Ashley Jenkins says she is leaving City Council to take a demanding new job with her best friend and to spend more time with her family.

When Ashley Jenkins announced Jan. 20 that she was resigning from her Dist. 4 Sandy Springs City Council seat, the immediate question on the minds of many was: “Was she that upset over losing the council vote 4-3 on the issue of luring Gwinnett Technical College to the city?”

The short and simple answer is no.

Jenkins, one of the council’s original members, is simply going into business with her best friend since seventh grade and doesn’t feel she could devote enough time to City Council.

According to her new business card, Ashley Jenkins is now an “experience creator” for a company named Vibrant Travel Solutions of Littleton, Colo. Some might say she has already been an “experience creator” for several years now as a member of the council.

So what caused this public official, trained as an attorney, to make this mid-life change in direction?

The person’s name is Stephanie Sorrells. She owns Vibrant Travel Solutions, and “she has been hounding me and hounding me and hounding me to come work for her,” Jenkins said.

“I went on my first incentive trip with her in September and it was great…a lot of fun,” Jenkins said. “I’m excited. I get to travel to great places and work with my best friend. You can’t beat those two things.”

This is a corporate incentive travel business, Jenkins said, and “obviously I can’t call on companies in this area as a City Council member. That would not be appropriate.”

She said she realized the amount of travel involved with the new job and decided that once she took it, she could not fulfill her obligations to the council. “I can’t do both and still be a mom” to her 7- and 9-year-old children, she said.

She said she told Sandy Springs City Manager John McDonough in November about her plans. She told McDonough she needed to know what day to resign so the seat could go on the ballot for an election in March. She said McDonough, the City Clerk and two city attorneys called her about Jan. 20 and said “We have got to have it now.”

She had not even talked to the mayor by that time. “Nobody else knew, except [fellow City Councilwoman] Dianne Fries, one of my closest friends,” she said.

So, she sent out an e-mail to the mayor and council members and then another to her constituents. Her husband, Mike, found out via the e-mail that went out to constituents.

Jenkins was a good deal more relaxed in her home on Sunday, Jan. 23, than she had been during the council debate Jan. 18 over the proposal to offer Gwinnett Technology College a location for a new campus in Sandy Springs.

Asked to address some of her accomplishments on City Council, Jenkins said, “I helped get the police department up and running as a member of the police committee.”

Getting Overlook Park built drew a second mention. “I am floored how quickly we were able to do that and how nicely it turned out.”

She cited her support for sidewalks and gymnastics as other major accomplishments. “I love the idea of sidewalks,” she said. She also listed the purchase and renovation of the Bluestone building.

Going forward, she said the major challenge will be with the “request for proposals” to handle the city’s services, now handled entirely by CH2MHILL consultants.

“The RFP is going to be a big thing for the city,” she said. “We want as much competition as possible. The more competition you have, the more people are going to sharpen their pencils and we will really see some cost savings.”

Asked about the rancorous debate over Gwinnett Tech, Jenkins said, “You are always going to see issues ramp up, especially around a zoning issue. This was almost like a zoning with a budget package.”

Jenkins said she is “absolutely optimistic about the future of the city. I think we are well positioned from a financial standpoint and we do have good leadership. These are wonderful people and they really do have the citizens’ best interest at heart. The people running our city are truly honest folks.”

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.