Taxes, town center divide Snellville mayoral candidates

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.


Barbara Bender

Barbara Bender

Age: 47

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


Kelly Kautz

Kelly Kautz

Age: 34

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Juris doctorate and bachelor’s degree in political science from University of Georgia, Brookwood High

Political Experience: five years on Snellville City Council

Family: Single

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.


MySnellvilleBlog 3 years, 9 months ago

On paper, the candidates do NOT look a lot alike. Barbara Bender is a well respected leader in Snellville who has proven, not just with words, but with actions -- that she can get the job done & continue building up Snellville's image. Kelly Kautz herself lists organizing pep rallies at UGA on her AJC Voter's Guide. Barbara Bender has received endorsements from former state representative Melvin Everson, current council member Tom Witts, incoming council members Diane Krause, Bobby Howard, & Dave Emanuel. Our city council deserves to work for the citizens of Snellville with someone they respect. I have obseved the actions of all these folks over the past years, and Barbara Bender has my vote. I just hope other residents will realize as I have that Snellville needs to continue moving forward, not be negative & want to hide in the past like "the old guard."


cmwitts 3 years, 9 months ago

Once again Ms Kautz contorts the facts to fit the situation. The truth is that Barbara Bender did raise millage rates in 2010 (and I voted with her). For the few homes that did not decline in value, that raised taxes an average of $20.00. For over 40% of homeowners their city taxes actually went down. What the article, and Ms Kautz, failed to tell you is that Barbara and I refused to support a $120.00 a year solid waste (garbage) fee, that Ms Kautz supported, that would have affected every household. This past June Kelly voted against a millage decrease because she knew that voting for it would be an admission that Bender was right the year before. This is not about old guard vs new guard. This is about honest, concerned, dedicated leadership that has proven over the last two years that it has direction and purpose as opposed to empty promises that merely prey on the emotions of the electorate. There are solid reasons why 4 of the new council members are endorsing Barbara Bender and on the top of that list are honesty and leadership ability.

Tom Witts Snellville City Council

PS: If the Performing Arts Center that Ms Kautz talks about is something she can do immediately then why has she not made the first effort to achieve the goal, which by the way, she promised in her 2007 campaign. "Empty Promises"


Danielle 3 years, 9 months ago

Ms Kautz must be delusional. On paper, just as in person, she doesn't look anything like Barbara Bender. She had been a council member for five years and she can't point to a single thing she accomplished. That's completely different from Ms. Bender who was a driving force behind the Snellville Farmers Market and the Snellville Tourism and Trade Association. All you have to do is watch the video of the debate to see the difference. Barbara Bender has intelligent answers, Kelly Kautz has excuses-- except for the 17 seconds she stood with her mouth open trying to figure out an answer to a question.


Daculan 3 years, 9 months ago

Simple. Barbara Bender is a Lady. She is a Professional. She is experienced. She understands the judgement calls that go along with leadership and hard decisions sometimes have to be made.


SnellvilleTod 3 years, 9 months ago

I have spent the last four years on Snellville's City Council with both of the candidates for Mayor and other than both being female I find no similarities. Bender does her home work, communicates well with Council and staff and puts the best interests of the city above all else. I fully support Barbara Bender for Mayor!

Tod Warner Snellville Council post 2.


suedehead 3 years, 9 months ago

I have no knowledge of either of these candidates and live outside the city limits near BHS, but what happens to Snellville affects me and my property value. Even without the above endorsements, I would choose Ms. Bender for the sole fact that she would use an existing development plan to guide growth and infrastructure improvements.

Ms Kautz sounds like a typical politican with a lack of fresh ideas. Her plan of using the Wisteria Square bridge as a stage is strange and building a community center only provides economic growth for the contractor(s). A performing arts center? This is a vanity project that is unnecessary. There are a plethora of venues in the Atlanta area fighting for bookings and Snellville has no reason to enter the game.

Quality growth and redevelopment, increasing property values, and restoring the area's reputation is key.


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