A few weeks into her job as Sandy Springs city manager, Andrea Surratt says she is excited to get to work on many of the city’s priorities. A native of North Carolina, she said she’s looking forward to settling back into her Southern roots.
Surratt took over the position on Jan. 6 and is the second manager of the city, following John McDonough, who held the position since the city’s incorporation up until July 2019.
Surratt has more than 28 years of city management under her belt, coming to Sandy Springs after a two-year stint in Bozeman, Montana. in a similar role. Surratt served in North Carolina as the planning and development manager for the city of Wilmington and as the town manager for Wrightsville Beach. Surratt was also the assistant city manager for the city of Hickory, North Carolina, for 10 years.
Surratt earned a master’s degree in city and regional planning from Clemson University in 1991 and a bachelor of arts in political science from Guilford College in 1989.
The Reporter recently met with Surratt for a Q&A on what she hopes to achieve in her new role.
Q: In your time in other cities as city manager, what did you learn that you think you can apply to Sandy Springs?
A: I have enjoyed successes with redevelopment, so I think the North End area is one I am particularly interested in. In general, I think cities get areas that start to get tired and the retail needs change. Being able to identify the next projects for those areas is something I am interested in.
Public safety is another key area that I had success with. Just making sure that we have the right facilities for police and fire, courts and other services. Making sure we have what we need will be a part of what I do, too, whether that means relocation or other ideas. I think the council will give me direction on that.
Q: What are the top needs of Sandy Springs?
A: As I mentioned, the North End and public safety. Also, we always need to keep our pulse on the ability to house the workforce in our community. There is a lot of study about that across the country. There is no easy answer and it’s all local, so I will be looking to the council’s guidance on housing initiatives.
Q: What do you think should be done in the city’s North End to help bring in new retail business?
A: I don’t have those answers. I am just part of the process to advise the steps we go through. If there is a public role for the city to play in that, then I will advise them to participate.
Q: How do you build positive relationships with City Council members and the mayor and foster a stronger relationship among citizens?
A: Identifying a little bit of time in our calendars for one-on-one communication can be very beneficial. Following up on concerns that [officials] hear from citizens is important and just having a comfortable back-and-forth and checking in regularly. At the end of the day, it starts with trust.
Q: What are some obstacles you have faced in other cities and how did you overcome them?
A: In Hickory, North Carolina, our biggest obstacle was reinventing ourselves. We were trying to decide who we were and what we wanted to become while also embracing our roots as a manufacturing town. Helping the city find pride by investing in the public space was important for the city to reinvent itself.
Q: What prompted you to pursue a career in urban planning?
A: I have always loved thinking about how cities form and why we need them. My family is public service-oriented — my parents are both teachers — so I think I have a service attitude. I have never been interested in doing any other work. It’s just what I do.
Q: What are your interests outside of City Hall?
A: Walking my dog, hiking and spending time with my family whenever possible.
Q: What excites you most about Sandy Springs?
A: I love the vibrancy of this community and the cultural arts aspect. Also, the ability to live in a metropolitan area and still enjoy getting outside and finding nature. It’s a well laid-out city, but the reinvestment piece is what excites me the most.