“I wasn’t sure it was going to work, so we agreed on a two-year contract,” said coalition founder and President Sam Massell. “We haven’t drawn the contract yet, 24 years, almost 25, later. … There was just work to be done and I hit the ground running.”
A quarter century later, the coalition, a chamber-like, invitation-only organization of Buckhead company CEOs, is celebrating years of success.
“We’re doing something right,” Massell said.
He said the city of Atlanta grew by 13,000 people from 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census, and it was 100 percent in Buckhead.
“We don’t have the legal power to give tax abatements to bring commerce and industry to Buckhead, so what we have to do to make this a viable, successful community economically is to make it an attractive place to live and work,” Massell said. “The [Buckhead] skyline has changed and taken place in the past 25 years. We didn’t pour the concrete or stack the brick, but we made it attractive enough to where developers felt this is a good place to build and do business.”
Twelve-year member Sonny Morris, the coalition’s current chair, said it is an “organized way for business leaders to engage in civic responsibility [in Buckhead], … meant to create a definitive identity for Buckhead as being a specific place, not just a general geographical reference but to be a community.”
Massell’s political experience spans 22 years in elected office, including the president of the Atlanta City Council for eight years and mayor of Atlanta for four.
Although Massell said the coalition does not get involved with partisan politics, it serves as a “supplement to the government,” taking citizens’ requests about issues like broken street lights, signs and potholes.
“We get it done. …We are there for the public in any way they need us,” he said.
“We felt from the beginning government just can’t be expected to do everything the public wants.”
Massell said the coalition’s efforts are funded by dues from its 100 members, which is $6,250 a year.
Among several accomplishments of the coalition, Massell said a few significant ones stand out in his mind.
For example, it raised almost $400,000 from members for the renovation of the Atlanta International School, and a similar amount toward the construction of the Carl Sanders Buckhead YMCA.
“The coalition played a strong role in promoting the construction of Ga. 400, and recently played a significant role in creating the understanding of the tolls on 400 are to be used to help pay for connection of 400 to I-85 north bound, which was a glaring oversight,” Massell said.
The coalition plans to celebrate the anniversary within the next year but plans have not been finalized.