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Candidate Q&A: Lowell Chambers

The News: What do you see as the biggest issues facing Porterdale?

Lowell Chambers

Chambers: Those who are new to Porterdale see a town with a unique character, natural recreation opportunities, a developing downtown, and opportunities for affordable home ownership, but it has not always been so.  Those who knew Porterdale 20 years ago knew a town that was down and out with substandard housing, property depreciation, irresponsible landlords and an undercurrent of drug abuse, family violence, and civic disengagement. This was the period in which I decided to purchase land, build a house, and raise my family in Porterdale. Even with dual professional incomes and stellar credit, my wife and I had difficulty finding a local financial institution willing to take a risk on Porterdale. We eventually succeeded.  Fortunately, there were a few other people who saw the community for what it could be, and were willing to invest their finances and their lives here. A vision of the future coupled with strong government leadership gradually but steadily gave us the town we know today.

The greatest risk facing Porterdale is complacency.  Some residents assume things have just naturally improved, and don’t appreciate the fact that amending the City Code, hiring competent staff, enforcing standards, and electing leaders who are willing to take risks and do things differently became the foundation of the change.  Ironically, there are some candidates in this election, who resent the new standards, who are unhappy that the City Code now requires property owners to maintain their property.  Apparently, they preferred Porterdale the way it was. 

Porterdale has made enormous strides over the last ten years.  Quality of life has vastly improved but there is more to be done.  With consistent, intelligent leadership, we can continue to make progress.  Without it, we risk returning to the “bad old days.”

The News: What do you see as the role of historic preservation as the City of Porterdale continues to grow?

Chambers: Historic preservation is essential to the identity of Porterdale.  Newcomers and current residents alike are realizing that “The Most Intact Mill Village in Georgia” offers opportunities and values few other places possess.  Many of the same qualities that are attracting innovative people and creating desirable, energetic communities around the nation – that have created a national sensation along the Beltline in Atlanta – are available in Porterdale.  Residents may choose to live in a loft apartment in an old textile mill or renovate an affordable, well-built, 100-year-old house; downtown businesses are easily accessible in a “walkable” community; an emerging trail system provides further connections to recreation and business; the Yellow River Park offers kayaking, fishing, and disc golf. 

All of these elements create the personality that is Porterdale.  I am committed to preserving it.  I have worked hard over the past nine years to help establish the Porterdale Historic District, to develop modest but effective and fair regulations endorsed by the State of Georgia.  Historic preservation is a major point of difference with my opponent who has appeared before the Historic Preservation Commission and expressed his disdain for Porterdale’s historic preservation requirements; suggesting that every landlord and property owner should have unlimited freedom to modify, demolish, or replace historic buildings, destroying the character of the town. 

Our history is what makes the Porterdale village a “place”.  Without historic preservation, Porterdale risks losing its identify, devolving into another non-descript, used-to-be town swallowed up by sprawling, generic development.  I love Porterdale and its history.  Preserving our history insures our future.

The News: Where do you see the City of Porterdale in four years? If elected, what are your goals for the four years you’re in office?

Chambers: My goal for Porterdale is to create a culture of arts, recreation, and specialty businesses.  Porterdale is a small town with big ideas.  Unfortunately, our financial resources are limited.  Consequently, we have tackled many problems with in-house staff and a “can do” spirit.  We have successfully leveraged multiple grants to develop our river front and recreational opportunities, repurpose our burned-out gym into a unique performance venue, improve city facilities, and tackle long-deferred public utility needs.  As a City Planner and a Professional Engineer licensed by the State of Georgia, I have the background and training to plan, advise, and assist the City management and staff.  I have provided pro-bono services to the City and have saved Porterdale tens of thousands of dollars in design and construction costs on various projects. If reelected, my goal is to continue the progress with additional focus on creating a riverfront park, extending and expanding the multi-use trail, and supporting the Main Street Program of community events and economic development, attracting unique shops and restaurants to enhance the quality of life in Porterdale.

The News:  How can city residents reach you if they have more questions?

Chambers: I can be reached at my home telephone number 770-784-5894, my personal email, or through the administrative staff at City Hall.  I welcome questions and concerns.