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When you grow up in an environment the sights and sounds become second nature to you. Unfortunately, the wonders that surround you also become second nature. I am fortunate to have recently had an experience that allowed me to see the wonder, blessings and opportunities that exist all around us in an entirely new way. I was able to see America though the eyes of a first time visitor to our great country. The encounter was truly profound; allow me to explain.
Returning from a quick turnaround Atlanta to Phoenix business trip, my red eye flight lands in Atlanta at 6:05am. While on my way to baggage claim I spot a fellow traveler searching for guidance and directions into Atlanta. Being a native Atlantan I offer assistance. My fellow traveler explains to me that he is a fisherman from a small town outside of Bordeaux, France and this is his first time in America. Manu, short for Manuel, explained that this was only a 10 hour layover in the states on his way to fish in Colombia, South America. He was wanting to see the city and also find some fishing supplies. Directing him to Marta, Atlanta’s light rail public transportation system, then onto cab’s and buses etc. It all seemed so cumbersome and inhospitable for me to just send him on his way leaving him to figure out our systems, directions and even a language barrier. So, I offered to take him myself and I’m glad that I did!
As we walked to my car Manu asked a significant question…. Is it common for American people to go out of their way or to be so kind as to help a stranger? Hmmmmm… Think on that for a minute! I will tell you my response in a moment.
Since Manu was looking for fishing supplies I told him that I would take him to Bass Pro Shops, he was ecstatic since he had only heard of this place on-line. As we traveled through Atlanta he was amazed at the the newness of our automobiles, the 16 lanes that make up our downtown connector, the amount of tall buildings and on and on. His eyes were wide open, expressing even a childlike wonder, but not because he hasn’t experienced the world. Manu shared with me the numerous countries that he had visited around the world, but in his words, “none of the places that I have visited have the sites that I am seeing”.
Manu continued to express gratitude for the ride, but also for the extra details in explaining some of the history of the United States and Atlanta. I was happy to serve him, however I believe that I was the one who gained the most from the brief time that we spent together. It was a treat for me to share my city and country with someone for the first time. When I was able to step aside from the places and things that had become common to me and see it through Manu’s eyes I realized what a gift it is to be born into America.
The best I can tell is that Bordeaux, France or anywhere else that Manu had traveled did not have fishing supply stores that encompassed over 150,000 sq. ft. of retail space. He went nuts when we turned into the Bass Pro Shops parking lot. When it really comes down to it we should all go a little nuts when we see things that are amazingly nice, large or convenient that we now dismiss as common place. One comment that he shared was that this seemed like the land of opportunity. He was surprised to learn that some people couldn’t find a job here.
In closing, I need to revisit the question that Manu asked me; we all should continually revisit this question. “Is it common for American people to go out of their way or to be so kind as to help a stranger?” I answered, Unfortunately it isn’t that common. Most people are busy and don’t take the time to notice. This isn’t an opportunity to pat myself on the back either because there are many times that I am too busy and don’t notice those who are in need around me. However, I am glad that I noticed this time. I am grateful that I was able to help Manu see a piece of America for the first time. However, it was he that helped me the most by allowing me to see the wonder and opportunity that surrounds me each day through his eyes.
P.S. As he exited my car he turned around and yelled to me; If he ever sees an American lost in France he will be there to help!
Recently, I was asked a few questions from a local blog in Johns Creek. I wanted to share with you the questions and my responses here. If you would like to learn more about my campaign for Johns Creek City Council please visit my Campaign Site Todd For Georgia.
Describe your day job, and what skill set you bring to the dais.
For the past 20 years I have assisted business owners and families in their financial decision making process. Through that experience I have gained an ability to understand how to ask questions and actively listen in order to understand what is both urgent and important to all parties involved. The financial decision making process for small business owners and families alike can be emotionally and financially driven. I believe it is important to be able to effectively communicate a strategy of how to deploy income and assets in a manner which will satisfy short term short objectives as well as long term success for future generations.
The same principles which I have gained as a Financial Planner can be applied to the role of a Johns Creek City Council member. It is important to ask a lot of questions in order to understand the desires of the residents of Johns Creek today and for generations to come. Once that vision is established it is important to be able to effectively communicate to fellow council members in order to gain a consensus for the vision. As a body it is the Councils responsibility to efficiently deploy the available resources to meet the objectives for today and tomorrow.
What would you like to achieve as a City Councilperson?
As a member of the Johns Creek City Council I would like to protect to the residents/homeowners of Johns Creek’s lifestyle and financial well-being. Protecting the lifestyle of the residents of Johns Creek means working diligently to improve areas that impact them on a daily basis. For example, taking responsible steps to ease the burden of traffic.
- Working with neighboring cities to increase traffic flow and best utilize smart traffic technologies.
- Creating restrictive zoning, NO NEW LOW END APARTMENT COMPLEXES. So that we do not create additional cars on our already overcrowded roads.
- Seek innovative ideas like continuous flow intersections and traffic patterns.
Ensuring the lifestyle of our residents also entails creating places in which families and friends can easily gather. For example:
- Creating a better sense of connectivity of our neighborhoods and shops.
- Maintain a family oriented nature to our businesses.
- Protecting our Green Space. This helps us to not be overdeveloped but again offers places for people to exercise and enjoy being outdoors.
As a member of the Johns Creek City Council I believe that we are elected to protect the citizen’s financial interests. Two of the largest ways to protect the financial interests of our citizens:
- Protect the Values of Homes in Johns Creek
- Reduce the Tax Burden on Johns Creek Residents
As a Financial Planner, I often see that a home/personal residence is one of the largest investments that many people make in their lifetime. I want to protect the home values in Johns Creek.
- Maintaining and Enhancing the Feel of the Community
- Ensuring that Businesses are Family Friendly
- Not Overdeveloping Johns Creek
Currently a large part of the services of Johns Creek are paid for through taxing the homeowner. I would like to reduce the tax burden to the homeowner, so that they can keep more of their income to save, spend and enjoy. As a City Council Member I would like to:
- Shift the Tax Basis Ratio away from the Homeowner and more towards Businesses
- Attract the right types of Businesses to our area
- Create a More Business Friendly Climate, relative to how we tax and engage with them in our city.
Differentiate yourself from your opponent.
In this Runoff election my opponent is Scientist, Chris Coughlin. Mr. Coughlin and I differ in numerous ways, however the three primary differentiators are:
Fiscal Responsibility –
Mr. Coughlin desires to spend 93% or $50,000,000. of money in the Johns Creek City Reserves on one project. My financial background tells me that it is irresponsible to spend almost all of your money on one item.
I have experience as a Financial Planner and also as a Small Business Owner in Johns Creek. This experience is valuable in terms of being able to understand how to balance the wants of today as a family but also to cast a vision for the future of a much larger entity.
Community Service & Involvement –
It is important as a City Council Member to be a community servant and involved in the community you represent. My wife, Jackie, and I have a long track record of involvement in Johns Creek and North Fulton. She and I take an active role in making the community around us a better place. We both are graduates of Leadership Johns Creek and remain on the Alumni Board of Directors. We both volunteer within PTA and Jackie is currently the Legislative Chairperson for PTSA at Northview High School. I have been active in groups throughout the city including The Chamber of Commerce, Youth Program Sponsor for The Johns Creek Arts Center, Johns Creek Business Association, Northpoint Community Church Guest Services Team, North Fulton Community Charities, World Vision, Fellowship of Christian Athletes Board Member, Project Open Hand and numerous other community service projects.