It was November and December of 1987 when I opened a public relations/marketing agency in Sandy Springs. The name was Corporate Image Group, Inc. The vision was to build a name, a reputation and maybe some wealth.

The location of the offices was Suite 100 of the Century Springs West building in the triangle formed by Hammond Drive, Lake Forrest Drive and Mount Vernon Highway.

The business that occupied the same location in the building next door, Century Springs East, was A.J. Edwards. It was the office of Tibby DeJulio.

A few months later, when the weather was a bit warmer, I met Tibby DeJulio and Eva Galambos at a Sandy Springs Chamber of Commerce reception hosted by Tibby on the roof of the Century Center East building.

I was a new member of the chamber, but I was in a business the chamber wanted to tap into—not just for annual dues, but for help in placing publicity.

So, it didn’t take long for me to be asked to join the chamber’s board of directors—to sit at the table with the likes of Eva Galambos, Tibby DeJulio and Dorothy Felton, the pioneers of the cityhood movement for Sandy Springs.

Gkeam in their eyes

There was a gleam in the eyes of that trio even then and fire in their bellies. They wanted a city of Sandy Springs so badly even then that they could taste it, and it was a taste that stayed with them almost every day.

I got caught up in the wave of enthusiasm to some degree and offered to help as best I could with publicity for their campaign.

I thought the concept made sense—since Fulton County was providing virtually no services to the Sandy Springs area, but grabbing the area’s tax dollars to spend on others in south Fulton.

But, in reality, I wondered if the cause had any chance at all of passing through the Georgia General Assembly, despite the persistent lobbying of Galambos, DeJulio, Rusty Paul and others, and the bills entered year after year by Felton, a legislator.

Now, here we are, more than 20 years later, Sandy Springs is celebrating its fifth anniversary as a city and I am celebrating four years of covering the city as an editor of the Sandy Springs Reporter newspaper.

Galambos, DeJulio, Paul and Felton achieved their goal at the end of a long, persistent struggle and I have the opportunity to chronicle their successes from the platform of a business I love.

No disrespect meant at all, but I thought back in 1987 that Galambos was a bit elderly and wondered if she would be around to see Sandy Springs actually become a city. Of course, she was only around 60 at the time, and I was in my late 40s.

She had not only lived long enough to see her dream come true for Sandy Springs, but she has led it as mayor astutely through its formative first five years and survived even a bout with cancer along the way. Today, she seems both ageless and tireless to me.

Felton has passed on. Paul has moved on from being a city official to working for a major Atlanta law firm—lobbying for other major issues. But DeJulio remains at the side of the mayor as a city councilman and vice mayor—still a right hand to the mayor.

Residents think they’re better off

For the special section we have incorporated in this edition of the Sandy Springs Reporter, we asked about 20 residents on the street if they believed they were better off today than five years ago before the city was incorporated. All but a few said yes.

Galambos, DeJulio, Paul (as a member of council), Ashley Jenkins, Diane Fries and Karen Meinzen McEnerny—all who have been around as elected officials since the beginning of cityhood—have delivered on the promises that were made to the residents before they voted to incorporate.

They promised to replace four county police patrols with a full-fledged police department and to provide improved fire and emergency medical response teams. They promised to fix potholes in the roads and add sidewalks along streets. They promised to provide more parks and green spaces and recreation areas.

They promised to provide all the services Sandy Springs residents had been paying for so many years but not receiving from Fulton County. And, they promised to do all that without raising property taxes.

I know, because I was there early on and heard all these promises and wondered how they would ever be able to make good on all those promises.

Well, madam mayor, members of City Council and all of those who have played a part in making the city of Sandy Springs work over the past five years, mission accomplished. You have done yourselves proud and you have done the city proud.

You have made Sandy Springs a model that is being watched and emulated across the county and around the world. If I were still in public relations work, I would consider it a PR dream.

Just one note of criticism

Sandy Springs has much going for it—as a place to live and do business. But I have always found it difficult to accept Sandy Springs as a tourist destination, even after we landed the Anne Frank museum earlier this year.

In my mind, I have always questioned the validity of a Sandy Springs Hospitality & Tourism organization. And, the recent newsletter mailed out by that organization again brought the question to my mind: Why?

The theme of the newsletter is “Living it upscale in Sandy Springs.” The main article is about shopping for the holidays in Sandy Springs, but none of the three malls mentioned are in Sandy Springs (Perimeter, Lenox and Phipps), the pictures of shopping centers show a half-empty CityWalk and Trader Joe’s food market. The other three photos are of consignment stores.

There is a two-page spread on “Holiday Events Light Up the Atlanta Area” directing residents who may have guests in town for the holidays to holiday-themed activities “in and around Sandy Springs.” The four activities highlighted are “A Stone Mountain Christmas” at Stone Mountain Park, Macy’s tree lighting at Lenox Square in Buckhead, The Nutcracker at the Fox Theatre in Midtown and Musical Nights of Lights at Lake Lanier Islands.

It seems Sandy Springs Hospitality & Tourism spent a lot of money on a fancy newsletter to promote just about everything except Sandy Springs for the holidays. Then again, what was there to promote for the holidays in Sandy Springs?

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.