Sebastian flies into council role
by Hannah Morgan
January 05, 2014 04:51 PM | 2392 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If Jim Sebastian could do anything with his life, he would fly kites.  Barring that, the newly elected Kennesaw City Councilman will be sworn into office Monday, replacing Jeff Duckett. <br> Special to the MDJ
If Jim Sebastian could do anything with his life, he would fly kites. Barring that, the newly elected Kennesaw City Councilman will be sworn into office Monday, replacing Jeff Duckett.
Special to the MDJ
Jim Sebastian
Jim Sebastian
KENNESAW — If Jim Sebastian could do anything with his life, he would fly kites.

Barring that, the newly elected Kennesaw City Councilman will be sworn into office Monday, replacing Jeff Duckett.

Sebastian, who has served as the chairman of the Citizens Advisory Council since 2010, ran for office to help bring the city’s finances under control, but his passion lies in flying kites.

A Wolverine escaping the cold

Sebastian, 64, was born and raised in a suburb outside of Detroit.

The oldest of six children, Sebastian said he learned at a young age how to help care for a large household, which involved cooking, cleaning and babysitting.

Hard work is not foreign to Sebastian, as he got his first real job delivering newspapers, at the age of 9.

An active member and supporter of the Boy Scouts of America, he has always enjoyed camping and hiking in his free time.

Sebastian graduated from Hazel Park High School, in Hazel Park, Mich., in 1967. After a brief stint in the U.S. Marines, he enrolled in a local community college and got an associate degree.

A few years later, Sebastian graduated in 1973 from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in business.

After graduation, Sebastian decided to flee the Michigan winters, and moved to Cobb County in 1976.

He resided at an apartment in Marietta for a few months, while building a home on Cherokee Street in Kennesaw where he has lived ever since.

A numbers man

Sebastian loves working with numbers. With his business degree, he has worked with a number of banks and corporations, designing software and balancing rows of spreadsheets.

When he first moved to the area, Sebastian worked as a design engineer with cars at local auto stores, and then for Atlanta-based John H. Harland Co., a check-printing company.

He learned by watching and by doing, picking up software and data processing skills as he worked.

Sebastian met an executive with American Security, an insurance company, at a Friday night card game, and was offered a job with the business a few days later, he said.

Sebastian worked at the Atlanta offices for Assurant Inc., an insurance company for 14 years, then at AIG, and then for Zurich Insurance.

He moved from job to job, learning banking systems and data designing software packages, and ultimately got into the warranty arena and began designing insurance programs for manufacturers.

Sebastian’s work took him all over the country, and he has been to every state in the U.S. except for Hawaii and Alaska.

After all of his travel, Sebastian said he is pretty easy to please.

“I like it anywhere where it is warm,” he said.

In 2002, he decided to start his own business, consulting and brokering for the warranty industry. Sebastian helps to sell insurance packages to manufacturers who sell warranties on things like washing machines, water heaters and big screen televisions.

In 1989, Sebastian got a master’s in business from Kennesaw State University, which, even taking one class at a time, only took him three years to complete.

He said he feels at ease working with numbers and enjoys that his job is full of predictable digits.

Getting involved in his home city politics

Sebastian has two children with a former wife; Natalie, 31, of Roswell, and Ryan, 26, of Acworth.

Both will be involved in swearing Sebastian into office Monday night.

“I’m not a politician. I would prefer to have my daughter and son be a part of that than anyone else,” he said.

Sebastian raised his children in Kennesaw and became involved in city politics when he signed up to sit on the Citizens Advisory Council in 2010.

He was elected chair of the advisory council that first year and has served as chair up until he was elected to the City Council, he said.

“I wanted to have my voice heard,” he said.

While on the advisory council, Sebastian said he learned residents in the city were pretty “apathetic” to city matters that didn’t affect them financially or personally.

He has been part of a group that scoured over everything in the city, including the budget, parks and recreation department and sanitation programs.

Sebastian said the advisory council would often make recommendations for improvements or tweaks to certain programs or budgets, but felt their input often went ignored, or wasn’t taken seriously.

When former Councilman Bill Thrash died last May, Sebastian threw his name in the hat to be his replacement.

He was passed over for the seat when the City Council chose Matt Riedemann to serve out the remainder of the term. Riedemann, an ally of Mayor Mark Mathews, was ousted from office in November by Debra Williams.

“I saw how bad it turned out. I learned more about the city, started going to meetings and work sessions and saw the discord going on there. I started looking at the numbers, especially the budget, and there are things in there that didn’t seem quite right,” Sebastian said.

With his position on the council, Sebastian said he wants to work with the city’s numbers.

When looking over this year’s budget, he was “alarmed” at the money the city was spending on the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History and on the Smith-Gilbert Gardens, two programs he believed residents weren’t getting a lot of “direct benefit” from for the amount of money spent on them each year.

He hopes to work with the staff of these entities and go through their budgets with them.

“I want to work with these people to help them better understand reality. You can’t just take money that isn’t there and spend it,” he said.

Sebastian said he was excited to brainstorm more programs, like combined museum and garden exhibition days, to attract more people and be more cautious with the city’s money.

“Hopefully, we can make whatever bleeding we have in regards to supporting them, keep it at a minimum,” Sebastian said.

He also hopes to work toward the completion of the planned Cherokee Street improvements and to make the city more bike-friendly.

Biker and kite flier

Sebastian is a self-proclaimed homebody.

He learned to cook at a young age, and was responsible for making a full Sunday morning breakfast for his family growing up, with bacon, eggs, toast, orange juice and coffee.

Sebastian has also been involved with planning and cooking church meals to feed more than 300 people.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, Sebastian and his daughter traditionally make thin, almond-flavored waffle cookies, called pizzelles, molding more than 500 cookies in one day.

On a typical weekend, Sebastian can be seen riding one of his three bikes around the city.

But if the day is windy, Sebastian will most likely be at Swift-Cantrell Park, flying one of his many kites.

“If I had my choice of doing anything all day long, I would open up a kite and T-shirt shop on the beach and fly kites and maybe sell a few T-shirts,” he said.

Until that day comes, Sebastian is content living and working in Kennesaw.

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