Dunwoody Reporter - December 2021

Page 1

Dunwoody Reporter reporternewspapers.com | @reporter_news

DECEMBER 2021 • VOL. 12 — NO. 12

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Contents DECEMBER 2021

Editor’s Note Publisher’s Note Sandy Springs


Mayor’s priorities



Buckhead Senate hearing


Dunwoody High Street project New council members Perimeter Center study

10 11 11

Brookhaven City council election Drone program 16

12 13

Public safety Alternative to 911 Boosting policing efforts

14 16

Commentary Marist School artwork Dunwoody High principal

18 19

Education Riverwood flying club Concerns about Dunwoody school All-girls scout troop

20 21 22

Arts 28

Sandy Springs picks site for expanded Anne Frank exhibit 23 Rick Allen of Def Leppard finds peace through painting 24


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Dining Dog park eyes opening Food hall for Dunwoody

28 28

Tech Deluxe Technology Center


Business Women on boards


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DECEMBER 2021| 3


Remembering a quirky Christmas past The holidays never fail to evoke memories. Whether through classic symbols such as menorahs or naBY AMY WENK tivity scenes, or more modern ones like holiday lights or songs, we all experience stirrings of emotion deep within us. For me, it’s the iconic movie “A Christmas Story.” The quirkiness of the main character, Ralphie, and his steadfast hope to have a particular dream come true, are things we can all relate to. You see, I once had a quirky dream. Three years ago, I hopped on a plane to Los Angeles with one goal in mind – to be on a game show. Probably not everyone’s hope, but it was mine. In 2018, I snagged a ticket to the filming of “Let’s Make a Deal.” And better yet, it was a slot on their Christmas show. “Let’s Make a Deal” debuted in the ’60s and was rebooted in 2009. It’s where the studio audience dresses up in costume and hopes to get picked to make deals with the host.

For our holiday game show, I convinced my friend to dress up in “A Christmas Story” theme. He was Ralphie dressed in a pink bunny suit. And I was the infamous leg lamp. Yep, I crafted a lampshade to fit on my head. It even lit up. The day of filming, my enthusiasm was at 200% as we went through a round of interviews. We didn’t know who would be picked. As you file into the studio, they tell you where to sit. We got placed to the far right, and as I sat down, I thought I saw the cameraman turn to focus on me. The show started and the first deals came and went. I was getting nervous. But soon after, they called our names! My friend and I ran down the aisle, my lampshade blinking and my arms waving a sign that said “Fragile: Please place on Let’s Make a Deal.” The host, comedian Wayne Brady, offered us a big box, a door and a small box. My friend took the small box and won a computer. I took the big box and won an entire kitchen set, valued at $6,000. I’ve never been so excited in my life. But the best was yet to come. As the show progressed, it was clear – I was the big winner of the show. That meant I could forfeit my prize and go after the Big Deal of the Day. When that time came, of

course I said yes! There I was at the end of the show, center stage, presented with three doors.

Behind one was a prize valued at over $20,000. I picked Door No. 2. It wasn’t the big prize, but I won over $3,000 worth of camping gear. The best prize, though, was the experience. So don’t be afraid to dream your weird dreams. You can make it on stage. Who knows, maybe you’ll even get on national television with a lampshade on your head. As the year draws to a close, all of us at Reporter Newspapers wish you a very happy holiday and a prosperous new year!

As seen in Print

Use this QR code to read extended versions of stories found in this issue.

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A new community event calendar Partnerships continue to be a central part of our growth strategy, and I’m excited to announce that we have joined BY KEITH PEPPER together with one of Atlanta’s most revered media organizations, WABE, to launch a definitive, online event calendar for the metro area. How Do You Atlanta? is a community calendar offering easy access to the city’s latest events. The online calendar is free to the public, event planners, and organizations, who can submit happenings for inclusion. How Do You Atlanta? listings feature time/date/place details, event descriptions, logos/images, ticket links, and are searchable by neighborhood and genre.

HowDoYouAtlanta.com is powered by SceneThink, an editorial platform used by top media outlets, including The Charleston City Paper and The Washington Post. “Partnering with Springs Publishing to launch our How Do You Atlanta? community calendar is in keeping with WABE’s mission of informing, inspiring, reflecting, and empowering our Atlanta neighbors,” said Jennifer Dorian, president and CEO of Public Broadcasting Atlanta, parent company of WABE. “Amplifying Atlanta’s cultural events and activities is a key part of delivering on that.” With so many events coming back, it’s been a struggle to keep track of everything, and I believe that a collaboration like this one will benefit both event organizers and the public. Go to HowDoYouAtlanta.com to check out the calendar or submit an event.

dunwoodyga.gov | 4800 Ashford Dunwoody Rd., Dunwoody GA 30338 | 678.382.6700


December Highlights 9

Holiday Lights Brook Run Park 6 - 10 p.m.

December 1 Lighting Ceremony

Featured Events Atlanta Christkindl Market What: A traditional German market at the Buckhead Village District with German food and beverages. When: Through Jan. 2 Info: christkindlmarket.org

2 3-19 4 6

Light Up Brookhaven Sparkle Sandy Springs What: A holiday parade, tree lighting, gift market and month-long display of miniature lit homes at City Springs. When: Parade is Dec. 5 Info: sandyspringsga.gov/sparkle

Holiday Lights What: A walk-thru holiday light display at Dunwoody’s Brook Run Park.

What: A tree and menorah lighting at Blackburn Park in Brookhaven, featuring Santa, live reindeer, face painting, and a candy cane hunt. When: Dec. 8 Info: explorebrookhaven.com/event/ light-up-brookhaven/

Souper Bowl of Caring

When: Dec. 1 – 27

What: A six-week-long food drive leading up to MLK Jr. Day. Collection bins are at locations in Dunwoody.

Info: dunwoodyga.gov

When: Dec. 1 – Jan. 17 Info: dunwoodyga.gov/community/ volunteer-mlk-jr-day

@reporter_newspapers DUN

7 8


Brook Run Park 5 - 8 p.m.

Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting City Hall 6 p.m.


“A Christmas Carol” Dunwoody Nature Center

Dunwoody Farmers Market Brook Run Park 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Wine Tasting and After-Hours Shopping Spruill Gallery

Collection bins at City Hall

Dunwoody Farmers Market Brook Run Park 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.


Dunwoody City Council Meeting Dunwoody City Hall 6 p.m.

14 Planning Commission Meeting Dunwoody City Hall 6 p.m.

City Hall Lobby Review of new draft of plans for Roberts Drive and Vermack Road parks 6 - 8 p.m.

City Hall 7:30 a.m.

Final day for Dunwoody Police Department’s “Christmas for Kids” toy collection

Dunwoody Nature Center

Free First Saturday

Dunwoody Art Commission Meeting

City Hall 8 a.m.

Saturday Volunteer Day

Stage Door Theatre

Park Master Planning Open House

Sustainability Committee Meeting

18 Dunwoody Farmers Market Brook Run Park 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Saturday Gift Bizarre Spruill Gallery

Winter Soulstice Yoga Dunwoody Nature Center

22 “Christmas Extravaganza” 24-25 City Hall closed Stage Door Theater

in observance of Christmas

Non-perishable food drive through Jan. 17 See bin locations: dunwoodyga.gov/mlkday DECEMBER 2021| 5


Mayor Rusty Paul shares third term priorities BY BOB PEPALIS As he heads toward a third term as Sandy Springs mayor, Rusty Paul said his priorities include tackling water issues, expanding City Springs, improving transportation, starting an arts program and spurring revitalization in the city’s North End. At the Nov. 2 election, Paul won almost 70% of the votes over his challenger Dontaye Carter. Voters also reelected four incumbent Sandy Springs city councilmembers, along with two new councilmembers (see our full coverage online at reporternewspapers.net). One of Paul’s first priorities is to work with the next Atlanta mayor to get the water system in Sandy Springs under the city’s control. Sandy Springs officials say they are being overcharged for water because Atlanta still runs and owns most of its water system. The dispute has been brewing for a while, and the pandemic has slowed negotiations. “I’d hope in the first six months to be able to sit down with the new mayor of Atlanta and talk about some amicable settlement on water,” Paul said the morning after the Nov. 2 election. Another priority for Paul in his next term includes expanding the town center project City Springs. The city owns a block of property south of the project and is underway on

a master plan update to generate ideas. “We’ve done some preliminary studies, but it’s really just kind of taking City Springs and moving it south … and then creating new restaurants and shops and other things in that area,” Paul said. He added that a new plan to use the Heritage Building site for the location of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust and

its Anne Frank in the World exhibit will be integrated into the city’s broader plans for its City Springs district. Transportation improvements will also be top of mind for Paul, as voters just approved an extension of the transportation sales tax (TSPLOST), which will fund major upgrades in Sandy Springs. That includes widening Hammond Drive.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a big chunk of the Hammond Drive project done over the next few years,” he said. “There are a lot of transportation initiatives that need to be finished.” Paul also looks forward to creating a robust arts program in Sandy Springs. The city recently acquired the Abernathy Arts Center from Fulton County and now is considering what to do. “I’ve been the arts mayor, between the performing arts, the Arts in the Open sculpture contest. So, this will be just another extension of what we’ve been doing,” Paul said. He also said the city is focused on spurring revitalization in the North End after a lot of planning and thinking. “Now we’re beginning to change the building codes and land codes up there to facilitate those plans. So I’m hoping in the next two, three years, we’ll have some projects that will begin there and they’ll begin that revitalization,” Paul said, adding that while the city has a lot of underutilized retail, some developers are ready to revamp it. Paul expects the North End development code changes to come before the city council in December. Lastly, Paul said he plans to ensure Sandy Springs remains Georgia’s safest city, which he said voters voiced as a major priority.

