Sometimes politics can divide the best of communities.
But in Lawrenceville, where Keith Roche and Larry Troutman are preparing for battle in the ballot box, politics can’t ruin a 40-year-old friendship.
Roche and Troutman, the top two vote-getters in last month’s City Council race who will square off in a runoff Tuesday, live across the street from one another.
But instead of squabbling, the two have joked about putting campaign signs in each other’s yards.
“Larry and I were friends going into this race and we’ll be friends when the race is over,” Roche said. “We have stuck to the issues and we have run positive campaigns that allow the citizens of Lawrenceville to make their decisions for the right reasons.”
Both are businessman, with Roche retired from running a Fortune 200 company, while Troutman has spent his career in the corporate world and with local businesses, currently the Atlanta Auction Company not far from City Hall. But they differ on their views of drawing business to the city.
Roche talks about cleaning up some of the city’s less desirable businesses, using code enforcement and other tools to stop the proliferation of bail bondsmen, pawn shops and used car lots on Lawrenceville’s major roads. And as a planning commissioner, he has worked on a city council initiative to clean up those thorougfares.
“I want to identify the types of businesses that will make Lawrenceville a destination and aggressively market the city to those businesses,” Roche said, adding that he wants to use the city’s assets with the local hospital and college to revitalize the area. “I want people driving into town to see nice shops, restaurants and professional office buildings.”
But Troutman says the city needs to be careful to support the businesses in the community, lest it build a reputation that it is not business-friendly.
“Currently we have close to 200 empty offices and businesses in our city. Times are tough and we need to do all we can to help our business community,” Troutman said. “I would rather see plateglass opposed to plywood in the windows of businesses.”
Both men say they want to be the voice of the people, and are reaching out to bring people to the polls Tuesday.
“The issues we have in the city are a few; however the ones we have are major as to it will affect our future growth if not approached carefully and with specific goals,” Troutman said.
Education: Short University, 1997
Occupation: Retired from PPG Industries
Political Experience: Lawrenceville Planning Commission
Family: Wife Beverly Roche; adult daughter, Christina
Education: Some college
Occupation: Business Owner/Auctioneer
Political Experience: None
Family: Wife Lucy; four grandchildren