Meet Your Leaders: Cris Eaton-Welsh
This week, Patch speaks with the newest member of Kennesaw's city council, Dr. Cris Eaton-Welsh.
Consider this question: how does one manage to be a politician, a full-time chiropractor, a wife, and a mother of two all at the same time?
"You just do it," said Councilwoman Cris Eaton-Welsh, the subject of this week's "Meet Your Leaders" who currently fills all of the aforementioned roles. This was the advice all of her friends with political experience gave her when she decided to run for a seat on Kennesaw's City Council, and it's what she says to anyone who asks about it.
Welsh has lived in Kennesaw for the past 22 years. She attended Winter Park High School in Winter Park, Fl. While there, she founded Politically Active Teenagers, which is still a functioning group. After high school, she attended college at Florida State, and later, Kennesaw State University, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting. After that, she persued a career in chiropractic.
"I realized that even though I was very good at accounting, it's not somewhere I felt like I could live the rest of my life," said Welsh. "I felt like I'd be holed up. I felt like I wouldn't thrive there."
Welsh graduated from Life University in 2000, the same year she married her husband, Steve. She and Steve have two daughters, Shelby, 4, and Isabelle, 6.
She is also an enthusiastic runner, having completed two marathons and planning to do a third. She said she aspires to complete a half iron man next September. "It takes a dedication, a consistency," Welsh said.
Welsh is the newest member of Kennesaw's City Council and is nearing the end of her first term. "I've always been very involved behind the scenes in politics," said Welsh. She said her first choice of major, while she was still at Florida State, was political science: "I've always been behind the scenes, and I've always been very happy there."
Welsh worked on Bob Dole's presidential campaign in the 1980s, as well as Johnny Isakson's senate campaign during his first run.
Welsh said the tipping point that made her decide to go over to the front line of local politics was the 2009 racial discrimination lawsuit filed against the city. She said she was able to obtain a copy of the lawsuit.
"I read (the lawsuit), and it made me very angry," said Welsh. "I was disgusted. I thought, this is not the Kennesaw I know, this is not the Kennesaw I love, this is not what I want people outside of this community thinking Kennesaw is."
After the lawsuit, Welsh said she spoke with friends and family about the decision to run for City Council. "My family seemed cool with it, even though the timing was bad," said Welsh. "My mom had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, my father had just retired, and I had a small child."
Welsh said she was also somewhat concerned that being a councilwoman would harm her business. She feared the location of her family's practice, Eaton Chiropractic, situated right across the street from City hall, would bring droves of citizens who would flood her office—not with business, but with questions and concerns about city affairs. Despite the concerns, however, she decided to run for City Council.
Welsh identifies herself as politically conservative, though she immediately stressed that elections in Kennesaw are non-partisan. Welsh said there are two issues which hold the same level of priority in the city: downtown development and communications.
"I think downtown development is absolutely huge," said Welsh. "(The citizens) want this downtown developed; they want a place to go, they want a place to hang out." She also stressed that development must be balanced with fiscal responsibility, so that it is not a burden to the taxpayers.
Welsh also stressed the importance of developing communications. "I started a blog," said Welsh with a chuckle. "The guys (other councilmembers) thought it was ridiculous, but now they all have one. They all post on their Facebook now, and Twitter, too." She also mentioned that the revamping of the city's website is a large step in the right direction.
Asked what change she would make to the city, given the chance to make it unilaterally, Welsh said she would align municipal and county elections, adding this would save the city $26,000.
Welsh is up for re-election in the Nov. 8 Kennesaw general election. She said downtown developments that she has supported are extremely close to becoming reality, and she doesn't want to risk them falling through with her absence.
Welsh said she has no desire to hold higher offices. "I have absolutely no desire to be a career politician," said Welsh.
Looking ahead, Welsh said that she would love to retire to Costa Rica, although she is not certain about the practicality of it. She said that her husband's work with Turner Broadcasting is something he would have trouble emulating in Costa Rica.
Welsh said she hopes to work with the city for another four years. "I would spend the next four years, if I am elected, doing everything I can for the community." said Welsh. "And during these next four years, if I am elected, (I would like) to find people to cultivate, to bring in, to let them carry the torch."