A lot has changed since last year. COVID-19 impacted every community, and we certainly have felt its effects in the city of Alpharetta.
This past year has been one of the toughest our community has ever faced. COVID-19 caused some of us to lose friends and loved ones, our jobs, and/or our businesses. We all had to adjust to wearing masks, social distancing, remote learning, doing business differently, and using technology to stay connected. But Roswell is a resilient community. We continued to care, support, and lift each other up.
I'm a glass-half-full guy. Now, my optimism – and, for that matter, the perspective of anyone paying attention – was tested in 2020. Nothing was simple last year, nor has 2021 started out easy. There's been challenge after challenge, strain after strain. And we cannot forget those who are struggling financially or hurting emotionally from the loss of loved ones. It's hard not to get stuck.
Last year was an extraordinary one for the city of Alpharetta in every sense of the word. As 2020 began, local businesses were booming. Each weekday, more than 60,000 people visited Alpharetta's office parks, hotels, restaurants, and shops. Tax revenues were strong, and all fiscal year budget projections were in great shape.
To say 2020 has been challenging would be an understatement. In these unprecedented times, your health, safety, and welfare will always be my top priority. With your help, the City of Roswell staff has worked diligently to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community, and we are working with federal, state, and local officials to facilitate a successful come back in 2021.
Even in 2020, we have much to be thankful for. Don't get me wrong — this year has been rough in a lot of ways. The COVID-19 pandemic, especially, has affected us all. The economy has suffered in big and small ways, starting with the spring shutdowns and now with the ongoing uncertainty as to what comes next. Even those who have managed to remain healthy and maintain steady incomes have canceled trips, changed routines, and seen plans (like school, for instance) adjusted in this current, odd reality. Then there's everything else going on in our world — the kind of stuff that'll fill history books someday — that has left many anxious and unsettled.
Dealing with a pandemic has been every city's top priority for the last several months. But, in the City of Alpharetta, we have not let current challenges derail our efforts to prepare for the future. And, since many of Alpharetta's most recent accomplishments may have been overshadowed by other headlines, we would like to highlight them here.
To say that the last five months have been a challenge for all of us would be an understatement. Though these are unprecedented times for our community, state, and country, I want you to know the health and safety of our residents is and always will be my top priority. The City of Roswell is working to do its part in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Beginning in mid-March, I formed a COVID-19 internal task force. Those serving on the task force include Fire Chief Ricky Burnett, Police Chief Jim Conroy, City Administrator Gary Palmer, Fire Battalion Chief Pabel Troche, City Attorney David Davidson, Community Relations Manager Julie Brechbill, and Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Leatherman.
Little about 2020 has been easy. We have missed out on parties, date nights, games, and concerts. Some of us have even missed milestones like typical graduations, funerals, and weddings that bring people together. In Milton, we’ve canceled meetings and special events, like the Community Egg Hunt and July 3rd festivities, which residents look forward to annually. We’ve coped with unprecedented health worries, trying to keep those closest to us physically and mentally well in the age of COVID-19. On top of all that, we’ve seen our nation rocked with additional turmoil and challenges.
Still, I’d contend that – at least here in Milton – we’ve gained a lot this year, too.
The City of Alpharetta started 2020 with every expectation of it being a banner year. Then, on a Monday in early March, the Fulton County School System discovered one of its substitute teachers had been diagnosed with COVID-19. That was the day the coronavirus changed how the year 2020 would go down in history.
Schools shut down. Headlines screamed that millions of Americans could die if drastic measures were not taken immediately. Experts said we had to “flatten the curve,” or our entire health care system would be overwhelmed.
After a spring that, I’m pretty sure, lasted at least 12 years, summer is here. Finally. However, this summer in Milton won’t be like the 2019 version or any version before it. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things — including our perspective, and that’s going to stick for a while.
In City government, we’re used to dealing with emergencies. Still, when you have a winter storm, the snow and ice eventually melt, and in Georgia, it’s usually sooner rather than later. But this pandemic has lingered with constant new developments that have turned our world upside down.
By almost any standard, Alpharetta is a remarkable community. While there are many things that make our city exceptional, one of the biggest things that most residents aren’t aware of is the extraordinary size of our daytime population.
Approximately 64,000 residents call Alpharetta home, but on an average weekday, our city attracts tens of thousands of people who work at local businesses and/or patronize our stores and restaurants. That daily influx brings our total number of people to over 120,000, creating one of the largest daytime population increases in Georgia. This great distinction presents unique blessings and challenges.
One of those blessings is that residents can enjoy an amazing selection of restaurants, entertainment venues, and other amenities that are often only available in much larger cities. Without the abundance of daily visitors, Alpharetta could never sustain Avalon or the great shopping and dining scene downtown, the entire North Point corridor, Ameris Bank Amphitheater, or any of the other great dining and entertainment options we enjoy.
