by Arielle Robinson
Smyrna’s City Council voted on several items Monday evening, including the new Ward 7 city councilor, the budget, and the design for the Fanny Williams memorial, among other items.
New City Councilor
City council unanimously approved the appointment of part-time Campbell High School career and college advisor Kathy Young to the previously vacant Ward 7 seat.
The seat was formerly held by Lewis Wheaton, who resigned last month.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve the city,” Young told the Courier. “It’s humbling to follow Lewis Wheaton’s service, he’s done an amazing job, and I just hope that I can provide some continuity for our residents.”
Young said one of the first things she plans to do is to reach out to Ward 7 residents to communicate about the transition and told those residents to keep an eye out for updates.
Mayor Derek Norton said he first met Young around 2014, “when we were going through the Smyrna Vision Initiative.” He noted how active she was in the community.
“We’re happy to have you in this role and I know that the Ward 7 residents will be well-represented,” Norton said.
City councilors and staff congratulated Young on her new role.
Wheaton, who was first elected to his seat in 2019, was present at Monday’s meeting along with his wife, Teri.
Norton presented an award to Wheaton and thanked him for his service.
“I just want to tell Dr. Wheaton again how sad we are to lose you and how happy we are for you and your future and what an honor it was to serve with you,” Norton said. “Dr. Wheaton was just of the highest moral character, he brought a lot of great ideas to this body, worked really hard, put the time in and it’s just been a pleasure to serve with him.
“We always joked that he brought the collective IQ of this council way up—it really wasn’t a joke, he really did—so we’re going to miss that. We’re looking forward to you keeping involved, we’re not going to let you go very far, we got too many things started that you were a part of.”
City councilors and staff thanked and congratulated Wheaton.
“Congratulations on your newfound liberation on every other Monday night, it was a pleasure to work with you,” Councilmember Travis Lindley said. “…I echo the mayor’s comments, you brought honor to the office.”
Councilmember Latonia Hines said Wheaton has “been amazing” and praised him for promoting diversity during his tenure.
At last week’s work session, Assistant City Attorney Jeffrey Tucker said that because Wheaton resigned within six months of the November municipal elections, the city charter states that the mayor and council must fill the Ward 7 seat.
There was previous confusion on the council on whether they had to host a special election or appoint someone.
Young will hold her seat until December 31, unless she is elected during the November municipal elections, in which case her term will last beyond then.
To read more about the reasoning behind Young’s appointment, read the Courier’s previous reporting here.
New Information Systems Director
City council approved Dat Luu to be the city’s new information systems director.
This comes after former Director Chris Addicks resigned. Addicks was in his position for 23 years and will be Network Administrator through December 31.
The city will advertise an open position and applications will be accepted for Assistant Information Systems director.
Luu’s parents are Vietnamese refugees. Luu received his bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and his master’s degree in information systems from Nova Southeastern University.
Luu has earned several certifications, a couple being a certificate for being an information systems security professional and an ethical hacker. In his spare time, he volunteers at the Cobb County Search and Rescue team.
The city issued two proclamations for June—one for LGBTQ+ Pride Month and one for Juneteenth.
Members from Smyrna is Fabulous, a group that hosts events and promotes inclusivity for the local LGBTQ+ community and its allies, accepted the proclamation.
“Twenty-four months ago I stood before you guys, and I said, ‘guess what? We’re going to convince the businesses in front of Market Village to hang Pride flags and then we’re all just going to show up and hang out. We did, we had a great time,” Smyrna is Fabulous Executive Director Mike Mitchell said.
Mitchell said his organization hosts the only Pride celebration in Cobb County. By June 2022, the organization was one of the largest LGBTQ+ and ally organizations in Georgia.
“We are going into 2023 full capacity…This community matters,” Mitchell said.
Councilmember Tim Gould read off the proclamation that honors the contributions that LGBTQ+ residents have made in Smyrna.
After that, Hines read off the proclamation for Juneteenth. It calls for the community to reflect on and commit to anti-racism.
Juneteenth occurs on June 19, when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned that they were free. It has now become a federal holiday and last year, Smyrna made it an official city holiday.