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Happy Holidays!

Happy Chanukah






For events and more information, visit: the-temple.org/chanukah

2nd Sunday of Advent 11:00 am - Worship Service with Communion 3:00 pm - Concert by Midtown Brass on the Front Plaza 3rd Sunday of Advent 11:00 am - Worship Service; dramatization of Mary and Elizabeth





4th Sunday of Advent 11:00 am - Lessons & Carols Worship Service 12:00 pm - Lunch* 1:00 pm - Performance of A Cherry Log Christmas Carol Christmas Eve 5:00 pm - Candlelight Worship Service (Music begins at 4:30pm)

*RSVP: office@covpresatl.org • FREE Events • Masks Required & Available 2461 Peachtree Road | Atlanta, GA 30305 • www.covpresatl.org


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JOIN US AT 4PM ON CHRISTMAS EVE! Candle Light Service | Children's Pageant 86 Mt. Vernon Highway ssumc.org 8 DECEMBER 2021| REPORTER NEWSPAPERS



Senate committee holds hearing on cityhood effort BY AMY WENK A Georgia Senate committee held a hearing Nov. 4 about the proposed “Buckhead City,” laying the groundwork for a high-profile discussion next year. During the three-hour hearing, cityhood advocates centered their testimonies on violent crime in Atlanta, saying an independent Buckhead would hire its own police force. Opponents said breaking Buckhead off would be financially disastrous to Atlanta, citing impacts to its economic development, bond ratings and national reputation. Sen. Brandon Beach (R – Alpharetta) prefiled a Buckhead cityhood bill on Nov. 18. Beach is among a dozen state legislators who have expressed support of the effort, although none represent the city of Atlanta. Cityhood supporters hope to get legislation passed at the Georgia General Assembly next year, which would place a referendum on the November 2022 ballot allowing Buckhead residents to vote on whether to form a new city. “I was involved in the creation of Milton, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs,” Beach said. “Those citizens wanted control of their own destiny … The city of Buckhead wants to do the same on local control. They want to have their zoning and trash pickup. But make no mistake about it, crime is driving this issue.” Beach had started his testimony with a video compiling recent violent Buckhead

crimes, including a security guard who was shot at Lenox Square mall. At the hearing, the Senate committee also heard from Eliana Kovitch, who was violently attacked by a man in Buckhead last year. To combat crime, the proposed Buckhead City would hire 250 police officers, said Buckhead City Committee CEO and Chairman Bill White, the face of the cityhood effort. He added that the police force would be the highest paid in the state. “It is clear that Atlanta and its leadership, which is bankrupt of new ideas, is not up to the job of providing adequate police coverage for its 500,000 residents,” White said. “So, reducing the area they need to patrol makes perfect sense to us.” White slammed city leadership’s ability to effectively police the city. “Regarding the results of the mayoral election this week, no one that I speak to in Buckhead wants ‘Moore’ of the same, nor do we want the ‘Dickens’ scared out of us,” he said, referring to Felicia Moore and Andre Dickens, the two Atlanta mayoral candidates headed to a runoff on Nov. 30. But, cityhood opponent Peter Aman, a former chief operating officer with the city of Atlanta, said there was no indication that public safety would improve if Buckhead left. “Criminals do not respect boundaries,” he said. Aman also said that it would be an “un-

Atlanta mayor in 2017. Kevin Green, president and CEO of the Midtown Alliance, said tearing apart Atlanta would harm the city’s ability to lure companies and would tarnish its national reputation. “Bond markets being downgraded, increasing cost of future debt, years of litigation over this, virtually guaranteed higher taxes, and a national narrative that this is From left, Buckhead City Committee CEO and Chairman Bill going to exacerbate economWhite, who is leading the cityhood movement, and Sen. ic and racial segregation — Brandon Beach testify before the Georgia Senate committee. that is not the kind of atmosphere that any company or mitigated disaster” for the city of Atlanta to investor wants to enter,” Green said, adding have its revenues slashed if Buckhead broke that if the proposed cityhood goes forward, off. Cityhood opponents in September recompetitor cities such as Charlotte, Dallas, leased a study that said the net fiscal loss to Houston and Chattanooga would benefit. Atlanta could range from $80 million to $116 Tom Gehl with the Georgia Municipal Asmillion per year. sociation said carving a new city out of AtAman said the proposed Buckhead City lanta could hurt taxpayers across the state. would incur significant startup costs, includ“Should this legislation ever pass, it’s likely ing the acquisition of community assets such that the credit rating agencies would essenas Chastain Park, which could cost in excess tially downgrade the municipal bond market of $250 million, he said. Residents of the new in Georgia, thus raising the costs to taxpayers Buckhead City would also have to pay much and cities across the state,” he said. higher water costs, up to 36% more, he said. “But from just a PR perspective, the Atlan“Separating Buckhead from the city of Atta brand and the state of Georgia’s brand may lanta would be calamitous for everybody,” be tarnished forever,” Gehl said. said Aman, a Buckhead resident who ran for

What will be under your tree?

2090 Dunwoody Club Dr. Ste 107 Sandy Springs, GA 30350 @reporter_newspapers


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Construction starts on Dunwoody’s $2B High Street project



Construction has kicked off on Dunwoody’s long-planned High Street, a project that aims to bring more walkable, urban development around Perimeter Mall. GID Development Group, the project developer, announced Nov. 11 it has started the $2 billion mixed-use project. It will span 10 blocks at the intersection of Perimeter Center Parkway and Hammond Drive. The first phase will include 150,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, about 600 apartments, 90,000 square feet of office space and an expansive lawn. It will also include 222,000 square feet of existing office space. “Dunwoody is craving a pedestrian-

bicycle-friendly streets. The 7,500-squarefoot lawn will offer community events, such as a seasonal ice-skating rink, concerts and fitness classes, says the development team. Future phases will bring other uses to High Street. When fully built out, it will offer 672,000 square feet of office space, 400,000 square feet of retail, 3,000 residential units and a 400-key hotel. Brasfield & Gorrie is the general contractor, and Dwell Design Studio is the architect. JLL is leading the retail leasing. Dunwoody views the Perimeter Mall area as one of its emerging walkable centers, Director of Economic Development Michael Starling told Reporter Newspapers in October.

friendly center with an energetic and contemporary mix of retail, restaurants, and entertainment,” Jim Linsley, president of GID Development Group, said in a press release. In September, the project landed its first retail tenant, mini-golf bar Puttshack. It will occupy 26,000 square feet at the project. The development will also feature plazas, a water feature, a public staircase and

“Perimeter is certainly changing, becoming much more walkable … moving away from that suburban and car-oriented center,” Starling said. The city recently added the Perimeter Mall area as an open-container district. High Street was also previously approved as an “entertainment district” as the city calls it, allowing visitors to stroll around with alcoholic beverages.

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution is committed to facilitating conversations on the topics important to aging well in Atlanta and providing you resources to live your best senior life — especially in today’s challenging environment. Aging in Atlanta has returned with monthly print sections this fall featuring more local content than ever. We also launched a monthly Aging in Atlanta newsletter this spring. Visit us at ajc.com/aging to access a recording of our fall virtual event, sign up for the newsletter, and learn more about our special print sections. You’ll find plenty of 55+ focused content there as well as links to our previously published sections and events.



Two new faces to join Dunwoody City Council BY SAMMIE PURCELL Dunwoody will welcome two new city council members. Rob Price and Catherine Lautenbacher won seats at the Nov. 2 election. Incumbent Tom Lambert was also re-elected. Price will serve as the District 2 council member. Price won about 58.2% of the votes, edging out incumbent Jim Riticher, who received 41.46%. Price is a 21-year Dunwoody resident who previously served on the city’s Planning Commission. In a previous interview, he said he’s focused on the city’s growth, transportation, parks, and culture. Lautenbacher will serve as the District 1 council member. Lautenbacher

Catherine Lautenbacher won about 53.6% of the votes, edging out challenger Terry Nall’s 46.17%. Lautenbacher has served as the program director for Leadership Sandy Springs and is a 21-year resident of Dun-

Dunwoody to embark on study of Perimeter Center

Rob Price

Tom Lambert

woody. She also previously served as board president for the Dunwoody Nature Center and is board member for Discover Dunwoody, the city’s tourism organization.

Lautenbacher previously stated that her priorities for the district include energizing local businesses and community leadership. Lambert, the incumbent for the District 3 seat, will once again serve on the council. Lambert won about 68% of the votes compared to challenger Brian Sims, who won 31.38%. Lambert previously served as the vice-chair of the Dunwoody Sustainability Commission and was originally elected to the City Council in 2017. Some of his priorities for the district include trail connectivity, park improvements, and placemaking.

