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Thought Leadership Views From Peachtree

We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends

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by Jim Durrett, executive director, Buckhead CID

Community Improvement Districts seldom do their work in a vacuum without collaboration of some kind. Most of our work has to do with transportation within our two-and-a-half square mile district.  As it says in our mission statement, we strive to make meaningful improvements in the transportation network and public realm that connect people and places. When you do your work within the City of Atlanta and most of your major roads happen to be state routes, as shown on the accompanying image of our district, you need to develop close working relationships with both City of Atlanta and Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) staff in order to develop and execute your plans.

We work with other entities, too, but I wanted to specifically call out these two partners, and more importantly the people we regularly work with to move our projects forward.

With both the City of Atlanta and the GDOT we have developed, over time, trusting relationships that have allowed us to deliver on our promise of making meaningful improvements. Those relationships have allowed us to have the kind of open, honest conversations to identify and solve problems and to hold each other accountable for commitments.

Joshua Williams, the Chief Operating Officer for Mayor Bottoms’ administration, has been a pleasure to work with. From the example he has set for others, we have forged a much better working relationship with staff than we have had before. During the strategic planning associated with the formation of the new Department of Transportation at the City, we had plenty of opportunity to offer opinions and react to proposals in order to stand up a new entity that we will be working closely with from this point forward. Josh Rowan, the Commissioner of the new department, is the right person for the job. 

I want to call out several folks who work in this new department: Jacob Tzegaegbe, Jade Martin, Barrington Brown, Ashraf Elkhadrawy, Michele Wynn, and Ian Macrae all of whom have been important in working with us to tee up numerous improvement projects for successful delivery. 

Tim Keane, the Commissioner of the Department of City Planning, has been instrumental in creating a vision of an urban city that will accommodate future growth and mechanisms to guide us, but has also supported and encouraged our efforts to create a better Buckhead for all.

We have been working with Rob Bocarro, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management, and his staff, Joseph Carpenter and Ray Long, to address storm water issues in Buckhead’s West Village and as a result, we are ready to begin our streetscape improvement program there in just a few weeks.

GDOT has been a crucial partner, both at the State and district levels. Buckhead lies within GDOT’s District 7, which is ably led by Kathy Zahul, District Engineer. Two of her staff members, Justin Hatch and Megan Wilson, have been instrumental as we seek to solve problems along our numerous state routes. Kathy is always responsive and helpful in figuring out how to address various issues.

At the State level, it starts at the top. Russell McMurry is a Commissioner that is accessible and gracious with his help and advice. Meg Pirkle, Chief Engineer, is there for us when we need her advice. Albert Shelby and George Baldwin are two members of their staff that we have relied on recently to solve problems.

And in terms of traffic operations and management, Andrew Heath, State Traffic Engineer, has been a joy to work with as we try to squeeze every bit of efficiency out of the road network that we can find. Matt Glasser, with the Regional Traffic Operation Program, has been great to work with on signal timing as we try to fine-tune our network.

You always risk offending someone that isn’t called out in a thank you note, but I wanted to thank these individuals for being great partners and to let you know how collaborative our partnership has been and will be, I am sure, for years to come. 

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