Hines invited Cobb County NAACP President Jeriene Grimes and acknowledged that the NAACP branch has celebrated Juneteenth in Cobb long before it was officially recognized.
“Juneteenth is not just about African-American people, it’s about all people and freedoms for everyone,” Grimes said. “So as we celebrate the Fourth of July, the Emancipation Proclamation is equally important, and so don’t let anything stop you from coming to celebrate because that’s what it’s about, the unity among us all.”
The council voted 3-4 to oppose modifications to the previously approved Creekside Towers development.
Councilmembers Young, Gould, and Charles Welch voted in favor while the remaining members voted it down.
The mayor and council have worked with this developer since 2008, and in 2015, approved the current plan.
The currently approved plan is at Hanson Drive and partially on South Cobb Drive.
According to the city’s project description, it “includes a building ten-stories tall on top of
structured underground parking garage with 200 independent senior living units at 243,000 sq.ft. and 37,500 sq. ft. of common area and accessory uses for the exclusive use of the residents. The common area for the development includes a lobby, reception, staff offices, multiple dining venues, a commercial kitchen, a teaching kitchen, a general store/coffee shop, theater, library, wellness center, beauty shop, business center, arts and crafts room, and an indoor swimming pool.”
Jason Lewis with the Creekside Village Development Group wanted to increase the number of living units from 200 to 295, with 50 percent being independent senior living units and the other 50 percent without age restrictions.
Furthermore, according to the city’s project description of the proposed modifications, “The increase in units is possible by decreasing the amenity area from 37,500 sq. ft. to 8,930 sq. ft. and additional levels of parking below grade. The proposed amenity area includes a communal kitchen and party room, lounge, fitness room, indoor and outdoor pool, sky deck, pet spa, and conference and game room. Additionally, the roof of the proposed building includes public and private terraces as an additional amenity.
“The proposed project also includes a 625 sq. ft. coffee shop accessible for the general public or residents within the development. The proposed zoning amendment also includes a stand alone parking deck with four levels. The fourth level will include a 5,317 sq. ft. restaurant also accessible for the general public or internal residents.
“The main building will include three levels of parking below the building, surface parking, as well as a stand alone four level parking deck. The proposal includes 539 spaces compared to the 250 spaces in the currently approved plan.
“The applicant is proposing a subsurface stormwater detention facility within the parking deck.
“…The applicant is providing a deceleration lane and improvements for the entrance, and new sidewalk along South Cobb Drive.”
Hines briefly explained why she voted against the modifications.
“I just have some concerns of it actually going forward, since it’s been going on since 2008,” she said.
To read about the development in more detail, skip to page 10 in the city’s agenda packet.
Fiscal Year 2024 Budget
City council approved the fiscal year 2024 budget.
Compared to the previous fiscal year, FY 2024’s total proposed budget decreased by 20.5 percent, from $126,086,208 in FY 2023 to $100,247,367 for FY 2024.
The FY 2024 general fund budget is $60,033,000.
The budget for capital project funds will see a proposed drop of 97.5 percent, from $31,406,549 in the previous fiscal year to $800,000 for FY 2024.
The city held a required public hearing on the budget at its May 15 meeting.
To read more about the budget, click here.
Reed House Landscaping
The city voted to approve an amendment that increases the fund project budget by $12,268 for landscaping at the historic Reed House.
The money comes from American Rescue Plan Act funds. The city decided to use ARPA funds because it was unable to finish the Reed House landscaping project in addition to other projects in previously adopted budgets due to price increases.
Fanny Williams Memorial Design
City Council voted unanimously to approve the first place design of North Carolina artists David Wilson, Stephen Hayes, and Michael Gonzales for the Fanny Williams memorial.
The trio’s project is called “Testimony of Redemption.” It will feature a life-size statue of Williams with a shovel in front of a curved wall with Atlanta’s Wheat Street Baptist Church on it as the backdrop.
A hymn by antebellum-era composer Joseph Philbrick Webster will be on the back of the wall. The memorial will be near the Smyrna History Museum.
The project will cost $125,000. Currently, the project is a design that may have more adjustments added to it in the future.
