The Dunwoody Homeowners Association held its annual meeting last month where awards were handed out and local politicians gave familiar stump speeches. The meeting was also time for the DHA President Adrienne Duncan to reflect on 2018 and set the tone for 2019; that tone included a quote from Queen Elizabeth II on the importance of honoring the past while embracing the future.

“Change has become a new constant. Managing it is an expanding discipline. How we embrace it will define the future,” DHA President Adrienne Duncan said during the Jan. 13 meeting held at the North Woods Pavilion at the Dunwoody Nature Center. The queen of the United Kingdom made the comment in 2002 to Parliament as part of a speech marking her 50th anniversary on the throne.

DHA President Adrienne Duncan presents Jimmy Economos of EEP Productions the Business of the Year award at the organization’s annual meeting last month. (Dyana Bagby)

The reason Duncan started with that quote, she explained in her speech, is because the queen “understands the balance between tradition and change in the world better than anyone.”

“And it is a delicate balance,” Duncan said.

In an interview, Duncan said a “generational divide” exists in the city between younger and older residents. And that divide will play a role in what kind of city and community Dunwoody will be, she said.

“You have one camp that wants to have [the city] stay the same as it was in the 1970s and newer families who have a very different idea in mind,” she said. Finding a level of equilibrium among DHA members, elected officials and other residents is essential to the city’s success, she said.

In the speech, Duncan said: “When a community tries to avoid change at all costs and keep itself completely static over time, stagnation sets in – not preservation … But if you abandon and forget the foundations of your community and ignore the reasons past decisions were made, then all change becomes chaos,” she said.

“Either option taken to extremes means the death of a community,” she stated. “Tradition and change need each other …”

Duncan, who owns a web design and development business, also hinted at the polarization in today’s political climate. She praised DHA in her speech for its ongoing successes in organizing and sponsoring the annual 4th of July Parade and Light Up Dunwoody holiday events that attract hundreds of people each year. “DHA continues to provide common ground in times when people are divided over anything,” she said.

Political changes are coming to Dunwoody as younger people move to the city and the “political divide seems to be intensifying,” Duncan said.

“There has to be a way for coexistence,” she said. “Dunwoody is much more diverse than it is given credit for.” The city’s stereotype that it is “old, white and Republican” is true in one sense, she said, but there are elements of other political ideologies as well.

When asked to expound on what she meant by political differences and the intensifying divide she sees in the city, Duncan responded, “Hello, look out the window.”

In November, for example, former state Sen. Fran Millar, a Republican who lives in Dunwoody and served in the General Assembly for 20 years, was defeated by Democrat Sally Harrell, who lives near Chamblee. Democrat Mike Wilensky, a political newcomer and Dunwoody attorney, beat

Republican Ken Wright, the city’s founding mayor, to replace Republican and Dunwoody resident Tom Taylor in the state House.

There are people on the far left and the far right in Dunwoody, Duncan said in the interview. DHA is not a political organization and remains nonpartisan, but its individuals have different political leanings, she said. The DHA dates to 1969-70 and its mission has always been to ensure the “character and charm of Dunwoody remains intact” by representing homeowners against unwanted development.

“We have to coexist if we are going to have some semblance of peace for advocating for homeowners in general,” she said.

What homeowners want in Dunwoody is also changing from large single-family homes to more people wanting condominiums, Duncan noted in her speech. “Like it or not, high-quality residential use – the goal of neighborhood preservation in our bylaws – is evolving. We have to recognize that to ensure that we can advocate for the evolving needs of homeowners,” she said in her speech.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.