Two years ago, when I became mayor, an overall citywide strategic plan didn’t exist. The City of Roswell is currently creating a plan that embraces a common vision and goals for the future. Last year, we began collecting input from residents and businesses about what they wanted for Roswell’s future. More than 2,000 residents provided feedback, which will help us develop a strategic plan that will give marching orders to Roswell’s elected officials.
I believe we need to expand our tax base in order to keep taxes down. So, when I saw an opportunity to increase movie filming in Roswell, I created the Mayor’s Movie Task Force. Partnered with the Roswell Visitors Center and the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, this task force makes film production easier in Roswell.
The beginning of the year is an especially busy time for many of us. If you couldn’t attend the State of the City in January, you missed quite an event. We discussed the future of Milton in 2020 and beyond.
Some of the highlights included the new Public Safety Complex on Highway 9, which will house the Milton Police Department, Municipal Court, and the new Fire Station 44; the recently purchased sports fields on Cox Road that will offer additional recreational opportunities; the growth of downtown Milton; and the continued enhancements to roads, which will improve your daily travels.
For the City of Alpharetta, 2019 was another extraordinary year. As our nation’s economy grows, the State of Georgia continues to provide an outstanding business climate, and unemployment levels remain at historic lows. Alpharetta has also grown and evolved in ways we could have only imagined just a few years ago.
Downtown Alpharetta offers an exciting place for our community to come together. An area many people once considered a ghost town in the evening has become a place filled with people, music, and laughter. Nearly every week, new restaurants and shops open, and now that the second parking deck has been completed on the west side of downtown, there is plenty of room for people who want to join in the fun.
One of the best things about December is all the holiday events we celebrate in Roswell with our residents. There is so much to see and do during this final month of 2019.I hope you will join me for one of my favorite events of the year, Roswell’s annual Holiday Celebration on the Square, December 7 at 5:00pm. This free family event includes carolers from local schools, the lighting of Town Square, and hot chocolate. During the event, I will read "‘Twas the Night Before Christmas" to the children. We will also have a special guest from the North Pole, and kids can have their picture taken with him!
It is hard to believe that Milton was incorporated only 13 years ago. In just over a decade, we’ve established our community as one of the best places to live in Georgia, and it’s an honor to help lead the growth and direction of our beautiful and unique city. We’re working to preserve our rural heritage while updating the parts of Milton that will lead to our best future.As someone who grew up just a few miles from Milton and is now a father raising three active children here, one of the things I’m most excited about is the future of our parks and trails program. The beautiful design and beginning implementations of Mayfield Park; the passive park space created jointly with Alpharetta; and the continued improvements at the former Milton Country Club with the first phase of trail placements, new restrooms and resurfacing of tennis courts are incredible additions to our community. And, the recently approved purchase of an existing sports complex at the corner of Arnold Mill Road and Cox Road will greatly reduce our need to “pay to play” on athletic fields that do not belong to our city.
During my younger years, I can remember adults telling me, “The days go by slowly, but the years fly by.” I’m not sure where this saying originated, but it is very true for me this year. It seems like yesterday I was in City Hall for January’s annual State of the City event, talking about our 2018 accomplishments and providing a sneak peek of what we planned for 2019.Now, the holidays are around the corner, and 2019 will soon be in the rearview mirror. Like most Americans, I’m a bit more introspective during this time of year — thankful for all my family’s blessings and looking forward to the promise of a new year.
As the mayor of Alpharetta, I am incredibly proud of the collaborative environment emerging between the north Fulton cities, as well as the strong partnerships that are developing and growing with local organizations.One year ago, leaders from the north Fulton cities of Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Roswell, and local organizations including the Ed Isakson YMCA and Fulton County School District came together to discuss the growing recreational needs of families and individuals with special needs.
This meeting evolved into the creation of a task force, which was established to find solutions for special needs populations and provide an enriched quality of life for all residents. It is important for us, as a community, to offer children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities places and programs where they can have fun and feel safe and comfortable participating in adaptive recreation.
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. After our hot Georgia summers, the cooler breezes and crisp evenings are refreshing. Our tree canopy turns red and gold, perfect for taking beautiful photos and spending some time outdoors on Roswell’s magnificent trail system or kayaking down the Chattahoochee. This season is both relaxing and rejuvenating. For me, fall is the time of year to be thankful for all we have and to be surrounded by friends and loved ones.The autumn months begin Roswell’s jam-packed holiday event season. With so much to do in Roswell around the holidays, it is sometimes a challenge for folks to stay on top of all the community events. Traditionally, Roswell kicks off fall with the Annual Frances McGahee Youth Day Parade. This year’s 69th annual parade will be held October 12. The route from Roswell’s First Baptist Church to Roswell Area Park is lined with children, arms outstretched, waiting for those on the passing floats to throw them candy for their Halloween baskets! This year’s theme is “Be Someone’s Hero.”