SNELLVILLE -- For years, Barbara Bender and Kelly Kautz have clashed on the Snellville City Council.
Now the two are battling to become mayor.
"On paper, we look a lot alike," said Kautz, a 34-year-old attorney who grew up in the city. But she pointed out that their records are vastly different.
Occupation: Certified public accountant
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration in accounting from Georgia State, Parkview High
Political Experience: Six years on Snellville City Council
Family: Husband Greg; children Nick, 22, and Katie, 19
Education: Juris doctorate and bachelor’s degree in political science from University of Georgia, Brookwood High
Political Experience: five years on Snellville City Council
For more than a decade, Snellville has been divided into two political branches.
Bender, the former mayor pro tem, was aligned with Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer, who is bound by term limits from seeking another four years in office. Kautz is on the other side, a group known as the "old guard."
She blasted Bender for two votes in the past several years that raised taxes.
"I believe there are ways we can make cuts to our budget without cutting service," Kautz said, declining to talk about specifics but saying certain government functions could be outsourced at a lower price.
But Bender said the tax increases were investments in the community that have paid off.
In fact, she chastised Kautz for abstaining from a vote last year on the millage rate, when everything but public safety had been trimmed as far as possible in a down economy.
Instead of shutting down, the tax increase allowed the city to add an economic development director and invest in paving that had been neglected for years.
"I feel like we've done a lot with those $20," Bender said of the average increase for a homeowner. And she pointed out that the tax rate was lowered this year. Due to the investment, "the commercial base will come back, and that takes the pressure off of everybody."
The certified public accountant has always pushed economic development in the city, and she believes the proposed Towne Center@ Snellville plan is the way to help. Using the 30-year plan as a guide, she said, the city will know where to invest in infrastructure to entice a developer to build out the plan.
Kautz, on the other hand, wants to push for shorter-term solutions, such as using a bridge built in the former Wisteria Square development as a stage and pursuing a federal grant for a community center or performing arts venue.
"Those are things we can start working on immediately," she said. "It would hopefully trigger future development."
But Bender said the long-term goals must be clear.
"That's where we differ," she said. "I can keep that vision of what we want."
In addition to the mayoral race, residents will vote Nov. 8 on a referendum to allow package sales on Sundays.
Dave Emanuel and Diane M. Krause are unopposed for four-year council terms, and Bobby Howard is unopposed on the ballot for the remainder of the two-year term Bender vacated to run for mayor.