His posts about squash bores and blossom rot on tomato plants didn’t cause too many waves. But when Bob Lundsten wrote about leaks from the Dunwoody City Council’s executive sessions on his blog, people started talking.
“I like stirring the pot,” Lundsten said. “In this leak business, I stirred the pot saying, ‘You guys have a problem.’ And Frankenstein emerged from the pot.”
Lundsten works for DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer. But in his spare time, the Dunwoody resident blogs about gardening and local politics.
After hearing information about a land transaction that had only been discussed in the City Council’s private executive session meetings, Lundsten wrote about it.
Lundsten said he has no regrets about what he posted on his blog, even though it kicked off a $50,000 investigative report and a slew of ethics complaints.
“What makes the city viable long term is that the rules get followed,” Lundsten said. “Given the chance, I would do it again.”
Lundsten is one of more than a dozen active bloggers in Dunwoody who use the digital platform to weigh in on what’s going on in the young city.
Where to find them
Dunwoody Talk: dunwoodytalk.blogspot.com/
Dunwoody USA: dunwoodyusa.blogspot.com/
Dunwoody Working Girl: sdocpublishing.blogspot.com/
Heneghan’s Dunwoody Blog: dunwoodynorth.blogspot.com/
The Other Dunwoody: theotherdunwoody.blogspot.com/
Dunwoody Farmer Bob: dunwoodyfarmerbob.com/
I’m Just Sayin’- Dunwoody!: kerry4dunwoody.com/
Dunwoody School Daze: dunwoodyschooldaze.blogspot.com/
Among the most visible Dunwoody bloggers is City Councilman John Heneghan.
Heneghan regularly updates his blog with electronic copies of city documents, information on city issues and videos of city council meetings.
Heneghan’s motto is that transparency in government breeds self-corrective behavior – something he said is especially important in a new city like Dunwoody.
“Since I now govern those people, I thought it was important for the community to be transparent and put everything online in an easy-to-find format,” Heneghan said.
He said he blogs just about every day too, sometimes staying up well past midnight to post new material.
More than 1,000 people are reading, as well as others who see what he posts through Twitter or emails.
He has a following that started long before his council days. As leader of the Dunwoody North Civic Association, he took the traditional neighborhood newsletter and moved it to a blog. He blogged about the movement to create a city, and when he won a seat on City Council, it seemed natural to continue the blog, he said.
“I’m enjoying it and I know others are enjoying it, so I’m going to continue it as long as it’s worthwhile,” Heneghan said.
Paula Calderella is a Dunwoody mom with two kids in the DeKalb County School System. She started her blog, Dunwoody School Daze, about two years ago because she was tired of seeing nothing but negative stories about Dunwoody schools in local media.
“It was like, ‘I’m going to get this information out, even if it’s only one or two people that see it. I know good things are happening,’” Calderella said. “It was sort of born out of that frustration.”
Much of what Calderella posts on Dunwoody School Daze is submitted – letters from principals, information about fundraisers and other school-related odds and ends. She said she enjoys blogging and has met new people from the schools because of it.
“I do get thanked at the high school and middle school, and my kids’ former elementary school for bringing that information to their attention,” Caldarella said, “so, if I’m doing a service, I’m glad.”
Dunwoody bloggers don’t live in their own bubble – they regularly read each other’s posts and make comments.
Adrienne Duncan runs her own website development and design company. She began blogging as an extension of her business, but soon became interested in writing about local issues that affect small businesses.
She said reading the other Dunwoody blogs is part of her daily news consumption.
“That’s my morning routine – when my oldest goes off to school with her dad … I get a cup of coffee, sort through emails, look at my blog to see if there’s been any comments and then look at other blogs,” Duncan said.
Calderella said she enjoys looking at what the other bloggers are posting, too.
“I think each one of them has their own specific slant. Mine’s education, John’s you look to for City Council information. Dunwoody Talk, that’s his own thoughts,” Caldarella said. “They all bring a different perspective on our community and I like that variety.”
Lundsten said he believes the reason there are so many bloggers is the historically high level of civic involvement in Dunwoody. When he moved to Dunwoody 30 years ago, the best way to learn what was going on was to attend public meetings.
“Now there’s 15 blogs being written and there’s information all over the place,” Lundsten said.
Lundsten said he believes the information from Dunwoody bloggers is reliable, too.
“They’re writing because they’re actively involved in what’s going on,” Lundsten said. “Nine times out of 10, the bloggers don’t lie. For the most part in Dunwoody, bloggers know what they’re talking about.”
Duncan said though the blogs are beneficial, they do have a sinister side. Behind the veil of their own keyboards, people have the ability to leave mean-spirited, anonymous comments.
“People forget to be civil. Sometimes people forget we’re in a small town and we’re going to run into each other eventually,” Duncan said.
Bloggers tend to be the types that aren’t afraid to stand up and be vocal with their opinions, she said.
“You want to make sure the blogosphere doesn’t take over the whole discussion,” Duncan said. “It’s just another extension of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. You have to pay attention to the quiet ones, too.”
But on the positive side, she believes blogs are helping the young city of Dunwoody develop. For years, many were unified behind what they saw as a common enemy in DeKalb County. Now, people in Dunwoody have to confront their many differences.
“We’re a lot more different in a lot more ways than a lot of people realized. I think that’s going to be the crux of our growing pains as the city grows over time,” she said.