By John Schaffner
As Ronnie Mayer, known as the unofficial mayor of Brookhaven, puts it, “A lot of people talk about doing things for the community; I get things done. …
“I am a doer more than a talker” — though he does both.
Mayer, a 53-year-old “good old boy” who was born in Hawkinsville and moved to the Brookhaven area after his father died when he was 12, has opinions on just about everything when it comes to his community. But more than having opinions, Mayer is a self-described “sweat-equity type of guy.”
Modesty is not one of his strongest attributes. But many in the community agree Mayer backs up everything he says with action — working to make Brookhaven a better place.
Mayer and his third wife, ReMax real estate agent Debbie Leonard Mayer, own about nine properties in the Brookhaven area, including their home, which Ronnie suggests is a little more pretentious than his comfort level.
Mayer is always looking for the next deal, but he is not a stockbroker or real estate investor. He is just a down-to-earth guy who for 31 years has owned a tow truck company, R. Mayer of Atlanta, which “is still going strong.”
Not everyone in Brookhaven agrees with his ideas and with the people he cozies up to for favors. Mayer knows he is considered a maverick, and he recalls he was taken out of the public schools and sent to Hillside Cottages for three years because he had “a problem with conforming.” He is proud, however, that he graduated from Cross Keys High School in Brookhaven.
He proudly says, “I am a business man first.” And he loves his Brookhaven neighborhood.
Enough people in Brookhaven believe he is the man who gets things done — people like Griff Sims, the president of the Brookhaven Township Homeowners Association; Rick Martin, the president of Brookhaven Heights; and Ashford Park resident David Somerson. All three recently joined Mayer in a cleanup where North Druid Hills and Roxboro roads come together.
The four cleared bags of trash and leaves and 100 or so temporary signs, then cut the grass.
Mayer wants to put a sign at that intersection, pointing up Roxboro Road to Buckhead and up North Druid Hills to Brookhaven to mark the entry into his neighborhood. Mayer likely can pull it off.
He is at odds with the Brookhaven Park Civic Association (BPCA) and others about where the new Brookhaven Library should be built. Mayer wants it in Brookhaven Park, at Peachtree and Osborne roads. The BPCA and others want it in the area of the MARTA station.
“There is no RFP (request for proposal) out for a library because no developers have any money and DeKalb County has no money,” Mayer said. “We don’t want the library on the back side of the MARTA station. MARTA is not going to give DeKalb County a place here. Why should DeKalb try to buy a piece of property?”
Mayer pulls no punches about his ideas for Brookhaven Park. He thinks the park’s present building, a special-needs training center renovated last year, should be torn down and a new library build in its place, perhaps with room for an arts and cultural center. He would even like to see a coffee shop on the site.
Mayer believes the park can become the focal point for the community, and he is all about bringing more of a sense of community to Brookhaven.
On a recent driving tour of Brookhaven, Mayer told stories about who owned what, who did what to whom and how things came about. He knows it all.
Mayer noted how some criticized him for his good relationship with former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones. But Mayer said Jones was a friend to Brookhaven. He pointed to a small wooden bridge that Jones got the PATH Foundation to build.
“A neighbor called Channel 2 and suggested they come out and do a story on that $60,000 bridge to nowhere,” Mayer said. “I called Vernon and said he needed to get out here. I had all the moms with strollers, because they love it as a way to go up to the coffee shop without having to walk along busy Dresden Avenue.”
He added: “Channel 2 had the film crew here, and Vernon parked his car and came down in a $500 suit, walked across the bridge, and the neighbor knew she had been had. Channel 2 knew Vernon got things done for the neighborhoods.”
With Jones, Mayer got Ashford Park’s community center built. He calls the center, dedicated last fall, “a great asset for the community.”
Mayer said Jones’ successor, Burrell Ellis, “doesn’t have a clue, and his people don’t have a clue. It is so sad because it is all of us that are going to lose out.” But he said he wants to be friends with Ellis, as he was with Jones, for the benefit of Brookhaven.
As he drove along, Mayer greeted people he knew and those he didn’t. He saw a guy he went to high school with and said, “That is what I like, seeing all the neighbors out doing the grass and such.”
He pointed to a developer who is building a house in the neighborhood and builds in Linwood Heights. “Over there he would use a little brick in the front and vinyl siding on the rest. Here he is using all brick. We want to sell a house here that is a timeless house — that you don’t have to rip off the wood in 15 years.”
Asked if he will run for public office, Mayer said he might — for Brookhaven, his home and his community.