Outgoing Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Fulton, Georgia officials reflect on tenures, say goodbye

With new elected officials being sworn in next week or earlier this month, outgoing politicians reflected on their time in office during interviews with the Neighbor this week.

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell did not return calls to his cell phone seeking comment on deadline, but in a Dec. 30 email to his supporters and the media, he reflected on his eight years as president and eight more before that as a Post 1 at-large councilman. Mitchell vacated the president’s seat to run for mayor.

“One of the greatest honors of my adult life has been to serve the citizens of this great city,” he said. “As a young man who was born, raised, and educated in the city of Atlanta, I knew early in my life that I wanted to give back to the city that gave so much to me. Sixteen years ago you helped me fulfill that dream.

“Together, we have done some incredible things! And our work can be seen in every corner of this city. As a citywide council member, I listened to you and supported economic development through the creation of tax allocation districts and supported legislation for community input in the BeltLine project. In Southwest Atlanta we turned a dangerous unpaved road into a walking trail. Through my Clean. Green. Safe. and Thriving initiative, we provided tools and resources to communities for clean-up and beautification projects. And, you supported me each year that I hosted metro Atlanta middle and high school families for my semi-annual College Prep Series. Through our work, thousands of students and their families were exposed to the important college admissions exams and the admittance process.”

Post 2 at-large Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who vacated the seat to run for mayor, said she will miss the partnerships she made with others in City Hall.

“I was pleased to work with so many colleagues who cared so much about the city, and I was disappointed about (Mayor Kasim Reed’s) administration (being) something that would not be a collaborative working relationship,” she said.

When asked what she will remember most about being in office, Norwood said, “There’s so much good you can do for the city.”

District 6 Councilman Alex Wan served two terms in that role before leaving the seat to run for council president this year. What will he miss most about being in office?

“I think it will be working on the issues and advancing the issues I cared most about, having that platform to advance them,” Wan said. “What I’ll remember most is all the people I got to work with across the city: my colleagues on the council, folks in the (mayor’s) administration, community leaders, and the access I had to them. That was a pretty cool thing.”

District 8 Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean is retiring from politics after serving in that role for eight years.

“I will really miss working with my neighborhoods to work on their vision for their communities,” She said. “I’ll miss my colleagues and some of the great people that served in the city along with me.”

Adrean, an accountant, said she plans to stay involved with city issues, especially those involving sales and property taxes such as the Fulton County property tax assessments. What will she remember most about her two terms?

“I will remember the opportunity to learn something new every single day, to both the part of Atlanta’s history going forward but also learning how to appreciate the leaders who came before us,” Adrean said. “I was there eight years and definitely appreciate the notion that there’s still so much more to learn. You can never get comfortable. You’ve always got to work, work, work to make the best decisions possible on behalf of your constituents.

“Of course, I’m deeply in gratitude to the voters who entrusted me with the responsibility. I appreciated them for working with me and being of service to them.”

Courtney English, who served as the Seat 7 at-large Atlanta Board of Education member for two terms, starting in 2010, vacated the post to run for city council.

“As an elected school official, I will certainly miss the ability to impact tens of thousands of kids and their families,” he said. “There is nothing like being elected, as you can impact so many lives so fast and you can do so much good for so many people so fast. I will miss that outstretched, outside impact the most.”

English said he will remember the most “shaking the hands of our graduates each year.”

“As board chair, I made it a point to be at every single graduation of every single high school in the Atlanta school system,” he said. “I am proud of that fact and I am going to miss it. I will also miss seeing the look in the eyes of those graduates, the joy of their families and the excitement of what lies ahead for these graduates.”

In Sandy Springs, District 2 City Councilman Ken Dishman, who did not seek reelection to spend more time with his family, said he will miss “having the opportunity to work with such a great group of people on matters that impact so many in our community.”

Dishman also said he will remember most the opportunities to work with the city and residents on issues during his term.

“I think what I’ll remember the most is the occasions when I had the opportunity to be with the community at various meetings and functions and so on,” he said. “… It’s been probably the most rewarding four years of my life. We truly live in a wonderful community with a great quality of life and it’s only going to get better.”

District 4 Councilman Gabriel Sterling, who was elected in a 2011 special election and reelected two years later, said he will miss “being in the mix and getting things accomplished, working with my colleagues and the people on things big and things small.”

Sterling, a Sandy Springs native, said he was humbled to serve his hometown.

“Our example (of incorporation through a public-private partnership) has led literally hundreds of thousands of other Georgians to make their own decisions with their own cities,” he said.

Sterling said he will remember “removing a lot of the C-class apartments (and) aiding with the Mercedes-Benz USA headquarters redevelopment.” But other items also came to mind.

“There was a mom who has a special-needs child, and GDOT was putting in a sidewalk as part of the Abernathy (Road improvement) project, and her special-needs child had to walk to Publix to work,” he said. “She called me and said she had to take him to work because he couldn’t navigate the area. I was able to call the GDOT manager and turned what was going to be a five-week project into a five-day project. That one sticks out in my mind. That was pretty memorable.

“Working with (then-Mayor) Eva (Galambos) is always memorable. Changing the direction of the City Springs project because we had bought the Target site and we were having discussion and someone said, ‘We’re going to build City Hall and everything else will come.’ I said, ‘That’s not really a plan. Let’s lay out a vision for it and execute it.’ We took out some of the old retail (properties) there. We’ve got fresh residential (developments) being built. It was a balancing act for all of this, protecting our traditional neighborhoods while having the right kind of growth we need to be successful. When it comes down to it, these problems we’re having are the problems of success and growth, and I would much rather deal with that than crime and other issues other cities have to tackle.”

District 6 State Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Smyrna, who had served in that role since being elected in 2012, resigned in September to run for governor.

“My work on this campaign is the same as what I’ve been working on in the Senate: trying to eliminate the state income tax, trying to limit the government for taxpayers and expand options for education,” he said. “that’s what I worked on in the Senate and that’s what I’m working on for governor.”

Hill said making a difference is what he’ll remember most about being in the Senate.

“I like policy changes, and those are the things I championed in the Senate,” he said. “So having that dialogue, having your colleagues move in the direction you’re trying to lead. I like that. It’s difficult to get bold reforms passed when the leader of the state Senate is not for them.

“I’m proud of the conservative reforms I’ve championed. I’m proud to have helped brewers in our state with Senate Bills 63 and 85. I’m proud we championed education reformed that would empower parents. I’m proud of the service. We just have got to have conservative leadership in the executive branch to get some things done.”

District 39 State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, who served in that role for nearly 20 years, resigned in August to run for Atlanta mayor. What will he miss most about being in office?

“Working on the policies I think are important for my district and constituents, that is the central issue. That’s what I’ll miss,” he said.

Fort said some of the highlights of his tenure include crafting legislation to stop predatory lending, in which banks and other financial institutions such as used car dealerships charge high interest rates on loans.

“That was kind of the major issue,” he said. “I worked on dozens of issues, but that one and how it affected homeowners and both the central issue of my tenure and a central issue that has not been dealt with completely.

“The Legislature as well as the city has not adequately dealt with the policy issue that is affecting constituents in Atlanta and that is gentrification, affordable housing and income equality. … It has not been adequately addressed. You can’t have a city and a state where the gap between the working rich and poor is so vast.”

Fulton County Board of Commissioners chair (District 7 at-large) John Eaves, who resigned in August to run for Atlanta mayor, was out of the country and unavailable for comment on deadline.

Staff Writer Bill Baldowski contributed to this report.

+2 Atlanta officials sworn in, get committee assignments

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