In the days following the Nov. 3 election, Dunwoody’s mayor-elect focused more immediately on coming celebrations for
the U.S. Marine Corps’ birthday and Veterans Day celebrations than on his plans for the city.
Denis Shortal, a retired Marine general, celebrates those days every year. After spending 15 to 16 hours a day campaigning, he said, he hadn’t yet decided many specifi cs of what he wanted to do after taking offi ce in January as Dunwoody’s third
mayor. But he does have some ideas for what’s to come.
“Some of these things are intangible – from my background,half of our life is intangible,” Shortal said. “Let’s bring back the positive attitude and mutual respect between citizens and leadership.”
Shortal, a member of Dunwoody City Council since the council’s start, won about 63 percent of the vote in a four-candidate race Nov. 3 and ousted incumbent Mayor Mike Davis. Shortal said his biggest goals in early 2016 include supporting the push in the state Legislature to allow independent school systems in Georgia. He said he plans to host a town hall meeting in January and intends for that meeting to be the first of many.
“Being a public servant is not heart surgery,” he said. “You just tell the people what you’re going to do and then you do it.”
Shortal wants to continue a drive to connect citizens with city staff and elected officials to create a “small, efficient, responsive government,” he said.
“How do we enhance that and make that better? It’s like anything else; you have to work at it continually,” he said. “Bring back the attitude that creates that mutual respect amongst us all.”
The mayor-elect equated his job over the next four years to that of an app developer, comparing city government to a widget
that needs continuing updates.
“You know, it’s the same things I’ve talked about the whole time: open, positive leadership and doing things in front of the citizens, concentrating on the core values when we became a city,” Shortal said.
Of those core values, Shortal said he plans to discuss with the City Council how best to expedite paving and to protect the residential neighborhoods in Dunwoody.
Councilman Doug Thompson said he doesn’t expect any major policy shift going forward. Davis did a “phenomenal” job in
leading Dunwoody for the last four years, Thompson said, and “I fully expect that Denny Shortal will do an equally good job in leading Dunwoody.”
“Now that the election is complete,” Thompson said, “the net change is that Pam Tallmadge will join [City] Council and Mike Davis will no longer be with us.”
Former City Council member Danny Ross, who endorsed Shortal during the campaign, said the new mayor’s leadership will bring Dunwoody back to the “values statement” for the city. Ross said Shortal will set “a new and positive tone for our city. He will listen, and make thoughtful decisions.”
Shortal said his office will work to involve the entire council in governing the city and he hopes to include council members in press opportunities. “When you see photos, I want to make sure all the members are in the photo, not just me,” Shortal said.
Shortal said his campaign involved knocking on doors and shaking hands as he did when he first worked to incorporate
Dunwoody. He said he doesn’t like the word “I,” and wants everything to be “we” and “our” when he’s quoted in the press.
“I’m formulating ideas that I want to share with the council, staff and citizens,” Shortal said. “I want the citizens in on the ground floor and let them know what we’re thinking so they can have a seat at the table and a voice at the table.”
Shortal wants to continue the quality of life in Dunwoody by working on projects such as the entryways into the city, an arts committee and developing a long-term parks program.
“I think the arts are an important part in the quality of life, just like sports and paving,” Shortal said. “It’s one of those things that if you jotted down what’s important to quality of life, arts would be one of them.”
Overall, Shortal said he’s ready to listen rather than jump into action. “This is the first inning of a big ball game and I’m over in the sidelines warming up,” he said.