Eva Galambos, who led the charge to create the city of Sandy Springs and served as the city’s first mayor, has died. She was 87.
The city will lower flags to mark the passing of its founding mayor, who died April 19 after losing her battle with cancer, the city said in a press release.
“This is a great loss for the city and a great loss personally,” Mayor Rusty Paul said. “Eva was truly our city mother. Her efforts led to the city’s creation. She cared and nurtured the city, and the strength of our community is due greatly to her unwavering love and devotion to creating something better for us all.”
City Manager John McDonough said Galambos led by example.
“She led by example and infused an optimism and dedication that remains pervasive throughout the community today,” McDonough said.
Councilman Graham McDonald added, “It is with much sadness that I write this evening to inform you of the passing this afternoon of our city’s dedicated and inspiring first mayor, Eva Galambos. Sandy Springs owes so much, including its very existence, to Mayor Galambos. Getting to learn from and work with her is something I am very grateful for. Please keep Mayor Galambos and her family in your thoughts and prayers. Please see the press release below regarding funeral and memorial arrangements.”
The former mayor chronicled in her 2011 memoir her family’s escape fro Nazis in the 1930s. They moved first from Italy and later to Athens, Georgia, where she attended high school and college.
Galambos earned a masters’ degree in Labor and Industrial Relations in the early 1950s. Early on, Galambos showed that she was a trailblazer. She was admitted into the first class at Georgia State University to grant Ph.D. degrees to women, earning her Ph.D. in economics in 1969.
Galambos’ work as a consultant laid the groundwork for many of the policies used by municipal governments today. One such assignment was the development of new business-license ordinances for local governments. Her recommendation to base license fees on gross receipts of businesses has generated millions in revenue for local governments that would not have been possible otherwise. It was adopted by Fulton County and inherited by Sandy Springs as the city was formed in 2005. In the late 1970s, Galambos co-authored a popular text, “Making Sense Out of Dollars: Economic Analysis for Local Government” (National League of Cities, 1978) that is still used in classrooms today.
Efforts to incorporate the city of Sandy Springs began in 1966 in response to an effort to annex the land that is now Sandy Springs into the city of Atlanta. By 1976, Galambos was “convinced that local control, with a City of our own, was the only answer for Sandy Springs.”
Led by Galambos, the fight to form their own government continued by Sandy Springs residents for more than 40 years through groups such as the Committee for Sandy Springs. During the course of developing this active community network, Galambos served as a mentor and leader for other women in Sandy Springs, including those who would eventually be elected to serve alongside Mayor Galambos on the first City Council.
Finally, in June 2005, an overwhelming 94 percent of residents voted for incorporation of the previously unincorporated area of north Fulton County. Incorporated December 1, 2005, and the first new city in the State in nearly 50 years, Sandy Springs has made dramatic strides in providing effective and efficient services to residents.
Galambos was an early champion for the public-private partnership model of local government. Rather than employ hundreds of city employees, the city utilizes a public-private partnership, which has resulted in the one of the lowest per capita ratio of municipal employees in the State.
Public safety personnel in both the fire and police departments are city employees, as are the city manager and his immediate staff. Private contractors handle the remainder of city services. The city realizes financial efficiencies in its organizational structure and through limited post-employment obligations (by offering a defined contribution plan and no post-employment health benefits, rather than a traditional pension plan).
Bringing further benefit to the residents of the city of Sandy Springs, five years after the initial establishment of the city as a PPP, under Mayor Galambos’ leadership, the city undertook a comprehensive procurement process to rebid all general government services. Through this process, the city realized $7 million per year in savings by contracting with multiple firms when compared to the previous single contractor arrangement.
During her tenure, the city operated with no long-term debt, and was able to vastly improve the city’s infrastructure and quality of life of its residents. Among the improvements during the city’s first eight years: more than 147 miles of road paved, 32 miles of fiber installed and activated, 129 traffic signal brought under a unified control system, 30 miles of sidewalk installed, more than 750 stormwater repairs implemented, more than $180 million in funded Capital Projects, and more than $18 million invested in recreation facilities, including the creation of several new parks for Sandy Springs.
During her tenure as mayor, Galambos was an active member of the Georgia Municipal Association. She was a member of GMA’s Legislative Policy Council, charged with setting the priorities for GMA as they relate to the development of policies. For her work leading to the creation of the city of Sandy Springs, Galambos was honored by GMA with the 2010 People, Place and Purpose Award. Mayor Galambos was also the recipient of the 2011 Andrew Young School Distinguished Alumni Award from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.
When asked to recall her greatest achievement, she was always quick to respond, “my children.” She was the devout mother of three: Tobae, Michael and Johnny and grandmother to six. The love of her life was her husband, Dr. John Galambos, whom she met at the University of Georgia and married in 1949.
The funeral for Eva Cohn Galambos will be held at Temple Kehillat Chaim on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 1p.m. with arrangements by the Sandy Springs Funeral Chapel.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks consideration of a donation to the Anne Frank in the World Exhibit or to a charity of one’s choice. The city will also host a memorial for Galambos.