Michael T. Zanetti says his experience rebuilding Iraq for the Army and cleaning up a once-troubled local housing development makes him perfectly suited to be the next mayor of Conyers.
"I’m doing it because I believe Conyers could go to the next level," he said of his candidacy.
Zanetti, a 51-year-old construction contractor, said Conyers should follow the military’s practice of rotating commanders out every four years. He described the 20-year period of incumbent Mayor Randy Mills as "stale," with "miscommunication" among the city, the county and local small businesses.
"There’s nothing wrong with Mills," Zanetti said, "but from my military experience, I can say when people do something 20 years, they get stale, stagnant, set in their ways. I think it’s just healthy [to get fresh leadership]."
He criticized the "lackluster" promotion of the Georgia International Horse Park, and said Olde Town businesses are being "squeezed" by regulations and fines.
Zanetti said he has heard from about 10 small business owners that "‘We’re the lifeblood of Conyers and feel like they’re trying to push us out.’ I don’t think that’s the truth, but we can smooth relations over… They’re not a parasite. They’re there to help."
City-county relations also have a "disconnect," Zanetti said, adding that county officials tell him "that the city kind of dictates to the county."
Zanetti pitched himself as a bridge-builder—including with Mills. He said he recently met with Mills at the mayor’s Sigman-Mills furniture store and talked about the race.
"It was an enjoyable conversation," Zanetti said, adding that they wished each other good luck.
Originally from New Jersey, Zanetti graduated from Jacksonville State University in Alabama and managed a lumber company in Seattle before coming to Georgia, his then-wife’s native state, 14 years ago. He has lived in Conyers since then. Now divorced, he said he plans to remarry next year. He has three teenage children – a 19-year-old son and 14- and 15-year old daughters. Zanetti is currently an independent contractor on the Courtyard by Marriott hotel under construction on Ga. Highway 138.
Zanetti served two decades in the Army, retiring with the rank of captain. His specialty was transportation, and 10 years ago, he was called to serve in Iraq. He helped to rebuild civilian transportation infrastructure such as train lines. The work meant getting local leaders and U.S. government officials on the same page—not always an easy task.
"Not a lot of guys have the skill set" to do it, Zanetti said, adding that it gave him a lot of experience in community leadership.
Zanetti just ended a nine-year stint as president of the 79-unit Viewpointe East Condominiums association, where he lives at 1484C Pine Log Road. He said he got involved during a troubled time for the complex and helped to clean it up.
"It was in a very bad situation. There were drugs and so forth," Zanetti said. He said his efforts to improve it were a crash course in city and county government—from the police to building permits to water and sewer.
Zanetti is now selling his two Viewpointe condos on the website GoSwap.org. The one he lives in is described as "Mike’s Marvelous Condominium" and is offered for sale or trade for another property, including out-of-state homes or even an RV. But, Zanetti told the News, his intent is to get cash and buy a single-family house somewhere in Conyers.
Probate Court Judge Charles Mays is listed in property records as a co-owner of Zanetti’s home. Zanetti said Mays, an old friend from the construction industry, lived there for three years during a period when Zanetti was called up for military service. Because the complex’s condos cannot be rented to non-owners, Zanetti made Mays a 1 percent owner of the property, he said.
Until a month ago, Zanetti also served on the board of the local nonprofit Ceek to Fulfill, which helps disadvantaged youths and youths that have aged out of the foster system. Zanetti said he resigned because Ceek to Fulfill’s executive director was concerned his campaign might make the nonprofit appear political.
Zanetti has coached local youth soccer and taught and coached basketball for three years at Excel Christian Academy in Conyers.