Randal "Randy" Mills, who has been mayor of Conyers for the past 20 years, has a simple reason for seeking another term this fall: "The job’s never done."
"It’s been a great experience, and I love this community," said Mills in an interview this week. He pointed to his successes in strong community development and improved public safety as work he wants to continue.
Asked for his biggest accomplishment as mayor, Mills cited Conyers’ population growth. That’s a sign, he said, that everything is working well.
"The most important thing is, when you have people wanting to move into your town and set up their family, we’re doing it right," he said. "That’s our scorecard at the end of the day."
"I’m just one part of six [officials] on the elected side," he added, praising his close relationship with the City Council. "Most of the credit goes to them and the staff."
Mills was born and raised in South Carolina, with a brief detour to New Jersey as his father, an FBI agent, moved for work. His wife, Carol, is a Conyers native, and they moved here in 1976.
By coincidence, both of their families were in the furniture sales business, and the Mills eventually took over what is now the Sigman-Mills Furniture Company on Old Covington Highway. Mills remains its president and owner, and earned a law degree along the way as well.
Mills always got involved in community activism, even serving on the student senate in college. He was urged by friends to run for City Council and served for eight years. In the 1990s, he was persuaded by longtime Mayor Charles Walker, who was retiring, to run to replace him. Mills was successful and has been in office since 1998.
One of Mills’ goals was to "build bridges of respect" among the city, Rockdale County government and other agencies. He said that has borne fruit with generally good and productive relations his entire time in office.
That has included facing some big challenges. Mills described Interstate 20 as a boon and bane to Conyers, bringing more people and commerce, but also crime and traffic problems. He presented himself as focused on battling those downsides.
"I think…if you have a painting of the way you want the community to be, it’s a Norman Rockwell painting," Mills said, adding that it takes toughness to stick to that vision. "You put your line in the sand and say, ‘This is the way it’s going to be.’ You constantly put the dome down or the barricade up and fight [forces that oppose] it."
Conyers has seen a lot of changes under Mills, and with change can come with friction. Local business concerns about new zoning restrictions have been building. They recently boiled over at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, where two business owners complained of "harassment" by code enforcement officials.
Mills said he had not heard those types of complaints prior to the meeting, but called both business owners afterward to discuss them.
"You listen and you try to find a solution," Mills said. "You apologize and say, ‘We’ll look into it.’"
He noted that zoning changes have come from extensive public meeting processes. But, he added, "We can always improve [communication]. If one or two or three people didn’t understand it, we didn’t do our job."
Those zoning changes are a part of the vision Mills said he is fighting for—a Conyers that is walkable, welcoming to people of various generations, and attractive to newcomers.
"The most important thing is…creating a community that my parents would like to live in, that I want to live in, and that your kids have the opportunity to come back and live in," he said.