This week, South Fulton celebrated two years as a new city. The milestone was marked by a State of the City Address, billed as the city’s first, at the Southwest Arts Center.
The program began with a rousing selection from the Westlake High School marching band, followed by prayers from community members of various faiths and reflections from residents and elected officials.
David Seem, chief financial officer of Miller Zell was tapped to introduce Mayor William “Bill” Edwards, who started by wishing the city, “Happy Birthday!” He then asked attendees to take a “road trip” with him along South Fulton’s journey – in a 1968 two-door Pontiac Firebird – as he maneuvered down a litany of the city’s accomplishments since its incorporation.
“Our journey towards success has been both challenging and rewarding,” he said. “Although we’ve made great strides, there’s much left to accomplish. Tonight we celebrate the progress that has been made and prepare to rise to the challenges to make our city not just good, but to make out city great.”
He began with the success of the “Mayor’s Walk,” a traveling townhall that brings elected officials and department heads to the doorsteps of businesses across the city. During the implementation of the initiative, more than 200 issues were identified and 98 percent were resolved within 30 days or less. The city now has plans to go out into neighborhoods in a similar fashion to address the concerns of residents.
Mayor Edwards also touted the success of the 24-hour citizen response center. Since January, the center has received more than 2,000 calls. All were assigned to a department or resolved within three minutes.
He offered new details about the city’s plans to pilot a park ranger program to be headquartered in District 3, and confirmed that the city is working with Fulton County to acquire Wolf Creek Amphitheater and Southwest Arts Center. If South Fulton is successful in getting the facilities, they will be part of the parks and recreation department’s long list of assets, which includes over 700 acres of land.
During the address, Mayor Edwards acknowledged the contributions of the city council, thanking them individually. All were featured in a video presentation about the city and its progress. Six of the seven were in attendance and on stage during Edwards’ address.
“The leadership, strategic oversight and commitment to the residents of South Fulton from these leaders has been the cornerstone of the success and will continue to fuel the progress for years to come.”
Much of Edwards’ address was dedicated to the city’s emphasis on economic development. He shared the goals of Destination South Fulton, the city’s economic development arm, to retain the over 1700 businesses in city limits as well as attract new ones.
“We’re dedicated to supporting the business community and providing opportunities for their growth and success,” he said.
He announced that the city will launch the “South Fulton 100” this fall, an effort to recognize top businesses that are making a lasting impact on the city’s landscape. Additionally, he revealed that the city’s small business incubator and small business resource center will be located at the site of the forthcoming Publix near the intersection of Camp Creek Parkway and Campbellton Road.
He also announced that tax allocation districts have been approved across the city to help increase revenue without increasing resident’s tax burden, and addressed concerns about the Old National corridor.
“Many of the issues we face were inherited,” he said. “Still it’s our duty to face these challenges.”
He cited the redevelopment of the Old National area as one of those challenges. The area is not only the city’s busiest business district, but it’s also home to 44,000 residents. Mayor Edwards advocated for the adoption of the Georgia Main Street Program in 2019 for the area. He also challenged the council to implement the same program on Roosevelt Highway in 2020.
“It’s time to bring economic development and quality investment to the southside,” he said.
Other notes of progress included in the address were: the elimination of all of the city’s debt; the installation of signage noting the city’s boundaries; the first bulk trash amnesty day; $4 million in infrastructure improvements, including lighting on Cascade Road; upgrades to the park system; and the Mayor’s Task Force on education.”
Mayor Edwards emphasized throughout his address that while the new city has hit a few roadblocks, leadership has kept moving forward in the direction of progress, and set the course for the future. And as always, he had a final word for the naysayers.
“Despite these efforts for the last two years people have slept on South Fulton,” he said. “Now it’s time to wake up.”