The Auburn Villager sent out a questionnaire to all of the candidates for City Council running in contested races. The following are the responses (in italics) provided by Ward 5 candidate Sarah Jane Levine, who is running against Sonny Moreman and Leah Billye Welburn V for the seat.
1) Please provide biographical background information to give residents who do not know you a better understanding of who you are.
Like so many others in the Auburn community, I am a proud graduate of Auburn University. After graduating from Auburn University, I decided to plant my roots in Auburn to continue growing my business, Lily Jane Boutique. Lily Jane Boutique is a brick-and-mortar retail shop here in Auburn. My store recently won 2022 Retailer of the Year by the Auburn Chamber of Commerce. Growing up in an active duty Army household, I have been given the opportunity to live around the world. My dad served in the United States Army for 28 years with multiple combat tours. My mom has taught for over 23 years. I recognize the importance of service and education. I currently serve on a board for Auburn University’s Alumni Association, a member of Auburn Community Church, and am a member of Auburn Young Professionals through the Auburn Chamber of Commerce.
2) What spurred you to run for a seat on the City Council? And why do you think you're the right candidate for the job?
As a small business owner, I have planted my roots here in Auburn. The community members have supported and shaped my business. Representing Ward 5 on the city council is the perfect opportunity to give back to the community that has not only shaped me, but allowed my business to thrive.
I am deeply invested in helping shape the future of Auburn. We have a unique opportunity now to impact generations to come. Representation on the Auburn City Council is extremely important. As a female, small-business owner, and entrepreneur, I know I am equipped with the skills necessary to best represent Ward 5 on the Auburn City Council.
3) In general, what do you think the role of holding a position on the City Council entails? How would you approach the job if given the chance?
I do not take holding a position on the City Council lightly. As a councilwoman, you serve as representation for the constituents of Ward 5. I plan to collaborate with other council members including the great relationship previously established with Mayor Anders. With my long-standing experience in customer service, I view the citizens of Auburn as the customers of the city. I plan to improve the customers' experiences with the city of Auburn. I will always listen to constituents and be a voice for Ward 5 with their best interest and wishes.
4) In general, what does public service mean to you? And, more specifically, how have you engaged in the Auburn community to this point?
Public Service is vital to the success of Auburn. My family made many sacrifices while my father served as an active duty officer in the United States Military. My mother has been an educator for over 23 years. I come from a service-oriented upbringing from generations of military service and educators. Although I am not in the military or an educator, I look forward to serving the City of Auburn on the City Council.
Public service and charitable giving is crucial to any local community. My business hosts many events in support of local organizations such as United Way of Lee County. As a member of Auburn Community Church, I am able to give and receive wisdom from a multigenerational small group. I serve on a board for Auburn University's Alumni Association and have a mentee through this opportunity. I am able to engage with many community members through my small business. The relationships that I am able to form with customers and our community are endless.
5) What ward-specific issues would you prioritize if you were to win a seat on the City Council and how would you address them?
I value the importance of protecting our neighborhoods. It is important to keep our neighborhoods family-friendly and safe.
The campaign trail has allowed me to hear the concerns from constituents all over Ward 5. Like the overwhelming majority of Ward 5, I support the Short Term Rental Ordinance as it is currently written. When elected, I will strive to keep the ordinance in place. I want to keep Auburn safe and I believe this ordinance helps ensure that.
6) What citywide issues do you feel are most pressing and need to be addressed?
When elected, I have every intention to ensure Ward 5’s concerns are addressed in the Auburn 2040 Plan.
This plan is a road map for the citizens and residents of Auburn and will have an exponential impact on our community.
This Plan will outline the future of education, transportation, public safety, intergovernmental organization, growth and development, utilities, environment and technology, citizen engagement, family, and community. It is imperative Ward 5 has a voice in this Plan to ensure our concerns and visions are heard.
7) The fast pace of growth in Auburn and the surrounding area has been the overarching issue in the community for more than a decade, impacting everything from infrastructure, transportation, the school system, the housing market, etc. How do you feel Auburn has dealt with growth and in what areas do you think more attention should be paid? Do you have any suggestions on how to better deal with growth and its impacts?
I believe it is time for Auburn to turn its focus toward “smart” growth. We must ensure we have the resources and infrastructure to sustain and support our rapid growth. Growth is what creates a bustling and thriving economy. However, it is vital we create and execute a viable plan. The 2040 plan will be a great opportunity for citizens to have a voice in what the growth of Auburn looks like for generations to come. When elected, I plan to look for opportunities to provide the necessary resources to support Auburn’s growth in strategic, realistic, and effective ways. I will ensure Ward 5 is heard and represented in being able to fight for the community's shared values.
8) Do you want to share anything else with the community that has not been covered in previous questions/answers?
When elected, I will host a monthly meeting for constituents in Ward 5. I realize it is critical to my position to be able to hear the voices of the Ward. I look forward to serving my constituents of Ward 5 when elected.