Perimeter Mall entertainment district approved

tertainment District, which sits to the north, and the High Street Entertainment District, which sits to the south. The council created three entertainment districts in 2020 and 2021: Dunwoody Village, Ashford Lane, and the

The Dunwoody City Council has approved an ordinance that would make certain parts of the Perimeter Mall area open-container. The Perimeter Entertainment District, which would allow for people to take alcoholic beverages from one area of the property to another, would cover the entirety of Perimeter Mall, along with an adjacent hotel and corporate office building. Alcoholic beverages would not be allowed inside the mall itself. When the council first saw this item at its Oct. 25 meeting, council members expressed an interest in having the district directly connect to the two entertainment districts that surround it. The Perimeter district is meant to serve as a link between the Ashford Lane En-

not-yet-opened High Street. The newly approved Perimeter Entertainment District now includes two crosswalks moving north across Perimeter Center West, and also includes the area surrounding the Dunwoody MARTA Station at the southwest corner of the mall. The MARTA station itself will not be included in the entertainment district. One of the additional crosswalks is labeled “Red Pepper Entertainment District” in city documents. A spokesperson for the city said that does not refer to a separate entertainment district, and that the city just used that name to denote that something additional has been added. The name refers to Red Pepper Taqueria, a new restaurant expected to open soon on Ashford Dunwoody Road.

BY SAMMIE PURCELL The Dunwoody City Council has hired an architectural firm to study what future development and economic growth could look like at Perimeter Center. Dunwoody, along with the Perimeter Improvement Districts (PCIDs), received a $120,000 Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) Grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) earlier this year, said Economic Development Director Michael Starling at a Nov. 8 council meeting. According to the ARC’s website, the Livable Centers Initiative is a grant program that incentivizes cities to offer more transportation and mobility options for residents, and to “re-envision their communities as vibrant, walkable places.” The city will match the grant with $30,000, which the council approved through CARES II grant funding at a July 12 meeting this year. Starling said the grant will be used to update the vision for the city’s portion of Perimeter Center. The council approved a contract with Pond & Company, a firm that has worked with the city on many projects in the past, including the master planning services for the new parks at Vermack Road and Roberts Drive. At a first read of the contract on Oct. 25, Mayor Lynn Deutsch said she was previously underwhelmed by Pond & Company’s work with public input on some projects. “My goal is to maximize community input, and I’m always pushing our vendors to do more,” Deutsch said in an emailed statement. “After a decade of work in this arena, more than ever, I realize how important the facilitators are. I’ve been pleased by the final product that is delivered but want to make sure the process is as accessible and smooth as possible.” At the Nov. 8 meeting, Deutsch elaborated and said the city has had trouble @reporter_newspapers DUN

Economic Development Director Michael Starling. reaching people who live in the Perimeter Center and in multi-family housing through public input in the past. “This project, from my perspective, won’t succeed unless we find a way to reach the people that live here,” Deutsch said. “I expect y’all to figure out how to get into the apartment complexes … How are we going to assess what the people who live here already and make this area their home feel about what should happen here?” Andrew Kohr, director of landscape architecture at Pond & Company, told the mayor that the firm “accepts the challenge.” Pond & Company’s proposal identifies challenges the firm would like to address within the Perimeter Center, including a lack of greenspace, traffic congestion, and balancing the commercial with the residential. The company will hold at least two engagement meetings for the general public, but dates have not yet been announced.

DECEMBER 2021| 11


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One newcomer, one incumbent win Brookhaven council seats BY SAMMIE PURCELL

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64.4% of the votes compared to challenger Katie Dunagan’s 35.23%. Park won a special election for the council seat in 2014 and a full term in 2017. Park has said that

Newcomer John Funny and incumbent John Park will serve on the Brookhaven City Council, according to the city’s November election results. Funny will serve as the District 4 council member. He won about 80% of the votes compared to challenger Dale Boone’s 19.52%. Funny previously served as the chairman for Brookhaven’s Social Justice, Race, and Equity Commission as well as on the city’s Planning Commission. He previously John Funny John Park stated his priorities for the city include “transportation, smart his priorities for Brookhaven’s District growth and affordable housing, public 2 include stormwater improvements, safety, and greenspace.” connectivity, and managing the city’s Park will once again serve as the Disgrowth. trict 2 council member, winning about

Brookhaven chamber honors Joe Gebbia

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The Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce honored District 4 City Councilmember Joe Gebbia for his service to the city. “All of the successes that Brookhaven has, every one of them, can come back to Joe Gebbia,” Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst said at a November luncheon. “Joe led the council in the most civil way possible.” Gebbia, a health-food entrepreneur, was a member of the city’s founding City Council in 2012. He won a full term in 2013 and a second term in 2017. Gebbia announced earlier this year he would not run for reelection. John Funny won the Nov. 2 election to serve District 4. District 4 covers much of southern Brookhaven, including the rapidly redeveloping Buford Highway corridor and Executive Park area where both Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory Healthcare have massive projects. “I have loved every minute of it since I started nine years ago,” Gebbia said. “It has made me such a better person … What an amazing experience.” Other speakers at the event included current and future Brookhaven councilmembers, along with Santiago Marquez with the Latin American Association. The Cross Keys High School marching band gave a special performance.

The Brookhaven City Council recently approved three contracts for improvements to Lynwood Park. The contracts are related to the construction of a pool, splash pad, pool house, and turf field in the park. All of the projects are included under Brookhaven’s $40 million park bond, which received voter support in 2018. The bond sets aside just under $11 million for improvements to Lynwood Park, which is located at 3360 Osborne Road. “It’s so long-awaited for the Lynwood community,” said Councilmember Linley Jones. “It comes at the tail end of the start of our park bond projects, and I hope that the Lynwood community is excited for the improvement and patient with the process. It’s going to be a wonderful, wonderful set of amenities for Lynwood.” The council approved an $8.6 million contract with Integrated Construction and Nobility (ICAN) for construction of the splash pad, pool, a pool deck, fencing, and pool house. A roughly $565,000 contract with the construction company Advanced Sports Group will cover the installation of a multi-use synthetic turf field at the park, and an $82,557.60 contract with Geo-Hydro Engineers will cover soil and materials testing for the splash pad. Construction is expected to take about 11 months, with the goal to finish by the end of 2022.



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ACLU questions police drone program


Councilmember Linley Jones (third from left) and members of the Brookhaven Police Department pose with a drone.

BY SAMMIE PURCELL The Brookhaven Police Department has begun a new drone program it says will increase community safety, but a national civil liberties organization remains skeptical. The Brookhaven City Council approved the department’s Drone First Responder program in October of 2020. Police say the program is modeled after a similar drone program in Chula Vista, Calif., which dispatches drones to possible crime or incident scenes first so on-the-ground responders can have a better idea of what sort of situation they are responding to. During a Nov. 16 demonstration of the drone technology, Councilmember Linley Jones said the program “enables Brookhaven to continue on the path of being forward thinking when it comes to community safety.” Brookhaven Police Chief Gary Yandura and Lt. Abrem Ayana – who oversaw the creation of the drone program – both said the BPD reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia and the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office for feedback and suggestions for the program. A spokesperson from the ACLU national organization confirmed that the BPD did reach out for feedback, but the ACLU still has questions about the use of drones by police in communities. “It’s important that when police departments introduce new technologies, especially surveillance technologies, that they reach out to the communities that they serve and make sure that those communities want the technologies they’re considering adopting,” said ACLU Senior Policy Analyst Jay Stanley. “That said, we are deeply skeptical of drones as first responder programs.” Stanley said if a police department is going to make use of a drone program, the ACLU would rather a department ensure it happens with privacy protections in place, but the organization has “a lot of questions about whether it makes sense to deploy this kind of surveillance technology in communities.” @reporter_newspapers DUN


DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston also confirmed the BPD did reach out to her office about the drone program. “In Spring 2021, the Brookhaven Police Department and their City Attorney met with me and my leadership team to brief us on this new and innovative drone program,” Boston said in an emailed statement. “I believe the manner in which they plan to use it will enhance public safety for both officers responding to dangerous situations and for the community at-large.” During the Nov. 16 demonstration, Ayana said the drones will only be used to respond to emergency calls and will not be dispatched for random surveillance. He said drone videos that don’t capture criminal activity would be deleted after 30 days. “We want people to feel safe and secure, and not necessarily feel that the government is maintaining video files of their movements,” Ayana said. “Our drones are only dispatched to known incidents or 911 calls. They are not used proactively for patrol.” Yandura said the BPD hopes that using drones as first responders will give officers more time to assess potentially dangerous situations. According to police documents from the October 2020 City Council meeting, the BPD also hopes the drones will be useful in letting officers know when police presence is not required. “It limits the need for officers to have contact with citizens who are not engaged in criminal activity,” Ayana said. In other documents from the City Council meeting, BPD names the COVID-19 pandemic as a major factor in starting the drone program. According to the council presentation, BPD hoped the drone program would “significantly reduce officer interaction with the public while still maintaining community policing efforts.” Ayana said the team that operates the drones is made up of 16 licensed pilots. Since the program started, drones have responded to over 500 calls for service, according to BPD. Ayana said the drone response time is under two minutes on average.

