deNobriga was voted mayor in November and took office in January. She is the second openly gay mayor of Pine Lake and is currently the only known openly gay mayor in Georgia. Two of the tiny town’s five City Council members are also openly lesbian — including Mayor Pro Tem Melanie Hammet.
We caught up with the mayor to learn more about her goals, priorities and message to other aspiring politicians.
How long have you lived in Pine Lake? What first drew you to the community?
In 1999 I moved to Pine Lake to live with my girlfriend, Alice Teeter, who had moved to Pine Lake the year before. I immediately fell in love with the little town and its lake. I was already in love with Alice.
What motivated you to first run for public office? At the time, did you expect that you would one day be mayor?
I ran initially for City Council in 2002 because for years I had been urging artists not to sit back and complain about politics, but to run for office themselves. I realized that I needed to walk my talk. Plus I realized that Pine Lake might be the only place where I COULD get elected to anything!
What are your top priorities as mayor?
First financial stability, then economic sustainability, fueled by our cultural and environmental assets.
Your biography on the Pine Lake website includes your partner, Alice Teeter, as the city’s “First Woman.” As far as we know, you are the state’s only openly gay mayor — what message do you think this sends?
That some other gay folk might consider running for office too! And also that Pine Lake is probably the most gay (and artist)-friendly city in the state (two of our five Council members are also lesbians).
Pine Lake has long had the reputation of a quirky, artistic town. Do you think that is accurate? What are some of your favorite “quirks” about Pine Lake? I cherish our quirkiness — the art that people put in their yards, their eclectic gardens, and the small cottages that have been imaginatively renovated over the years. Our lake sits at the geographic center and the virtual heart of our community — you can run into the entire community walking or rolling along the lake and wetlands. We also have the most charming arts festival ever, the first weekend in October, and our unique Tour of Homes is the first Sunday in May.
If you had $1 million to do anything at all for the city, what would it be?
First I’d invest in our staff: reinstate retirement plans for our employees, eliminate furloughs and staff reductions, and restore training budgets. Next, I’d establish a cash reserve to get us through the tight times. Then I’d throw some money at Rockbridge Road, the butt-ugly major road through town, adding some street art, signage, trees, and banners. Finally I’d finish renovating and equipping our public buildings: we have four different spaces that can be used for arts and community gatherings (all within 1,000 feet of each other).
Top photo: With a wand befitting the town’s quirky image, Kathie deNobriga made her first speech as mayor of Pine Lake at the Inaugural Ball on Jan. 21 (coutesy deNobriga via Facebook)