On March 30, a powerhouse crowd composed of the city’s “who’s who” came to pay their respects to late mayor Sam Massell and to learn about the future of Atlanta from keynote speaker and current Mayor Andre Dickens.
The cavernous ballroom of Flourish Atlanta on Maple Drive was surrounded by blue flashing lights as the APD escorted traffic for the 32nd Buckhead Coalition Annual Lunch. Grateful to finally gather in person by an open bar, fans of the late mayor and city leaders elbow bumped and hugged in the spirit of genuine cooperation.
“Sam always said, ‘A lot more can be achieved in a conference call than in a confrontation,’” Mayor Dickens told the crowd.
Coalition President Jim Durrett called the meeting to order with a pledge to responsibly and collaboratively announce in upcoming weeks a fitting theme, event or honor that would serve as a tribute to late Mayor Massell. “Above all, Sam would insist that we carry on,” he said.
Sheffield Hale, CEO of the Atlanta History Center and chair of the nominating committee, affirmed that Eric Tanenblatt is the Coalition’s 2023 chair elect. Fulton County Commission Chair Rob Pitts spoke of his close friendship with Massell.
He remembered a meeting in which, with Massell’s cooperation, the two got around a loophole that allowed Mohammad Ali to fight in Atlanta.
“I said, ‘Sam, you got 90 percent of the black vote and you owe us,’” he recalled. Massell agreed, and the two succeeded in getting approval from then-Governor Lester Maddox.
Mayor Dickens, who made a point of going table to table to shake hands, agreed. “Sam gave us the wherewithal to go further together,” he said.
Dickens took the podium to expound on his plans to address pressing city issues with his “balanced approach to crime,” including:
• Adding additional police officers (250 by the end of 2022), providing low-cost housing for young recruits and adding a 311 phone line to deal with issues and relieve the police.
• Adding 2,000 streetlights with an additional 3,000 in the pipeline.
• Getting career criminals (who account for 40 percent of crimes) off the streets by tracking repeat offenders.
• Upgrading fire stations and EMS response.
• Trash pickup: Dickens noted that he volunteers with neighbors to clean the area near Buckhead’s OK Café along West Paces Ferry Road.
• Improvement of the Chastain Park Gym and parking lot.
• Pushing to pass “TSPLOST 2.0” with hundreds of millions of dollars in transportation and infrastructure improvements.
Sam Olens, the former Georgia attorney general, remarked, “I fully support a united Atlanta, and appreciate all the Coalition has done under the leadership of these great public servants.”
Jonathan Rodbell, who lives in Buckhead and has several commercial properties there, said, “I have and will continue to have a long-term interest and commitment to Buckhead.”
Judge Gary Jackson recalled going to Northside High School, enjoying Buckhead’s amenities and attending synagogue on Peachtree Battle. “My job is to protect the people and property in the city,” he said. “I’ve literally heard thousands of cases, and I’m proud that, by working with the city, very few criminals end up back in my court.”
The Buckhead Coalition is invitation-only and has a limit of 100 members. Yearly dues come to around $7,500. The late mayor, Sam Massell, founded and became president of the Coalition in 1988.
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Sam Massell
- Andre Dickens
- Flourish Atlanta
- Buckhead Coalition
- Jim Durrett
- Sheffield Hale
- Atlanta History Center
- Eric Tanenblatt
- Rob Pitts
- police officers
- OK Cafe
- sam olens
- Jonathan Rodbell
- Gary Jackson
- Northside High School
- Mohammad Ali
- Central Atlanta Progress
- Lester Maddox