerns and promote economic development. Mayor Edwards worked with Georgia Power to install LED lighting along Cascade Road. Concurrently, I worked with GDOT to reinstall the lighting under the Cascade Road underpass. 

I have supported the Mayor’s Citywide Public Safety initiative which includes allocating funding for mini-precincts, park rangers, significant investment in personnel and equipment for our police department, and the locating of our Police Headquarters and Municipal Court in the section of our city that currently has the most significant public safety challenges.

In order to raise public awareness, I have circulated the Mayor’s “Don’t Be a Target” video on social media and in newsletters to better equip our residents with helpful strategies they can use to avoid being a target for car break-ins and slider crimes, which are the number one crimes reported in District 1 and the city overall.

In partnership with the Cascade Business and Merchants Association, I coordinated a meeting with Atlanta City Councilwoman Marci Overstreet to tackle the water sales at I-285 and Cascade Road, which has resulted in arrests for truancy and other illegal activity. We now regularly communicate on this issue, in addition to working collaboratively to keep the exit ramps cleaned.

Q3: What steps have you taken or championed to bring more economic development to your district?

A3: I have hosted several housing and economic development tours to highlight our district. In addition, while most of the city was under a moratorium for new development, I opted out because I felt it was important for the city to send a message to the development community that we were open for business. The result has been that we have opened five new businesses in the district, we have virtually no commercial vacancies, and we have over 150 active housing permits in District 1 with new housing being developed in Barrington Trace, Enon Pines, Woodside Hills and Wynn Creek Subdivision. I am honored to have the endorsement of the Atlanta Realtors Association and the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors.

I have been working with the Fulton County Housing Authority to ensure their senior housing is developed on Riverside Drive in a timely manner, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was brought before the city council and approved to allow the city to oversee the permitting and inspections of the property, even though it sits partially in the Fulton Industrial District and the City of South Fulton.

I have been working with National Church Residences and the Mary Searles Foundation to get a commitment to bring more senior housing to the city, not just limited to District 1.

Q4: What’s one challenge that you did not anticipate coming into office and how have you worked to overcome it?

A4: In my opinion, the district structure has created territorial tensions and challenges as it relates to equity in the distribution of resources. In particular, I think having three council members represent one major commercial corridor resulted in the natural creation of a voting block.

In the future, I hope some consideration will be given to changing the charter to reduce the number of districts and add two at-large positions to the council or eliminate districts all together. I believe if candidates had to run citywide, they would have to appeal to the entire constituent base, and we would be more accountable and attentive to the needs of the city as a whole.

Q5: If elected to serve another term, what policies do you hope to implement in the near future?

A5: In the near future, I hope to introduce policies that will support the development of workforce housing and the city’s aging housing stock (i.e., home repair programs for seniors). Specifically, I will be working to establish a formal relationship with the Fulton Atlanta Land Bank Authority.  

Q6: Under what circumstances would you vote in favor of a tax increase?

A6: A tax increase may be warranted when we proceed to build our town center and/or make any major investments in the construction of new public facilities. I think we need to begin to think through the next investments for T-SPLOST funds to position our city for optimal growth. This would include infrastructure investments for intersection improvements, road widening, access roads and future parking needs.

More information about Councilwoman Dr. Catherine Foster Rowell is available at https://re-electrowell4d1.com.

Photo Credit: City of South Fulton

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