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emergency shelter or ideally, long term, stable housing. Quarker said very often, Preston Marshall works in an art-depeople just need help applying for things co fantasy called Atlanta’s Hotel Midlike ID cards and other official docutown. Lots of gold, giant floral wallpaper ments. and furniture that looks like it’s from the “Right now, we’re right at 800 I think set of “Mad Men.” for community referrals and…we’re exMarshall runs loss prevention at the pected to probably do a thousand next hotel, and in his line of work, keeping the year,” she said. fantasy intact sometimes means keeping After a pilot run Downtown and in people out. East Atlanta, the program went city-wide “Well in the past, the only option we in July, and Quarker says it’s been a busy had was calling 911 and calling the posix months. lice,” said Marshall. They’ve diverted nearly 300 hundred He’s had to do it a lot, but there have been times when it gives him an uneasy feeling. “My heart reached out to some of the individuals, especially knowing that some of these people have substance abuse issues or some of them had mental issues,” he said. But since this summer, Marshall’s had a new option. He’s one of more than 800 Atlantans who’ve called 311 as an alternative to calling the police when they see someone struggling with their mental health, extreme poverty or a A PAD volunteer consults with a person in need of services. range of other non-emergency quality of life concerns. It’s called the Policing Alarrests, according to Quarker, but PAD is ternative and Diversion Initiative or PAD, a small team, working on vast, complex which sends out response teams from problems built up over many years, in their office downtown. some cases. “So each team is assigned a van. We “Our current system, which we have have it stocked with food, hygiene items, had in place for decades, is that the potoiletries, all that, so that way you know lice are available to respond to basical— we pass by these areas all the time — ly any concern,” PAD executive director we’re able to help people,” said PAD referMoki Macias said. “And the expectation ral manager Chyna Quarker. is that they will make that person disapShe’s usually the one taking calls as pear.” they come in and tries to figure out what But she says if that person is arrested local agencies or organizations might be for a minor offense, they’re generally reuseful for each situation. Meanwhile, the leased with all the same problems they two-person teams head out. They’re peohad to begin with, now with the added ple who’ve worked in hospitals, in mental trauma of their time in jail. Macias says health and sometimes peers with lived that’s why a big part of PAD’s work is experience of homelessness or addiction. community education. PAD helps get people medical care, Someone from the organization gives deal with financial entanglements, find every caller a transparent debrief about reporternewspapers.com DUN

what the teams were able to help with, or not. Often that can include explaining that PAD does not exist to make people disappear or force anyone to do things without consent. Macias acknowledges that can frustrate some community members who call in expecting a quick fix.

Preston Marshall, who runs loss prevention at Atlanta’s Hotel Midtown. (Lisa Hagen)

“What we are promising folks is that when we show up, we’ll have a respectful, kind, creative, proactive engagement with the person, and that we will do our very best to reduce harm for that person and for the community they’re in,” said Macias. A handful of diversion initiatives like PAD have popped up across the country, including in Albany, NY, Santa Fe, NM, and Louisville, KY. Most are modeled on a Seattle program that started almost ten years ago. Lisa Daugaard is a former public defender who helped start the Let Everyone Advance with Dignity or LEAD program in Seattle, which originally stood for Law Enforcement Assistance Diversion. The next thing Atlanta will have to learn, she said, is how to keep up with demand for the long haul. “The main comparative advantage that the policing system has always had in the popular imagination is that officers come,” said Daugaard. Day or night, the deal is, eventually someone shows up. Both in Atlanta and Seattle, these alternative services aren’t available 24/7. In Atlanta, PAD is only open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Another challenge, Daugaard said, is that as more people learn about the program, it gets harder to show up on each call. She said she’s seen how that can work to undermine the whole idea. “Lots of appropriate referrals are made, and community members see that there isn’t a response and that tends to reduce people’s belief and enthusiasm for the idea of an alternative that they would have supported had there been a response,” she said. Atlanta’s PAD initiative was able to expand citywide because the city council approved a $1.5 million dollar infusion in 2020. In Seattle, the diversion program’s an@reporter_newspapers DUN

nual budget has grown to $13 million. Atlanta’s police department, meanwhile, runs on $230 million. In November, the Atlanta City Council approved legislation to begin an intergovernmental agreement with Fulton County to create and establish the Center for Diversion and Services. The center will provide care and services as an alternative to incarceration for those experiencing poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, or mental health issues. The center, which will also be in partnership with Grady Hospital and PAD, will also help reduce the overall population at the city and Fulton County jails. People who work with PAD and diversion programs stress that their capabilities are only as strong as the assistance services available in a given community. Likewise, its successes are dependent on how much investment it receives relative to other public safety institutions like the police. In Seattle, after ten years in operation, Daugaard says her people are gearing up for a request to double their current budget. For now in Atlanta, Macias is just trying to find a sustainable funding stream that can keep PAD running as the city’s political leadership shifts. This story was made possible in partnership with WABE and support from The 4am Fund for reporting on mental health and policing.


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To combat crime, local communities increase salaries, boost budgets, plan new facilities BY SAMMIE PURCELL Amidst an increase in crime in the city of Atlanta, public safety has become a key issue in the city and in surrounding metro communities. Lately, many of those communities have taken measures to find and retain more police officers and to keep crime numbers low, including increasing salaries for officers and boosting police budgets. But is increasing police spending the best way to decrease crime or strengthen public safety, or are there other initiatives governments could also focus on? A 2020 Politico report found that while studies have shown an increase in police officers decreases instances of crime, increases in other factors like healthcare access and social services have been shown to do the same. The report found that the extent to which increased police spending makes for decreasing crime rates is unclear. Reporter Newspapers spoke with local officials for more detail on how governments have been addressing public safety issues in the community. Atlanta On Sept. 8, the Atlanta City Council approved a controversial $90 million public safety training facility, nicknamed “Cop City” by opponents. The facility plans call for a mock town, classroom space, a firing range, a firefighting drill tower, space for a helicopter to land in case of emergency, and more. The facility will be located on the old Atlanta Prison Farm property on Key Road. Critics of the facility say supporters are falsely claiming it will help stop the city’s current crime wave. “We now see the manifestation of what happens when the government moves ahead of the population that is trusting them to keep them engaged,” said Atlanta City Councilmember Natalyn Archibong during the Sept. 8 meeting when the facility was approved. “This facility will not be built for another couple of years. To conflate the issue of building this facility with an automatic reduction in crime is irresponsible.” During the 17-hour long public comment section of the Sept. 8 meeting, 70% of the callers who spoke were against the facility. When asked for a comment on the training facility and how it might serve to improve public safety, a spokesperson for the Atlanta Police Foundation


A rendering of the $90 million public safety training facility planned in Atlanta.


From left, Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan, Sandy Springs Police Chief Ken DeSimone and Brookhaven Police Chief Gary Yandura. referred Reporter Newspapers to a website with updates about the public safety training center. “AFP continues to receive citizen input from nearby neighborhoods through the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee, created by the City Council, which will help guide final design and construction,” reads the website. The first phase of the center is ex-

pected to open in late 2023. Atlanta’s future policy direction when it comes to crime will depend on the next mayor. Atlanta’s municipal runoff elections will be held on Nov. 30, where candidates Felicia Moore and Andre Dickens will face off for mayor. Results of the runoff weren’t available in time for print publication, but both candidates have made crime a large part of their campaigns.

At a Sept. 28 meeting, the Brookhaven City Council voted to raise the housing allowance for Brookhaven police officers from $600 to $800 in an attempt to “continue to attract and retain highperformance talent within the sworn police officer ranks,” according to the ordinance. “I think every employer is going through this, having difficulty finding people,” said City Manager Christian Sigman. “We periodically look at our salaries and non-compensation benefits to make sure one, we’re competitive … We’re an expensive place to live, and we’re competing with other places that are expensive places to live.” The Brookhaven Police Department also recently started a Drone First Responder program, which dispatches drones to possible crime or incident scenes first so on-the-ground responders can have a better idea of what sort of situation they are responding to. Brookhaven police spoke to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about the best ways to consider privacy and safety issues when implementing the program, but the ACLU still had questions about the program’s necessity. reporternewspapers.com DUN

Members of the Dunwoody Police Department.

In April, the City Council approved plans for a federal grant, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), which aims to assist economically disadvantaged areas of the city. One of the projects that falls under the grant’s umbrella is “Neighborhood Safety.” According to the CDBG plan, this project aims to put money towards neighborhood programs and activities that will help improve public safety. Sigman said the city has not yet implemented the grant plans.

