Lynn Deutsch said being elected as the city’s next mayor validates her vision that Dunwoody is ready to move beyond just providing basic services to its residents and to begin to create a city where people want to live, work and play.
Deutsch, who served two terms on the City Council, defeated Terry Nall on Nov. 5 and will be sworn in as mayor on Jan. 2. She said she is ready to begin implementing a vision that includes vibrant commercial areas, multiuse paths and sidewalks for more connectivity, an arts and culture scene – attributes that residents have been consistently telling her they want to see in the city as well, she said.
“There was a real risk of the city just staying in the same place and continuing down a path … of doing nothing but paving a few roads, fixing some intersections and maybe adding another park, while every community around us is doing more to meet their citizens’ needs,” she said.
During the city’s first decade after it was incorporated in 2008, the mayors and councils made great strides in repairing and installing new infrastructure, she said. The Dunwoody Police Department is one of the best in the state and the city’s parks and trails are also some of the best in the area, she said.
“Now that we’ve done all that, what comes next?” she asked.
“People overall are happy with police things well, we can imagine what else we can be,” she said. “And I think that’s the referendum of the last eight years.”
Deutsch said she plans to convene a meeting with all DeKalb mayors within the first three months in office to address serious issues facing the DeKalb County School District, including overcrowding, redistricting and facilities maintenance.
Schools are not under the city’s control, but Deutsch said Dunwoody and other municipalities can collaborate with DeKalb Schools to come up with a strategy to determine what role local governments can play in helping to solve the problems.
She’s also focused on “getting a strong handle” on ways to revitalize the 165-acre Dunwoody Village overlay at the intersection of Mount Vernon and Chamblee-Dunwoody roads that has long been considered the “heart” of the city.
The overlay includes privately owned commercial areas with restaurants and retail surrounded by residential neighborhoods. The commercial areas include several surface parking lots with no green spaces and different-sized streets and sidewalks that are not friendly to pedestrians or bicyclists. Making the city safer for pedestrians, cyclists and others who don’t drive in cars is also a priority, she said.
She said in talking to people ranging from older residents to the youngest families on the campaign trail, many said the same thing – they feel the city lacks a true town center.
“What I want for Dunwoody residents is to feel like they can spend their leisure time in Dunwoody and not feel like they have to add to the regional traffic problem by getting in their car and driving two cities over for dinner or to take an art class or see a play or even go to a playground,” she said. “That’s what I think the next 10 years [of cityhood] are about.”
Strategies she said she’s ready to take on next include: gathering public input on the city’s year-long process beginning in January to update its comprehensive plan; working with federal and state agencies to get funding for more trails across the city; and using hotel-motel tax dollars to expedite building a park and trails in Perimeter Center.
“We have thousands of residents who live in Perimeter Center and they have no public park,” she said. “And I feel strongly that the people who work in Perimeter Center should not have to drive to get lunch. There are so many options to eat there and we should make it safe for them to walk … and that means less traffic.”
Deutsch said it is crucial that Dunwoody participates in in regional and state discussions with agencies like the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Atlanta Regional Commission and MARTA. Their plans directly impact the city, she said, and she wants to make sure Dunwoody has a voice.
Deutsch made headlines earlier this year protesting GDOT’s plan to add toll lanes on I-285. She expects the toll lanes to severely impact the Georgetown community. She once even said she would lay down in front of a bulldozer to stop the project. Now, she said, it’s clear GDOT “will just run over me.”
Working with GDOT on mitigation is now her focus, she said. That includes having the agency build sound walls before construction begins, even if it means relocating the sound wall after the project is finished, she said. She also said she wants to convince GDOT to build a multiuse trail on Cotillion Drive that the city was ready to move forward on, but had to stop because of the plan for toll lanes.
The city’s next decade also includes preserving and enhancing the city’s numerous neighborhoods that, Deutsch said, make Dunwoody the “best place to live.”
“I want Dunwoody to be relevant and for it to be people’s first choice to live and have a business,” she said. “Truthfully, there is no better place to raise a family than Dunwoody and I wouldn’t trade this city for anything.
“My election validates my vision and I’m really excited for Dunwoody’s future.”