By John Schaffner

There is a change of command at the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 2. The zone commander, Maj. James Sellers, retired Feb. 4 after 23 years with the Atlanta police force.

In a double blow to the department, Sellers’ wife, Valerie, also a 23-year Atlanta Police veteran, retired from the force the same day. Most recently, she was assigned to the police detail at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Major Sellers will be replaced by Major Robert Browning, who previously worked in Zone 2. He also has worked with the police department’s SWAT team and special drug teams.

Sellers said he will start a business in Buckhead, although he would not disclose any details. However, he and Valerie, have been developing plans to build a community center in Nigeria using the Global Peace Containers architectural design, which uses abandoned shipping containers dumped in third world countries as building materials. The couple plan to continue to live in Buckhead.

Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington said of Sellers, “I am sure there are many Atlanta residents that will agree with me – on how much Major Sellers’ unwavering dedication has been appreciated and how much he will be missed.”

Sellers has served the Atlanta Police Department since 1986 in a myriad of positions. As a recruit, he drove the paddy wagon in Zone 3. Upon becoming a police officer, Sellers walked a beat downtown. He was a traffic enforcement officer, a member of the Red Dog Unit and a detective in narcotics investigations before becoming a supervisor in 1993. He commanded the Larceny/Major Fraud Unit, Robbery Unit, Office of Professional Standards and Homicide Unit.

Sellers received numerous awards for his service to the Police Department, including Supervisor of the Year in 2001. After taking over as Zone 2 commander in Nov. 2005, he has led the zone to achieve the department’s award for most reduction in crime for the past two years. The latest crime statistics show that Zone 2 again has a 27 percent decrease over the previous year.

Word of Sellers’ retirement brought an outpouring of praise from Buckhead civic, political and business leaders.

Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell said: “Major Sellers can be proud that Zone 2 won the award two years in a row for the greatest decrease in crime. He has been professional in his demeanor and cooperative with all segments of our community.”

Buckhead Alliance Chairman Robin Loudermilk, who worked closely with Sellers in cleaning up crime in the old Buckhead Village bar district, said: “Sellers has done an extraordinary job as our Zone 2 commander at a time when we needed extraordinary leadership. We truly appreciate all of his efforts and the resources he committed to making our community safer.

“He has personally shown that working closely with the citizens of this community can have a dramatic influence in crime reduction. … Major Sellers deserves a lot of credit for turning Zone 2 into one of the safest zones in our city. We’ll miss him, and we wish him well in this next chapter of his career.”

“He was a great human resource for our city and Buckhead,” said Scotty Greene, the executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID). “With creative management and leadership, Major Sellers translated his passion for good policing into giving us a safer community.”

Dist. 7 City Councilman Howard Shook, who lives in North Buckhead near the Sellerses, said: “I know I speak for many in saying how glad I am to know Jim and Valerie will be staying as neighbors, as well as how sorry I am to be losing them as key members of the APD. Jim did a fantastic job running Zone 2, and ending the Buckhead Village violence is a wonderful legacy.”

“Buckhead neighborhoods have been so fortunate to have had Major Sellers as our Zone 2 commander,” said Gordon Certain, the president of the North Buckhead Civic Association. “His communication skills, coupled with friendliness and professionalism, have resulted in excellent police-neighborhood relations. Plus, as residents of North Buckhead, he and his wife, Valerie, have been supportive of our neighborhood and concerned about preserving its quality of life.”

Sally Silver, the chairwoman of Neighborhood Planning Unit B’s Development & Transportation Committee, said: “He has done a great job heading up Zone 2, going above and beyond to make himself available to those who live and work within his district. I am luckier than most in that Jim and his wife, Valerie, are my neighbors. I will continue to see them frequently.”

Peter Rooney, the immediate past president of the Buckhead Business Association (BBA), said that working closely with Sellers “has been one of the nicest parts of serving in Buckhead for the past several years. He is a professional of the highest caliber. He is also approachable to all citizens. Our community is better and stronger because of his leadership at Zone 2.”

Charles Qualls, who heads the BBA’s public safety committee, said, “Stats are stats, but I believe his bear out some positive gains in our zone with regard to overall crime reduction.”

New BBA President Elizabeth Gill echoed Rooney’s sentiments, saying: “The BBA has had such a close relationship with Major Sellers, it’s like losing a member of the family. The good news is he will still be working in Buckhead, and I know he will continue to contribute to the benefit of the community.”

Although he will be missed on the police force, BBA Executive Director Sharon Silva said, “we are very pleased that Major Sellers will continue to be involved in the Buckhead Business Association as he embarks on his new career in the private sector.”

Sellers is one of Atlanta’s finest, said Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation President John Sherman, a Buckhead resident. “Unfortunately, he was never given sufficient staffing in spite of the fact that Buckhead contributes 46 percent of Atlanta’s total property tax.”

Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore said she has enjoyed working with Sellers. “He has always been responsive to my requests and those of our constituents.”

“Major Sellers is a consummate professional, a man with great integrity and dedication to law enforcement,” said at-large Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who lives in Buckhead. “We met years ago, long before he became the commander for Zone 2, so I was thrilled when he was given the appointment to lead the zone.”

“Major Sellers was a policeman’s policeman who also took time to develop strong and meaningful civic relationships,” said the Buckhead Coalition’s director of community development, Garth Peters. “Both attributes served this community well.”