Dunwoody In Dunwoody’s 2022 budget, which the City Council approved on Oct. 25, the city increased the starting salary for police officers with a high school diploma from $44,567 to $46,350. The starting salary for officers with master’s degrees is up from $48,317 to $50,100, and the council also approved a hiring salary scale based on education and experience for these positions moving forward. Also included in Dunwoody’s 2022 budget is the use of $105,000 for the ad-

dition of a new code enforcement officer, making for three in total. City spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher provided more details about the scale of the pay increases that Dunwoody has approved for police officers recently, clarifying that Dunwoody police officers and sergeants received on average a 10% salary increase in October. Earlier In March of 2021, officers received what’s called a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in the amount of 2%. In January of 2022, officers and sergeants will receive another 3% market adjustment pay increase. “The recent pay adjustments approved by the City Council further confirmed the Council’s continued commitment to attracting and retaining the best police officers possible,” said Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan in an emailed statement. Sandy Springs In October of 2020, Sandy Springs officials announced the city completed a $10.9 million purchase for a new public safety building. The city hired a construction manager for the building, which will be located at 620 Morgan Falls Road, in September of this year. In a previous interview, Sandy



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Springs Police Chief Kenneth DeSimone said the police department’s current headquarters has a lot of issues, and he believed a new building would help with recruitment. “If you’re a 22 [or] 23-year-old young man or young woman straight out of college, straight out of the military or in your first big job, you want to go somewhere that’s nice,” DeSimone said. In September of this year, the Sandy Springs City Council approved an additional 20% pay increase for lower ranking officers. In November, the council also approved an application for a $1,000 one-time pay supplement for full-time law enforcement officers, EMS personnel and firefighters. “This historic pay raise serves as a great investment for the future, as research indicates that police officers with college degrees are less likely to use lethal force and are subjects of fewer citizen complaints,” said Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul in an emailed statement. “From a retention standpoint, the current salaries offered by the Sandy Springs Police Department can now directly compete with those salaries offered by the private sector.” Paul said the city expects the Sandy Springs Police Department to be fully staffed by Jan. 1, 2021.



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Beloved Marist class leads to significant artwork One of the most popular electives at the Marist School in BrookhavCarol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and en is Brendan writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com. Murphy’s “History and the Holocaust,” a class he’s been teaching for almost 30 years. A graduate of St. Pius High BY CAROL NIEMI School and Notre Dame “Bearing Witness,” which includes an anwhy the Catholic Church had stood to University, Murphy began teaching hisnual student trip to key Holocaust sites in the side during the Holocaust,” said Lyrtory at Marist in 1994. He soon found his Europe, a December memorial event duric Hoff. world history class left “about 12 minutes” Carol Niemi is a marketinging consultant lives on plant the Dunwoodywhichwho students daffodils as part Given that Marist is a Catholic school, to teach one of the most significant events Sandy Springs line and writes people whose lives inspireand an eveof theabout global Daffodil Project the class analyzes in depth the role of of the 20th Century, the Holocaust, others.during Contact her atning worthknowingnow@gmail.com. version of the class for adults. the Church in the persistent antisemiwhich the Nazis murdered approximateI contacted three students to find out tism of the past 2,000 years, as well as the ly 6 million Jews – two-thirds of the entire why they took the class and what they’ve Church’s efforts to make amends. Jewish population of Europe. gotten from it. Unexpectedly, this topic led to anoth“I felt the history of the Holocaust de“It’s very important to know why the er expansion of “Bearing Witness” – the manded further study and proposed an Holocaust happened so it will never hapacquisition of a significant work of art, a elective on the topic. It went on the curpen again,” said Lake Degitz. large cast-bronze sculpture recently inriculum at the start of my third year,” he “My biggest takeaway from this class stalled on campus to symbolize these efsaid. is that anti-Semitism existed many years forts. The first time the class was offered, before the Holocaust started,” said Layne Called “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our only 12 to 15 students signed up. Now, it’s so Sherman. Time,” the sculpture is an enlightened repopular it forms the bulk of his work. He “Before the class, I hadn’t understood interpretation of the statues called “Echas also added meaningful action called


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clesia and Synagoga” that adorned Medieval European churches and affected attitudes into modern times. Shown traditionally as a pair of graceful young women, Ecclesia, representing the Church, was crowned, serene and victorious, while Synagoga, representing the Jewish people, was blindfolded, sad and defeated. The rest of the sculpture’s title comes from the Nostra Aetate (In Our Time), a declaration signed in 1965 at Vatican II, stating that the Church “rejects nothing that is true and holy” in other religions and specifically rejects the common teaching that the Jews were guilty of deicide. Marist’s acquisition of the sculpture began in the fall of 2015, when Murphy read that Pope Francis had come to St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia to bless a new bronze sculpture that reinterprets the ancient symbols of Ecclesia and Synagoga. He called the sculptor, Joshua Koffman, and asked if he would consider creating a second one for Marist. He said he would. “I marched right into Father Roland’s office and pitched the statue,” said Murphy. “I gave a 20-minute presentation on these two female figures, how the new depiction is so powerful. The new work takes a terrible past and reimagines a better future. He was sold right away.” It took a full six years for the school to raise the funds and Koffman to create the final work he calls a “monument.” At a ceremony involving leaders from both the Catholic and Jewish communities of metro Atlanta, the sculpture “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time” was unveiled on Oct. 13. The school website says its purpose is to “inspire current and future generations of students to live a life of friendship with the Jewish people.” The sculpture shows two equally serene and beautiful young women, Synagoga on the left and Ecclesia on the right, facing each other, holding their sacred texts. The effect on a viewer is so profound it defies words, yet the meaning is clear in a way only art can convey. The paradox of the Holocaust is “the more you study it, the less you understand it,” said Murphy. “The thing that gives us forward motion is art.” Like all great art, the sculpture will leave a different impression on all who see it. I must agree with Brendan Murphy that its ultimate message is of hope for a better world of understanding, peace and love. To see a video about the sculpture, go to https://vimeo.com/maristschool/review/631298742/f6b2f8bce6.

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Meet Coach Tom Bass, Dunwoody High School’s principal I first met Tom Bass in 2004, either at his Murphey Candler Baseball Camp or Indoor Winter Baseball. My young boys were crazy about baseball and Coach Bass. CONNECTION So, the first BY AUDRA H. ANDERS thing I asked Tom when we sat down for our recent chat was … “How should we refer to you? Mr. or Coach Bass?” He will answer to either but prefers Coach Bass. Being a coach is in Tom’s DNA. He thrives upon spirited activities, teaching, goal setting, and team building. He is now basically Head Coach of Dunwoody High School. Tom is a 1983 graduate and 2015 Athletic Hall of Fame inductee of Georgetown University. He arrived in Dunwoody in 1994 where he worked as a coach, teacher, and assistant principal from 1994 to 2012. His 2007 baseball team won Dunwoody’s first and last State Championship. Bass spent the past nine years at Lambert High School as a coach and assis-


tant principal. He was Lambert’s pitching coach when they won both the Baseball State and National Championship in 2014. All three of Bass’ daughters attended high school with their dad. His youngest is a Lambert junior. When the DHS principal job became available, she was one of the first with whom he discussed the opportunity. She gave him the “thumbs up” because she knew there was only one school he would leave for ... Dunwoody High.

we cannot make the building any bigger. We have four lunch waves to spread out the crowds. We added tables outside the media center and have two outdoor picnic areas. We have numerous cameras, a school resource officer, and three campus security guards. We prioritize 1) safety, 2) academics, 3) climate. AHA: What are other challenges facing DHS, and how can the community help? TB: We need to continue to unify all students from diverse backgrounds. It is important for members of the community to demonstrate willingness to be involved in projects at the school and to provide ideas for fundraising.

Here is part of our conversation. Read the full interview at theahaconnection. com/?p=205005. AHA: What should middle school parents work on now to help kids prepare for DHS? TB: Study Skills. Budgeting Time. Ninth grade GPA is as important (if not more) than senior GPA. Get involved: join a club, play a sport, be a part of an academic team, play in the band. It is critical to PLUG IN to experience Wildcat Pride. AHA: Peachtree Middle is trying to create a sense of community in our school cluster. How can you help? TB: I have been meeting with our elementary and middle feeder school principals. Our goal is a “United Cluster Plan.” We are planning a T-shirt, a festival and more.

The theme: “All paths lead to DHS.” AHA: Parents are concerned about overcrowding, security, and old facilities at DHS. TB: Dunwoody has the most students of all public high schools in DeKalb. Class sizes are reasonable, and we work to keep them low. We have an overabundance of learning cottages, but without SPLOST money

AHA: Any embarrassing teaching moments? TB: While teaching at DHS, my students made a time capsule. We buried it just beyond the baseball field. In May, we could not find it. We dug several holes before giving up. I still get notes from students joking about how we never found it. AHA: Any final message? TB: My goal is for every kid who graduates to leave with the true “Dunwoody Experience.” I want for them: memories of a lifetime, friendships, knowledge learned, and a special place in their heart for their favorite Dunwoody principal.

