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Transportation, water top priorities for new ARC Chairman Kerry Armstrong

Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Kerry Armstrong speaks to Gwinnett business and civic leaders about regional issues including transportation and water. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Kerry Armstrong speaks to Gwinnett business and civic leaders about regional issues including transportation and water. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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A large crowd filled the 1818 Club in Duluth Wednesday for a Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce general membership meeting featuring Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Kerry Armstrong. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

Kerry Armstrong isn’t a professional musician, but in his new role as chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Gwinnett man says he is committed to beating the drum on issues including transportation, water and aging.

Armstrong, who took over the job in January, said he was somewhat embarrassed to share his list of priorities at a Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce general membership meeting Wednesday.

“It’s the same list we’ve all talked about for 20 years, but I’m going to continue to beat the drum,” he said. “ARC takes on difficult challenges … and we have a chance to make a real difference.”

While Armstrong said he didn’t want to dwell on the recent defeat of a regional sales tax proposal for transportation, he said the region authority and other leaders have to work together to deal with Atlanta traffic, as it is starting to get the attention of global companies considering doing business in the area.

“The transportation problem is getting worse, and all the money we are spending is only to get less worse,” he said. “We deserve to get better. … Frankly, it’s messing with the quality of our lives.”

He said leaders also have to keep their eyes on the water issue for the area, even though it is currently blessed with rain. Still in a decades-long fight with Florida and Alabama over water use, the issue deserves attention even without drough, he said.

And the expected growth in the senior population in the state requires some rethinking about land use decision, Armstrong added.

“We’re on the way to a major problem,” he said. “By the time we realize it, it’ll be too late, so I’m continuing to beat that drum.”

Dan Kaufman, the Chamber’s president, said Armstrong not only deserves the support of his hometown community in the endeavor, but local leaders need to help address those three concerns.

“We in Gwinnett can’t solve them by ourselves,” Kaufman said after the speech. “(The Atlanta Regional Commission) can bring all of us into the room to think about solutions.”