Williams was the Black maid and cook to Smyrna’s wealthy white Campbell family around the early to mid-20th century and the namesake of the famous former restaurant Aunt Fanny’s Cabin, which glorified the antebellum and Jim Crow eras.
Williams was active in her local community and was said to have fought for Civil Rights and faced intimidation from the Ku Klux Klan.
The shovel Williams will hold on the statue symbolizes the shovel she used to break ground on Cobb County’s first Black hospital in the late 1940s. She also was a major fundraiser for the hospital.
Williams was a longtime member of the social justice-oriented Wheat Street Baptist Church.
The original Aunt Fanny’s Cabin closed in 1992, but around 1997, Smyrna constructed a replica of the building with parts from the original structure. The building was next to the city’s history museum.
After months-long debates between city councilmembers and residents, in August of last year, Smyrna demolished the building after plans to have outsiders take the cabin fell through.
Since February of last year, the Committee to Honor Fanny Williams has worked to create a memorial in honor of the restaurant’s namesake and give onlookers something to respect and appreciate beyond the restaurant’s racist past.
The goal is to “celebrate Fanny Williams as an African American woman, for her legacy of activism, economic sustainability, social justice that gave agency to people who did not have a voice, and her lasting impact on our community,” according to the city’s website on the manner.
The Committee received 36 replies to its request for qualifications on the project and subsequently approved four finalists, each of whom had to propose a design for the memorial.
Wilson, Hayes, and Gonzales’ project came in first place.
“I know a tremendous amount of work was done to this process…I’m very pleased with the result,” Norton said Monday.
Gould, who co-chairs the Committee to Honor Fanny Williams, thanked city staff and everyone who was involved in the memorial process for their work.
“We started this back over a year ago, in February 2022, but it was a long process because we had a lot of work to do to really come up with a way to honor Fanny Williams, who was a remarkable person, how do we highlight her amazing accomplishments, her character?” Gould said. “…We did some great work and a lot of good people were involved.”
Next steps for the memorial is to design a contract before finalizing the details of the design.
Deputy City Administrator Penny Moceri explained the contract process at last week’s work session when she said, “Through the contract process—and there will be different levels that they have to meet and that’s how they kind of structure the payment—we will do an original contract agreement and a portion would be paid there, and then you’ll go into final design.
“So there will be an opportunity between then for the artist team to sit back down with the Committee [to Honor Fanny Williams] and go through the project, the proposal, and say what we liked, what we didn’t like…and then [the artists] will go back and do a redesign. Every level of the project has city approval built in.”
There will be a six to nine-month build-time for the memorial. Gould said residents should expect to see it between later this year and early next year.
Several events are coming up for June in Smyrna.
This Saturday at 6:30 p.m. is the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new downtown greenspace.
The greenspace is near the library and community center and was approved with the purpose of improving the downtown area. It is a landscaped area that will have terraced seating.
Last October, city council unanimously voted to add site furnishings, shade sail components, and custom shade structures for the space. This is funded by SPLOST 2022.
Saturday’s ribbon cutting will be followed by a free concert from Electric Avenue, a rock band that covers 1980s songs.
Admission begins at 5:30 p.m, the ceremony will be at 6:30 p.m. and the concert is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Wards 1, 2, and 3 will host a joint town hall next Monday, June 12, at 6:30 p.m. inside the community center’s Magnolia Room. The wards are represented by Councilmembers Glenn Pickens, Hines, and Lindley, respectively.
Smyrna is Fabulous is hosting two events for Pride month.
The first is a Pride kickoff party on Friday, June 16, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Vineyard Wine Market. Space is limited and tickets can be bought here.
The following day, June 17, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. is the Pride festival at the Market Village.
Grimes told the council when she spoke that the Cobb NAACP will host its 20th annual Juneteenth celebration starting Friday, June 16.
It is a three-day event all in Marietta Square.
Friday’s event is called “An Evening Under the Stars” and lasts from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Attendees must wear all-white.
Saturday’s event is the cultural festival, which will feature food, merchandise, information vendors, a health fair, and entertainment lasting from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday’s event is called “Salute to Our Heroes—Happy Father’s Day” and goes from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information, including on how to volunteer, be a vendor, or featured talent, click here.