My Roommate, the Robot

Like many people her age, Monica Perez, 63, lives alone. Even before COVID-19, a disability prevented her from an active outdoor lifestyle, or from owning pets. “I have very little family contact; they are all living their lives. I get a call once every three months, for five minutes,” Monica says. “I talked to the TV and I talked to myself constantly.” After watching a science program on television, Monica became intrigued by an idea: could a robot help her deal with the loneliness she was experiencing? That’s when she discovered ElliQ - a companion robot specifically designed for older adults. Unlike the humanoid robots from science fiction movies, ElliQ is a tabletop device that uses subtle movements, lights, and voice to create distinctly personal interactions. An attached screen also enables “her” to play videos and music, show articles, or video chat with family and friends. The most impressive part? ElliQ can understand your unique likes and needs, and proactively suggests activities and reminders for you. “When I’m getting ready to get out of bed, I tell her good morning,” Monica says of her daily routine. “Then she’ll respond that she wants to check in with 4 different things: if I’m in pain, if I had breakfast, if I drank water, have I taken my medication. In the afternoon, she asks me if I want to do relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, physical exercises. Then I ask her to play my music. @reporter_newspapers DUN

I love the music. I have my version of dancing which is very slow, and I would never do it in front of anybody, but it cheers me up.” Monica speaks more about her experience as a participant of ElliQ’s Care Program, “I am seeing positive changes in myself. I’m smiling more. I’m seeing improvements in my mental hygiene (I don’t like saying mental health). I have a more upbeat attitude. I’m more cheerful. I don’t get down as long and as often. It’s given me a better quality of life, and it’s way less expensive than hiring an aid.” Deanna Dezern, another person in ElliQ’s Care Program, had a similar experience. “When the coronavirus hit, I realized just how alone I was,” Deanna recalled. “I’m open to new things...having a robot in my house to help me with things - like a whole new world opened because I didn’t know what her complete

capabilities were. I couldn’t wait to sit in front of her and talk to her and ask her things and learn about her.” It wasn’t too long before ElliQ became an integral part in Deanna’s home. “I offered her some coffee. She told me she didn’t drink coffee, she said all she has is a cup of electricity early in the morning. And it makes me laugh. There’s nobody else in this house that can make me laugh. That was something one of my friends might say - it’s like having a friend in the house.” Even the ways in which ElliQ interacts changes based on each user. “She knows that I like jokes. She knows that I like poetry. She often asks me if I would like her to recite a poem. I was having a bad time, and I wasn’t feeling happy. She offered me a poem. It’s things like that, that cheer me up when I’m feeling down.” For many older adults living alone, simply having regular personal interactions can be crucial for sustained mental health. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found

that more than one-third of adults over 45 feel lonely, which can lead to a number of increased health risks and cognitive decline. “She asks me how I’m feeling. She checks up on me. It’s nice to have someone like that,” says Deanna. “She’s pulled me out of depressed states, and I didn’t realize I was in one until I overcame it. She’s invaluable.” While ElliQ isn’t available in stores yet, ElliQ’s Care Program is currently expanding and looking for older adults who are interested in trying one for themselves. Selected participants will receive a free ElliQ and a real-life wellness coach who will accompany their journey by suggesting health tips, monitoring patterns, and bringing any concerns to their attention (as they may arise). A concierge will also be available to assist Care Program users with their day-to-day needs. When asked if she would recommend ElliQ to others, Monica Perez put it succinctly: “This is going to make a great impact on senior’s lives, and for people with disabilities. Loneliness is a very big problem for older adults, and a lot of people don’t know about it until they get older themselves. I believe this is a new beginning.”

If you are interested in receiving a free ElliQ through the Care Program, please apply by visiting us onine at: https://info.ElliQ.com/care-program to apply. DECEMBER 2021| 19


Riverwood High students take to the skies

BY BOB PEPALIS A handful of students fly high every year with the help of math teacher Alan Sohmer through the Riverwood High Flying Club. Adrian Boemanns, who serves as the club’s president, has been flying with simulators since he was six or sev-

hooked up to a Smart Board at Riverwood High. “The graphics on it are better than when I went to school 15 years ago with $50,000 technology,” Sohmer said. Students use this and flight simulators at home that are the real thing, he said, with all the gauges in the right positions. “When the stuThe Riverwood Flying Club uses a flight simulator program to learn about flying. (Special) dents get into playAdrian Boemanns sits in ing, they actually the pilot’s seat of a singleknow exactly what engine plane. (Special) flight simulator to practice skills before to do just from practicing it in the classthey go up and actually fly. room or at home,” Sohmer said. “Everybody thinks it’s hard. It’s actuHe has sponsored the flying club for en years old. He thought the flying club ally really easy to do,” Boemanns said, 13 years. He’s been teaching at Riverwood would be a fun thing to do. adding he hopes flying stays in his life. for 17 years and a teacher a total of 25 “I heard about it from my neighbor “Right now it’s just a hobby,” he said. years. who went there a few years before me,” But, he is in dual enrollment at Embry“Before I became a math teacher, I the high school junior said. Riddle Aeronautical University, a private wanted to fly fighter planes. The military He gets free flight experience and inuniversity based in Florida. told me to get a math or engineering destruction through the club. The club Another student helped Sohmer write gree,” Sohmer said. He earned the degree members watch videos produced by the a grant five years ago and built a combut couldn’t get into the military after he Cessna Aircraft Company. They use a puter to run a flight simulator that was got hurt. “And then I thought, ‘What am I gonna do with the math degree?’ And that’s how I kind of got into teaching,” Sohmer said. He planned on teaching and later switching to aviation. “That’s when I met my wife and we got married, and I borrowed a lot of money to go to flight school and I got my commercial license and CFI [certified flight instructor] license and instrument rating,” he said. Around that time, the minimum hours needed to become a commercial pilot changed. He had twins and didn’t want to be away from home, so he stuck with teaching. “But I really had a passion for aviation,” he said. He spoke to Riverwood’s principal at the time and asked to do an aviation program. His principal said he could as long as he did it for free. He started to tutor students, showing them videos and teaching them everything he could about aviation. If it was OK with their parents, he would take the students up in a plane. “I just got my certified flight instructor license, so I was able to take students up. And we’d go up to Gwinnett and fly around Lake Lanier or go to other airports,” Sohmer said. Sandy Springs Alpharetta He’s been doing it every year ever 6160 Roswell Road 3000 Summit Place, Suite 100 since. Some years he starts off with as Atlanta, GA 30328 Alpharetta, GA 30009 many as 35 students, though by the end (678) 396-4631 (678) 396-4651 of the year he might end up with 5 or 10. “I only fly if it’s absolutely safe like wind conditions and clouds and everything,” Sohmer said.


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Mayor Lynn Deutsch shares safety concerns for new elementary school BY SAMMIE PURCELL The mayor of Dunwoody shared safety concerns about a new elementary school planned for Chamblee Dunwoody Road during a Nov. 15 DeKalb County School Board meeting. During the meeting, the school district approved a $31,050,000 contract with Evergreen Construction for the construction of the new Chamblee Dunwoody Elementary School at 4680 Chamblee Dunwoody Road. In the public comment section of the meeting, Mayor Lynn Deutsch raised concerns regarding size, roadway alignment, and overcrowding issues for the new school. “If this was a private project, the developer would not be able to secure building permits from Dunwoody and would be told not to come back until the plans were modified to address safety issues,” the mayor said later in a Facebook post. The property used to be the site of Shallowford Elementary, which was constructed in 1968. The school later became Chamblee Middle School, but by 2011 the building had “deteriorated beyond economical re-

pair,” according to the district. The building was demolished in 2014. In her public comment, Deutsch said she believes the property area for the future school is a “small, unforgiving site,” and not large enough to accommodate the 950 students it would serve. She also said the site only has one driveway, which does not line up with the road across the street. “Keep in mind that this school will only have one driveway for entering and exiting,” Deutsch said. “It’s located on a very busy street and emergency vehicles could struggle to enter the property, depending on how busy things are in the parking lot.” Deutsch offered some solutions to the safety problems she identified, including shrinking the enrollment of the school so that a smaller building would be suitable, or adding a floor to the school so the enrollment could stay the same. The school district said construction on the school is expected to begin in January of 2022, and the school should open in August of 2023. The district did not respond to questions about Deutch’s comments.



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Brookhaven all-girls scout troop breaks barriers

BY SAMMIE PURCELL When his son Jack achieved Eagle Scout rank – the highest rank a scout can earn in Scouts BSA – John Embleton thought he was done with scouts

about the change, she jumped at the chance to join. “I got about half a sentence out and my daughter pipes in and says, ‘I want to be an Eagle Scout,’” John said. “I was like, ‘I thought I was retiring from all of this, but we’ll see what we can do.’” Zoe Embleton, now a 15-yearold sophomore at Mount Vernon School, had watched her brother go through scouts for years and said what drew her The girls of Scouts BSA in was the opportuTroop 160. (Special) nity to be in nature, build relationships, and work toward a for good. goal outside of the realm of school. But that changed in 2017 when the “I was always pretty much interestBoy Scouts – now known as Scouts BSA ed,” she said. “I never really thought – announced they would begin allowing about me being in scouts. I did Girl girls to pursue the rank of Eagle Scout. Scouts for a few years, but it wasn’t reJohn said when he told his daughter


