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Public safety a prominent theme at Buckhead Coalition lunch

Eric Tananblatt, Jim Durrett and Mayor Andre Dickens at the Buckhead Coalition annual meeting. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

By Maria Saporta

Although the name “Buckhead City” was barely mentioned during the annual meeting of the Buckhead Coalition on Thursday, Jan. 26, the issue was definitely present in the room.

Speaker after speaker spoke about how crime in Buckhead had dropped 14 percent, and Buckhead Coalition leaders were complimentary of the leadership of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum.

Efforts to create a separate City of Buckhead have been around for the last couple of years, but so far, the issue has not been able to get the traction to move the issue forward.

Colin Connolly, Brad Bradshaw, Eric Tanenblatt and Alana Shepherd at the 2023 Buckhead Coalition lunch. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Creating a City of Buckhead would first require the complicated unbuckling of the area from the City of Atlanta before it could become a separate city. It’s a different process that the establishment of Sandy Springs or numerous other new cities in the region, which were in unincorporated parts of their respective counties.

The annual luncheon of the Buckhead Coalition featured a public safety panel with Police Chief Schierbaum, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Dave Wilkinson, president and CEO of the Atlanta Police Foundation.

Schierbaum said that the only crime that went up in Buckhead in 2022 was shoplifting. Willis said her office is focusing more attention on repeat offenders.

Nearly every speaker mentioned how the new Buckhead Police Precinct had helped the city’s efforts to fight crime in the area, one of the wealthiest communities in Atlanta.

Police Chief Darin Schierbaum, David Wilkinson with the Atlanta Police Foundation and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis at Buckhead Coalition. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

“We had a moment in time with crime surging,” Wilkinson told the luncheon attendees at the St. Regis Hotel, praising the leadership of all the public safety entities in Atlanta and Fulton County. “Everybody is working together right now. We will make sure this crime surge doesn’t become part of the new normal in our city.”

During his keynote talk, Mayor Dickens made sure to let members of the Buckhead Coalition know that the city is doing well financially (one more reason why a Buckhead City is not needed).

“We now have the highest fund balance reserves in our history,” Dickens said. “We have $240 million in our reserve balance. We also have the highest credit rating in our city’s history.”

And while public safety is top of mind, Dickens reminded the crowd that running the city is multi-faceted. For example, he said the city had filled 11,000 potholes in 2022.

After the luncheon, Dickens was asked if he’s concerned about whether the City of Buckhead movement was still a possibility.

Buckhead Coalition luncheon attendees: Atlanta City Council members Howard Shook and Keisha Sean Waites with Buckhead Coalition’s Jim Durrett, District Attorney Fani Willis and Natalie Zellner on Willis’ staff. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

“I’m always watchful of it,” Dickens said, adding that public sentiment has changed over the past year. “More people now want to stay in the city.”

Then the mayor said the best thing he can do is run the city as efficiently as he can. “I’m going to keep doing my job,” he said.

The Buckhead Coalition also named a new chair for the next two years – Eric Tanenblatt, global chair of public policy for Dentons. Tanenblatt succeeds Juanita Baranco, who wasn’t able to attend the Jan. 26 luncheon because of an auto dealership event.

In describing his vision for Buckhead, Tanenblatt, a Buckhead resident for 35 years, said he would like it to be a vibrant, welcoming and safe intown community. He applauded the mayor for being so engaged with Buckhead and the rest of the city.

The Buckhead Coalition luncheon includes city leaders: here Councilmembers Andrea Boone, Michael Julian Bond and Marci Collier Overstreet stand with Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

“Mayor Dickens has been so inspiring,” Tanenblatt said. “He’s been spending a lot of time in Buckhead.

Jim Durrett, president of the 35-year-old Buckhead Coalition since July 2020, also remembered two leaders who were instrumental in the formation of the business group – former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, who passed away last March (he ran the organization for 32 years), and business leader Charlie Loudermilk, who died last August. Buckhead lost two titans last year, Durrett noted.

“The Buckhead Coalition has a great new leader in Eric Tanenblatt,” said Durrett said in a release. “He has the experience and access to not only promote important public policy but as a leader for us in Atlanta, the State of Georgia, and the federal government. He has a keen understanding about business and government and how they intersect.”

Atlanta real estate leader Steve Selig with Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts and Buckhead Coalition Chair Eric Tanenblatt. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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