The Buckhead Coalition announced June 24 that Jim Durrett will succeed Sam Massell, who is retiring after serving as president for over 30 years.
Massell said of his successor, “Jim Durrett, the new president, does have his heart in the right place and you have to start there. I think he loves this community as I do.”
Durrett directs the Buckhead Community Improvement District and is on the board of MARTA, among other community leadership roles.
Formerly mayor of Atlanta from 1970 to 1974, Massell told the AJT the Buckhead Coalition has grown to become an umbrella for community issues and interests under his watch. The Coalition represents 100 local CEOS and advocates for a wide range of issues.
Massell said he started the Buckhead Coalition in 1988 “completely from scratch, meaning I was given the challenge to rent office space, to hire staff, to write the bylaws, to plan a budget and build an organization.” The purpose “has been to nurture the quality of life of those who live, visit, work and play in Buckhead.”
In addition to its public information line, Massell said that one of the Coalition’s achievements was publishing the Buckhead Guidebook. Some of the revenue from advertising goes to local charities, and the goal of the guidebook is to disseminate information about Buckhead and answer questions people may have, Massell said. Other projects included putting around 60 dog sanitation stations throughout the community, controlling the noise level as the township grew, and placing defibrillators in public areas. “We were the first institute in the U.S. that placed external defibrillators where people were,” Massell said. With heavy traffic in urban areas preventing ambulances from moving quickly, he said defibrillators in churches, shopping centers, and other public spaces help to save lives.
When he was in government, Massell said he oversaw the peaceful transition of leadership positions from an all-white power structure to a predominantly Black city government. “We moved forward in a positive way, and although we have a long way to go, we head with good leadership,” he said of Atlanta.
Massell said the Buckhead Coalition saw a similar emphasis on diverse leadership. “I was pleased that we have initiated several Jewish members since I started, as well as women of whatever faith, and African Americans. The idea that I learned from good government is you try to represent everybody you can and give all a voice.
“Bringing in people with different viewpoints who can make a contribution by supporting the cause and giving us their wisdom was important to the organization,” he said.
Massell is currently quarantining with his wife but is continuing to work with the Buckhead Coalition as they bring materials to his home. He said the organization will see a completely different formation when he retires, but he thinks the new leadership will be strong and show great guidance for the coalition.
“I can brag about this group. These fine guys and gals have allowed me to operate this and manage it for 32 years,” he said. I’ve had a good gig and I wish all of them the best.”