Massell Announces Retirement With Berg Tribute
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Massell Announces Retirement With Berg Tribute

The prestigious 31st annual Buckhead Coalition meeting Jan. 29 at 103 West announced that former Atlanta mayor and Coalition president Sam Massell was retiring.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

An emotional Massell accepted the special tribute and blessing bestowed by Peter Berg, his rabbi at The Temple.
An emotional Massell accepted the special tribute and blessing bestowed by Peter Berg, his rabbi at The Temple.

The prestigious 31st annual Buckhead Coalition meeting Jan. 29 at 103 West shook the powerhouse crowd with the emotional announcement that former Atlanta mayor and Coalition president Sam Massell was retiring.

Some of the city’s top leaders and businesspeople who either live, work or have a keen interest in Buckhead got a dose of heartfelt Judaism with Massell’s blessing on all present and a touching tribute by his rabbi, Peter Berg of The Temple.

Massell, who has been coalition president for 30 years, joked, “Usually you leave this meeting with a goody bag of gift certificates and such. Today you will leave with a mezuzah with my blessing upon you.” Berg quipped, “You don’t have to be Jewish to place this on your doorpost. That way I will know whom to ask for donations for The Temple.”

All attendees left with this keepsake mezuzah. The crowd was delighted with Rabbi Peter Berg’s tribute to Massell and its religious significance.

The crowd was abuzz as the scheduled keynote speaker was slated to be U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was absent to attend the impeachment hearings in D.C. She sent a message relaying that since she is now seeing the government from the inside out, she values the importance of community organizations for the betterment of Georgia, such as the Coalition.

Diplomats from Belgium, the Philippines, Germany, Norway and Austria were recognized at the luncheon along with local officials from the Atlanta School Board, Atlanta City Council, Neighborhood Planning Unit, judges, the Fulton County Commissioner, the District Attorney’s office, Georgia House of Representatives, and the Fulton County Sheriff.

Massell greets long-standing restauranteur Pano Karatassos of Buckhead Life Restaurant Group.

Massell, seated, gave his remarks starting with a history of his own 90 “plus” years. He reminisced, “I have seen a lot. Fifty years ago, I rented a brand-new quality place near Lindbergh for $50 a month, and today condos there go for $500,000. Time marches on, but I most value the success of Buckhead and the friendships in this room.” He acknowledged Charles Loudermilk’s foresight in starting the Buckhead Coalition “to protect and preserve the community. Things that we cannot take for granted.” He added that the luncheon is free and not about selling tickets but bringing people together. “We sat business leaders, elected officials and journalists together. That way we can build anything. That is a formula for making Buckhead successful.” Massell explained further about the significance of the mezuzah. “We imported them from Israel. Kiss it and relate it to today.”

Sam enjoyed the crowd giving wife Sandra a standing ovation for her love and care.

Joe Evans, chairman of the Coalition, charmed the crowd by saying, “Now I know how the Israelites felt when Moses stepped down.” Evans listed some of Massell’s accomplishments, which include getting approval for the construction of Georgia 400, incentives for police officers to live in Buckhead, park benches, security cameras, freestanding phones, helping with the Carl Sanders Family YMCA, the Shepherd Center, and  placing well-needed defibrillators. “He was a true public servant, even fixing potholes and removing dead trees.”

Attorney Linda Klein power chats with incoming Buckhead Business Association President Matt Thiry and Judge Gary Jackson, a Buckhead native.

Rabbi Berg gave the benediction, recalling that Massell “defined the generational shifts with impeccable decency and sagacity.” He ended by quoting Deuteronomy with a man leaving the fruit and water of an oasis, “How shall I bless thee [since you have food and drink]?”

Berg’s answer, “May your saplings be like you. You have given your heart openly to the next generation.”

David Rubinger, publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle, chats with Alana Shepherd, the first and only president of the Coalition and Eric Tanenblatt, Coalition member.

The cocktail hour was a cross between media, city hall, a bespoke atelier, and top-notch board rooms. Among the notables were: Jay Davis, CEO of National Distributing Co.; attorney Eric Tanenblatt; David Rubinger, publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle; Lauren Ball, a new inductee; and Alana Shepherd, the first female chairman of the Coalition. Attorney Linda Klein, who has been a Coalition member about 10 years, said, “I reside and work in Buckhead and like feeling that we members contribute to the community’s positivity in making a difference.” Incoming president of the Buckhead Business Association, attorney Matt Thiry, commented, “I will be an ex-officio member of the Coalition board. I have gained so much from participating in these organizations.”

The Buckhead Coalition is by invitation only and has a limit of 100 members and yearly dues of $9,000. Massell has been president since 1988. A succession committee is in place to search for his replacement.

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