Brookhaven, GA, July 6, 2015 – The Post – Brookhaven resident Kathy Forbes has submitted the following Letter to the Editor.
From Ms. Forbes:
As a long-time Brookhaven community activist, I pay close attention to the actions of our elected officials as well as the pulse of the community. Along those lines, I started paying attention to Catherine Bernard when she became politically active in Brookhaven and subsequently challenged Mike Jacobs in 2014 for House District seat 80. Catherine impressed me then as she does now – simply for leading by example.
Let me explain: In my professional capacity as an Executive Recruiter, I provide corporate clients with executive search and leadership assessment services. When recruiting a new CEO for a company, I always make a point of looking beyond the stated accomplishments and accolades to help my clients find one surprisingly elusive thing . . . a true leader.
Unfortunately, true leaders are rare in this world. They typically don’t set out to be a leader at all, yet they stand out by living authentically and by being driven by a purpose that is greater than their own bank account, power, status or personal achievement. In short, true leaders consistently place the needs of others before their own.
With the July 14th election quickly approaching, we all need to consider what we truly want from our next state representative. I know that I want a leader who demonstrates the same key attributes that I seek out every day for my corporate clients:
Courage is the foundation of “right action” and the most important character trait for any leader. As Aristotle said, “Courage is the first virtue, because it makes all the others possible.”
Catherine has demonstrated the kind of courage that we desperately need in our state government. In 2014, she courageously opposed Brookhaven elected officials regarding their attempt to establish Redevelopment Powers. This law would have given the City of Brookhaven unbridled power to expand the debt obligations of Brookhaven tax payers. And let’s not forget the Pink Pony. When other politicians chose to play it safe and not risk their political position, Catherine was willing to stand up publically for the ‘will of the people’, 70% of whom were opposed to the SOB legislation put forth by former Mayor J. Max Davis.
I’ve seen Catherine in action many times. I have also challenged her both publicly and privately with some tough questions. What was refreshing is that her answers were always direct and on point. Never once did she skirt an issue, parrot some pre-recorded position statement, or indulge in political double-speak. Catherine has proven herself to be trustworthy, open, and transparent. She holds herself to high ethical standards and has been impeccable with her word since I’ve known her.
In short, Catherine “walks the talk”. All you have to do is look at her actions – and her words. For example, her campaign flyers convey substance, not empty promises. They focus on how she will bring about effective solutions. Compare this to the campaign flyers of opponents which blast out (empty) promises designed only to win votes.
Independent thinking is one of Catherine’s core strengths. Catherine researches an issue, actively seeks input from the community, and draws upon her past experience. She then forms her own carefully considered opinion. All you have to do is ask her how she came to a particular conclusion to witness how much thought she puts into her position statements. This trait would be on full display if Brookhaven holds a candidate debate prior to the July 14th election, yet so far J. Max Davis is unwilling to participate in this type of exchange.
One of the most arduous tasks of a legislator’s job is wading through a proposed bill, thoroughly reading through hundreds of pages of legal language, and gaining an accurate understanding of the implications – intended and unintended – of the proposed legislation. It’s no surprise that many legislators slack off on this task. In contrast, Catherine gets in the trenches and focuses on the real work that needs to get done. This is what enabled Catherine to successfully lead the way in defeating the Redevelopment Bill. I am confident that, as our state representative, Catherine will quickly establish herself within the Capital as a representative who can make informed, effective decisions for the betterment of Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, and Dunwoody.
One of the most notable things about Catherine is that she has the credentials and intellect to work as a highly paid, top shelf corporate attorney yet she chose to work as a public defender, advocating for the poorest and most vulnerable of our fellow citizens. That takes heart – a whole lot of it.
During her prior run for HD 80 seat in 2014, Catherine was also working intensely to defend a suspect who was being wrongly accused of murder. Catherine focused on this man’s defense despite the curve ball thrown to her campaign efforts. Crucially, she obtained and presented key video surveillance evidence that proved the innocence of a man facing life in prison with no parole. Moments like this don’t often make headlines yet they demonstrate the gut-check necessity of character. And they reveal who among us is a true leader.
If we want our government to care more about us, we need to elect people who by their very nature, care about the well-being of others, at least as much as they care about “what’s in it for them”. We need to see evidence of this in their lives long before they decide to run for office.
For all these reasons, Catherine Bernard gets my vote for State House 80. She did not simply ‘win’ my vote. She has earned it through her words, deeds, and actions.
– Kathy Forbes, Brookhaven Resident
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