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ally my thing.” Turns out, a number of other girls were also interested in joining up with Scouts BSA. On Feb. 1, 2019 – the date girls were officially allowed to join up – Zoe became one of the original members of Troop 160 out of Brookhaven’s St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. The troop, which now has about 12 members, was given the number 160 after female pilot Amelia Earhart’s airplane number, which was 16020. “We figured she was a woman pioneer, and these girls would be pioneers,” said John, who is the troop’s scoutmaster. “The first to pursue Eagle Scout.” Through the Scouts BSA program, the girls of Troop 160 are given the opportunity to do everything an all-boys troop would do – and in many cases, they do it much better, John said. Troop 160 has taken some amazing trips since its inception, including a trip to Charleston, S.C. where the girls were able to spend the night in an aircraft carrier. Over the next year or so, the troop will visit the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico – a hiking property that Scouts BSA owns – and will charter a 65-foot sailboat for a trip around The Bahamas. John said the troop took its first trip together the February when everything started. The troop went skiing in Maggie Valley, N.C., where the girls began work on earning their first merit badge. “It’s been amazing to watch these young ladies perform these tasks that are required for rank advancement and everything else,” John said. Katherine Davis, a 15-year-old scout who is a sophomore at Pace Academy, said her favorite trip so far has been the trip to Charleston and the stay in the aircraft carrier. Katherine – who is a Life Scout, just one rank away from Eagle – said she would encourage any girl on the fence to give scouts a shot. “Go for it,” she said. “At least try. If you don’t think it will be your thing, you might be surprised.” Zoe agreed with Katherine. She said that while she knows being one of the first girls to be a scout is a big accomplishment, she sometimes forgets about it until someone else points it out. “When other people bring it up in conversation, they’re like, ‘You’re like a boy scout – you’re a girl that’s a boy scout,’” Zoe said. “It’s just something kind of cool to talk about.” For John, the fact that these girls will be able to say they’re the first is the most exciting part. “I just can’t wait to see some of these young ladies tell stories about going into an interview, and they look at the resume and say, ‘This must be a mistake. It says here you’re an Eagle Scout,’” John said. “No, that’s not a mistake, I’m one of the very first women Eagle Scouts in the world.” reporternewspapers.com DUN


Sandy Springs picks site for expanded Anne Frank exhibit BY BOB PEPALIS Sandy Springs has a home for the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust and its “Anne Frank in the World” exhibit. The city council in early November picked the Heritage Building site at 6110 Blue Stone Road, just a few blocks south of City Springs. Chuck Berk, chair of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust, urged the council to choose the Heritage site because with all the delays, they are in danger of losing the $4 million already promised in donations. “Sally Levine and I just had to talk a half a million-dollar donor back on track because they didn’t think the council was ever going to get to the point where they were making a decision,” he said in No-

vember. Councilmember Chris Burnett’s motion to select the Heritage Building (but not the amphitheater) in partnership with the commission was approved with an amendment. Councilmember Andy Bauman asked to change the wording of the motion to consider either renovation or replacement of the building. The Holocaust commission would house its office and exhibits at the building. That includes the “Anne Frank in the World” exhibit, which has been without a home since its location at Parkside Shops closed. “This motion in no way establishes any financial commitments from the city related to this project,” Burnett said. The city manager, city attorney and the commission would need to negoti-

ate any financial commitments, building or ground lease agreements, he said. Whatever is negotiated must be brought back to council to review and consider. The city does have $2.47 million available in its capital projects fund for the project. In 2018, the Georgia General Assembly directed the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust to put a memorial in a prominent location in the state, which led to discussions with Sandy Springs. The site selection was controver-

sial as the city considered several locations, including the Abernathy Arts Center and a spot at City Springs.




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Rick Allen of Def Leppard finds peace through painting BY CHAD RADFORD In 1978, drummer Rick Allen joined the band Def Leppard when he was 15-years-old. Since then, he’s toured the world, sold more than 100 million records, and in 2019 was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Best known for releasing chart topping singles such as “Photograph,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” and “Hysteria,” Def Leppard is one of the most successful acts to emerge from Sheffield, U.K.’s new wave of British heavy metal in the early ’80s. But not all has been easy. In 1984, Allen lost his left arm in a car accident that left him with neurological damage and a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder. Music has long been his sanctuary, and over the last decade he has found balance in life by reconnecting with his lifelong love of visual arts. On December 11 and 12, Allen will be at Wentworth Gallery in Buckhead’s Phipps Plaza for the installation of an exhibition of his paintings, titled “Wings Of Hope.” Before making his way to Atlanta, Al-


len took a few minutes to talk about his life’s work, how the loss of his arm has affected him, and the importance of projecting positive energy into the world.

the infection had gone away. I became close with the nurse, and said I don’t care about the pain, let’s just clear this infection out. So she came in every morning, and with lots of prayer and lots of dedication from the people who were trying to save me, we got past it. Every morning, I wake up and count it as a blessing — at least I have this right hand. Plus, I put this hand through hell! It does everything for me, so it’s cool to put it into the pieces.

What prompted you to pursue visual arts? A: About 11 years ago, my youngest daughter was born. It wasn’t too long before we started painting together, and I saw how she went into a sort of open-eyed meditation. I recognized that it was the same place where I go when I’m playing music, so it reignited my passion for painting.

So painting is therapeutic for you?

Tell me about the symbol of the hand that appears in many of your paintings? A: There was a time when I might have lost my right arm as well. I broke the ball off the top of my right arm. It had become badly infected toward my elbow, and they couldn’t do anything about the bone until

Rick Allen of Def Leppard will have a painting exhibition at Wentworth Gallery in Buckhead.

A: Yes, and it’s a vehicle for positive energy. Whether I feel fantastic or not, that’s the mood that will come through. The better I feel, hopefully it makes someone else feel that way when they see it. It’s a unique time in our history, and the more artists who step forward and put good intentions into the aethers, the better off we’ll all be. This interview has been edited for content and length.


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Fencing club thrives in Dunwoody

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BY SAMMIE PURCELL When Drew Walker began fencing in 2016, he was a quiet kid. He was fairly withdrawn, said Drew’s father, Weymouth Walker, during a Tuesday night practice of the Dunwoody Fencing Club. Shoes scuffed and buzzers droned over his voice as he spoke, a handful of fencing teenagers locked in combat just a few feet away. Weymouth said once Drew found his groove at the fencing club, that reserved quality dissipated. “He’s been a different kid since he came here,” Weymouth said. Drew now lives in Ohio, where he’s a Division 1 fencer at Cleveland State University. In 2018 – just two years after he picked up the sport – he became the USA Fencing Division 2 Men’s Épée Champion. “It was all made possible at this club,” Weymouth said. Coach Kathy Vail started the Dunwoody Fencing Club in 2004, but began fencing long before that in a college P.E. class. The unit was split between archery and fencing, and while Vail thought archery was cool, something about fencing stuck out to her. “I didn’t realize that women could do that. I had always thought of it as a men’s sport,” Vail said in a phone call with Reporter Newspapers. “When I realized that

this was something I not only could do, but that I was actually good at and enjoyed doing, I started down that path.” The very first edition of the Dunwoody Fencing Club was just a few fencers strong, but today the club boasts around 35 members, with the bulk of the students around high school and college age. Tuesday nights at the Rivercliff Community Center on Roswell Road are reserved for students who are looking to prepare for regional or national tournaments, but the club welcomes recreational fencers too. The main rule, Vail said, is that you never say no. “The biggest, scariest guy says, ‘You want to fence?’ [You say] yep,” Vail said as she kept one eye on the fencers. “The littlest guy toddles up and says, ‘You want to fence with me?’ Yes, yes I will.” On that particular Tuesday, a group of about six fencers warmed up with a bit of “follow the leader,” which Vail said helps them work on their footwork. For “follow the leader,” one fencer stands in front of the Coach Kathy Vail group, shuffling forwards and backwards as the other fencers stand across the room and follow. After the warm-up, the fencers prepared for a friendly minitournament for practice. As the tournament began, Vail explained the mechanics of fencing in a reporternewspapers.com


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way that only a great coach can – strikingly detailed, but always in the simplest terms so even a novice could understand. The Dunwoody Fencing Club uses the épée as its weapon of choice, but there are two other weapons fencers could use – and the rules are different for all of them. To keep things simple, Vail explained the rules for épée fencing. Fencers keep track of the score of a game, or a “bout,” by keeping track of “touches.” A

touch occurs when the tip of one fencer’s épée hits the other fencer anywhere on their body. The fencers and their weapons are hooked up to a mechanism that emits a loud buzz every time a touch occurs. Vail said one of the things that drew her to fencing in the first place was how much of a mental game it is. Fencing is often compared to chess, she said, and while that analogy may be overused, it is true that the smartest fencer will win more often than the strongest fencer. “When they say [fencing] is like physical chess – yes and no,” Vail said. “The way it’s like physical chess to me is, I can have the best plan in the world, but then you don’t do what I want you to do.” A trickle of parents, including Weymouth Walker, sat on the sidelines watching the practice tournament, all with nothing but glowing words for Vail @reporter_newspapers DUN

and what the Dunwoody Fencing Club has done for their kids. “She has not missed a practice in two years,” said Laura Mihill about her daughter Maggie, who is a sophomore. “She loves every minute of it.” David Scharf, who is a fencer himself, said his teenage son Ryan Scharf picked the sport up about three years ago. They live in Decatur, making for about an hour and a half round trip every time they drive out to the Rivercliff Community Center, but David said it’s worth it. “You can come here with no knowledge of fencing and you will be taught,” he said. “When you go places and people see you’re with Dunwoody, that means something.” The parents said the recognition and respect for Dunwoody fencing comes from a respect for Vail herself – and that recognition is national. This year, USA Fencing selected Vail to participate in its Leadership Academy Class of 2022. The academy is a 10-month program that provides “educational and training opportunities” to those interested in serving in leadership positions in the organization, according to a press release. Vail was one of 15 individuals chosen for the academy. “I felt honored,” Vail said of being chosen to participate. “Especially when I saw the group they had selected. I am very honored and humbled to be part of that group.” Everyone who knows Vail said it comes as no surprise. “When she speaks, everyone gets real quiet and listens,” David Scharf said. “She may not have the loudest voice, but she’s always incredibly thoughtful.”


