Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul
Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul

During the city’s municipalization campaign, I suggested change would come slowly at first, but when we looked back over 10 years, we would see significant improvements. I was wrong.

Change was instantaneous, particularly in service quality. About three days after the city launched, I spied a man in a lime-green safety vest with “City of Sandy Springs” hand-stenciled on the back. He was digging out a storm sewer.

What struck me wasn’t the “City of Sandy Springs” safety vest, though I definitely noticed. More significantly, someone was cleaning out a storm drain! As a 13-year Sandy Springer, I had never seen a public employee doing something like in our community.

That’s when I knew Eva Galambos’ promises about the city of Sandy Springs were real and true. Since then, the accumulated improvements are evident in public safety, roads/infrastructure, code enforcement, parks/recreation and all government services.

We have paved 189 miles of roadways, built more than 30 miles in sidewalks, and have done much more than shovel work on storm sewers, with almost 1,000 stormwater repairs behind us. Sandy Springs now has 128 full-time police officers on the street (compared to the 8-10 who served us before), and 115 men and women in our fire department who protect our property from flames and provide our community with top-quality EMS services.

At the start of cityhood, the Emory University physicians who evaluated our EMS response system told us that a Sandy Springs cardiac arrest patient had a 1 percent survival chance due to an inefficient dispatch system. In other words, it was more cost efficient to send a hearse rather than an ambulance to many medical emergencies. Our cardiac arrest survival rate today is 18.6 percent, compared with a national average of 8.3 percent, and we regularly honor first responders who demonstrably save lives.

We have cut the commute via Roswell Road by 32 hours a year through traffic management technology that optimizes the efficiency of our main thoroughfare and other arterials.

I regularly encounter skeptics who never believed our experiment in municipal government would succeed; they almost always acknowledge their mistake. More gratifying is those who believed in the dream and simply want to chat about their community

Yet, Sandy Springs’ greatest tribute is neither the conversion of skeptics nor adoration from the faithful, but the dozen communities who are following our path toward independence, local control and vastly improved public services. Imitation is truly the greatest form of flattery.

We haven’t been perfect. As I also noted in the municipalization campaign, citizens would one day be as angry with the mayor and council as they ever were with Fulton County. After all, local government’s role is to tackle those tough issues that most directly affect people where they live.

Often, because our choices are less than optimal, we aren’t thrilled with our decisions, either. The greatest difference is that we live here. We face the consequences of our decisions, too. We genuinely want to make our community better. And, we are accessible. People find us at church or synagogue, in the grocery store, at Rotary, on the streets, or wherever we happen to be. They aren’t bashful about giving us an earful if they are unhappy.

Nevertheless, we should pause to celebrate our first 10 years and contemplate our amazing progress. But it’s only a pause. Once the party ends, we’ll refocus on making our next 10 years even greater.

If all goes to plan, portions of Roswell Road will become more pedestrian-friendly and populated with nodes featuring neighborhood shops and restaurants.

City Springs, with its worldclass park, retail district, performing arts center, meeting venues and government center, will become everyone’s neighborhood.

In the next decade, several new parks will come to fruition. We will build more sidewalks, enhance our reputation as a “City in a Forest,” and definitely funnel more resources toward traffic mitigation. Our quest is to make Sandy Springs the region’s most envied community.

As we celebrate, I have one regret. Every great cause has a visionary leader with an abject refusal to be discouraged or quit. That’s the most apt description I can give of Eva Galambos. My greatest disappointment is that she isn’t with us today to witness her dream’s continued success.

Rusty Paul is the mayor of Sandy Springs.

This article comes as part of a special section in the Nov. 27 issue. Read it digitally:

One reply on “Commentary: Celebrate our first 10 years”

  1. Speaking as someone who helped found the City of Brookhaven, I understand the “trials and triumphs” involved in forming any new city. Brookhaven’s third birthday will be in December. We’ve learned some hard lessons, but perhaps the most valuable of them all was to never forget the people who elected you, and WHY they elected you. And what can happen if you DO forget. Best of luck to both cities as we move in the future!!–Tom Reilly

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