Burks wants to usher Clarkston into future

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Challenger for mayor’s seat to focus on city’s assets

 

 

According to Clarkston mayor candidate and former council member Beverly Burks, it will take a new leader to move the city, its people and its vision forward.

 “This means making sure the mayor represents the varied interests of our city, making sure we put Clarkston in a positive light,” Burks told The Champion. “We have to understand how welcoming we are as a city, how interested we are in the wellbeing of the city as a global community. It’s important people understand the value and power of our city—because of our diversity, we are a model for other cities. We can show how multiple countries can come together and be a community.”

 Burks is the sole opponent to current Mayor Ted Terry in Clarkston’s November mayoral election. To run, Burks resigned as a city council member—a position she was elected to in 2015 after serving on Clarkston’s planning and zoning commission.

 Burks said the city needs a new leader to usher Clarkston into its next phase of development. She specifically mentioned Clarkston’s current Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) grant funds as well as the city’s comprehensive plan.

 “I want to make sure we have the leadership to move the city and its vision forward,” Burks said. “With the support I have from city council, I feel that I could be that leader.”

 Burks said Clarkston’s economic development and growth is at a critical point in the city’s history. She said Clarkston can develop its downtown core, enhance its infrastructure and include aspects of diversity.

 “We’re kind of in a balancing act,” Burks said. “We can’t displace businesses that we have but we have to encourage new ones to come.”

 As part of that development, Burks said she feels strongly about inclusive, affordable housing. She said she’s proud of being a part of the recent tiny house ordinance in Clarkston, which seeks to foster affordable home-ownership.

 “We have to make sure residents in apartments have somewhere to transition to for a first time,” Burks said. “But we have to give opportunities for higher income people to come to Clarkston. A sense of community is very important to me. It’s important that we recognize our diversity but that we also understand the needs of different types of people: seniors, single people, families, native born, foreign born. They all have different needs that need to be addressed.”

 Other factors important to Clarkston’s growth, Burks said, include health, public safety, sustainability and the development of green space.

 Burks is also a proponent of public art. She said Clarkston is missing a public art commission, which typically incorporates art into developing streetscapes, downtown design and park development. According to Burks, it would be ideal to commission public art when revamping such city aspects as Friendship Forest, the PATH and 40 Oaks Nature Preserve.

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 “For me, it’s important that we tie all of that together,” Burks said. “If we connect all of that together, we can have a sense of place. Then we can have activities downtown and in other areas of Clarkston to develop a sense of community. Pop-up markets, showcasing small businesses, a farmer’s market—these are all important in creating a sense of place.”

 Burks said she enjoys being able to make a difference in her community as an elected official. She quotes Martin Luther King Jr., in stating “The service we give is the rent we pay for being on this Earth.”

 “I’ve always been a person working in the community to make sure I do what I can to uplift it,” Burks said. “There’s division on a national level. It’s important to have people interested in the wellbeing of the Clarkston community.”

 Burks said her time as a council member has been both rewarding and enjoyable.

 “I enjoy working with the community—I love interacting and doing positive activities for Clarkston,” Burks said. “I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to engage with other elected officials. I like working with our county commissioners and state reps to get things done.”

 Burks said she has nothing negative to say about Terry or his term as mayor. Terry was elected in 2013 and is seeking his first reelection.

 “I think [Terry] is a person with great ideas,” Burks said. “He’s been great with providing ideas to council and we’ve been very supportive of several of his ideas. I appreciate the services he’s rendered.”

 Burks said she will differ from Terry by having more meetings and face-to-face engagement with city staff. She said she also plans to have positive relationships with city council.

 “We can always agree to disagree, but you have to be respectful in doing that,” Burks said.

 Burks, a director of a nonprofit government organization and Clarkston resident for 17 years, said she has seen the city go through many changes.

 “I love Clarkston,” Burks said. “We’re the best kept secret in a lot of ways. I’ve seen all of our changes, our improvements and everything else. I want to continue to do so and lead the charge in further changes.”

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