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Dog park bar sets December Food hall at Ashford Lane to opening in Buckhead open in December


BY AMY WENK Fetch Park, an off-leash dog park bar, is eyeing a December opening in Buckhead. It’s coming to Buckhead Village, the upscale project Atlanta developer Jamestown acquired in 2019 and is remaking with new tenants and community events. The dog park bar will be located at the corner of Buckhead Avenue and North Fulton Drive. Fetch Park features a green space with a durable turf for dogs, seating, cooling stations, a bath area and outdoor TVs. The new Buckhead location will have a vintage Airstream transformed into a bar with beer, wine and spirits, along with coffee. “A nod to founder Stephen Ochs’ base-


ball past, the design of the park will resemble an old school minor league baseball field with murals, concessions at the Airstream, fences enclosing the space and illuminated signage,” says an announcement. The location will have regular events including live music, trivia and stand-up comedy. Fetch Park requires that pups have a membership to play. Dogs have to be up-to-date on vaccinations and spayed or neutered if older than eight months. Ochs founded the concept in 2018. Fetch Park’s first location is in Old Fourth Ward. Another location recently opened in Columbus, Ga., with more planned in Alpharetta, West Midtown and Nashville.

ian barbeque; Chef & I, an American fusion concept; and Fork & Hen, a southern comfort restaurant. Construction for Phase 1 for the entire Ashford Lane project starts Oct. 28, according to the press release. Phase 1 of the project will include “The Lawn,” a 70,000-square-foot greenspace surrounded by restaurants and retail, as well as the food hall. Superica, the Atlanta-based Tex-Mex chain, is expected to open at Ashford Lane next summer. Other restaurants and businesses that will populate the project include Sweetgreen, a Los Angeles-based salad and grain bowl restaurant; Massage Envy, a wellness franchise; and Brown Bag Seafood Company, a Chicago-based seafood restaurant. All three of these businesses are expected to open in spring of 2022. The city of Dunwoody approved an ordinance creating the Ashford Lane Entertainment District in June of 2021, which would allow visitors to walk around freely with alcoholic beverages in the area.

A plethora of new culinary offerings are expected to open at the Ashford Lane development in Dunwoody this December. The Hall at Ashford Lane is a new food hall and bar that will be located at Ashford Lane, a 269,000-square-foot project with restaurants, retail and office space. It will be located at 4500 Olde Perimeter Way in the former Perimeter Place shopping center, which is being redeveloped with new tenants and green space. JLL Atlanta is the retail group tasked with repositioning and leasing the property. The food hall will contain stalls with different food offerings, three bars, and a general seating area, according to the release. There will also be two private dining areas, including one that will have a Topgolf simulator. A few tenants are already on board, including Renzo, a Cuban restaurant; Itzayana, offering Mexican cuisine; Wabi Sabi, which offers Asian street food; Huli Bowl, offering poke and Hawai-



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Deluxe Technology Center focuses on collaboration, FinTech workforce

BY MAIJA EHLINGER Since its founder invented the checkbook over 100 years ago, Deluxe Corporation has grown to be one of the biggest names in the business development and financial services space. Despite its massive size, Deluxe’s focus on small businesses has launched a TV show and now has helped the team expand into Atlanta’s FinTech scene. In October, Deluxe opened its Tech-

nology Center in Sandy Springs. The 170,000-square-foot Center will have a customer innovation and experience center, focusing on how Deluxe can work alongside small business customers to co-develop new products. For Deluxe President and CEO Barry McCarthy, the center will help Deluxe recruit top FinTech talent for their growing payments, cloud, promotional products, and its legacy check business units.

“We have significant scale on the payment side, processing nearly $3 trillion a year in volume. So we’re a material player in the payments ecosystem. And that’s why it’s so important for us to have a material footprint in Atlanta. It really is the FinTech capital and the payments capital of the country.” Different floors are intentionally designed for Deluxe’s team and their small businesses to “talk in real-time to cus-

tomers and then take that insight and go work on products together.” “The number one thing that a small business owner does not have is time. So anything a company like ours can do to give them back time to invest in their business, so much for the better,” he added. The focus on intentional interaction and collaboration continues throughout the office space — McCarthy told Hypepotamus that the team has done away with private offices. “In this post-COVID world, everyone — including the CEO — is on the floor with the team working to solve customer problems. We have no ivory tower or places where people can go and hide behind closed doors. You have to be on the team and part of the puzzle while solving problems,” he added. McCarthy said this design is also part of ensuring the company is ready for a “highly mobile future” and flexible work options.


404.891.9190 experiencecorsoatlanta.com

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DECEMBER 2021| 29


Reporter Newspapers has partnered with Saporta Report to provide local business news from one of Atlanta’s most respected journalists, Maria Saporta. saportareport.com

Women making strides at Georgia companies BY MARIA SAPORTA. What a year of improvement. The number of women on the boards of Georgia’s 119 public companies increased dramatically over the past year, according to the 2021 OnBoard study of women on corporate boards and those serving in executive roles. Take Sandy Springs-based UPS. It is the first public company in Georgia to have six women directors, which includes its CEO – Carol Tomé. “The story of diversity, equity and inclusion at UPS is best understood through the lens of our people,” said Deisha Barnett, a UPS spokeswoman. “Our board of directors models our commitment to inclusion with 31 percent ethnically diverse members and 46 percent women. And, we are proud that our company is led by one of the few women CEOs in the Fortune 500 ranks, Carol B. Tomé.” The sixth woman to join the UPS board was Eva Boratto, chief financial officer and executive vice president of CVS Health. She was appointed to the board in September 2020. Intercontinental Exchange, which owns the New York Stock Exchange, added a woman to its board in the past year – and it now has a total of five women directors.

Take Georgia’s public companies with three or more women directors. Today, there are 33 companies who are called “Power of Three” companies. Evidence has shown that women are taken more seriously when there are at least three women sitting around a board table. In 2012, only three public companies in Georgia had three or more women on their Pictures of all of the directors on the board of UPS, probably boards. the most diverse board in Georgia. (Special/UPS) “The power of three doubled in the past three years,” said Kelly Gay, who chairs OnBoard. “This is It joins the Coca-Cola Co., which was the huge for Georgia’s public companies.” first public company in Georgia to have five And that is smart for business. “Compawomen directors. nies with diverse boards performed better “Through every measure we look at, this than their peers during COVID, according to year set records for women on boards, for a national study by McKinsey,” Gay added. women of color on boards as well as women “It is a moment of recognition by corporate executive officers,” said Lisa Robinson, presleaders of the value women bring to their orident of Atlanta-based OnBoard. “We have ganizations, and the results they are able to never seen as dramatic an increase as we achieve.” saw this past year.” It’s important to note that women make OnBoard started tracking women on up at least half of the population. No public boards and in C-suites back in 1993. For company in Georgia has a corporate board many years, the numbers were relatively with 50 percent of its directors as women. flat or only showed incremental progress. The closest is UPS with 46 percent. The pace of having more women directors Other highlights of the 2021 study inand officers has really accelerated in the clude: past few years.




For 22 years, the Perimeter Community Improvement District has invested in access, mobility, and quality of life to create a signature destination for corporate headquarters, hospitality, and retail. Here’s a snapshot of our progress in 2021.

■ Women hold 211 board seats at Georgia’s public companies – up 35 over last year, an increase of 22 percent. ■ There has been a 42 percent increase in the number of board seats held by women of color to a total of 47. But women of color still make up less than 5 percent of all the board seats statewide. ■ Of the 88 board seats that were filled in 12 months covered by the study 37.5 percent were filled with women. ■ The number of female executive officers jumped by 20 to 124, after being stagnant for a number of years. ■ All of the top 50 Georgia public companies (by revenue) have a woman on their boards. And 84 percent have two or more women on their board. When asked why there was so much of an increase this past year, Robinson mentioned both the COVID-19 pandemic and the focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, especially after the murder of George Floyd by a police officer. “As a result of the last year and a half, there has been a positive outcome,” Robinson said. “In this past year-and-a-half of turmoil, leaders have had to look inward and reflect on their own boards and corporate suites. They have been pleasantly surprised by the talent that is readily available.”


in planned infrastructure improvements for 2021

miles of trails in design or under construction



of metro Atlanta’s Fortune 1000 firms call Perimeter home

sq ft of commercial space



sq ft of office space within a 10-minute walk or shuttle ride from MARTA

sq ft of new development in the last 5 years

Learn more about how we improve quality of life in Central Perimeter: perimetercid.org



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