FRiDaY, MaRcH 4, 2016 • Vol. 18, no. 48 • FREE



Serving East Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur, Doraville, Dunwoody, Lithonia, Pine Lake, Tucker and Stone Mountain.

Business ................................. 17A
Classified ..............................20A
Opinion ...................................... 7A
Sports ............................... 21-23A







County budget includes public safety pay raises

DeKalb County’s Board of Commissioners passed the 2016 budget Feb. 25 which contains pay
increases for police, fire, sanitation, watershed and E911 employees.
Police personnel have been attending Board of Commissioners’
meetings for weeks, asking for salary increases. Photos by
Andrew Cauthen

County sanitation workers are among those getting pay
increases in the new budget.

by Andrew Cauthen


eKalb County’s $1.32 billion budget
for 2016 includes $5.2 million for salary increases for police, fire, sanitation, watershed and E911 employees.
Commissioners voted 4-3 to approve
the budget which includes the pay increases for approximately 2,800 employees. The
pay raises will go into effect in May.
A not-yet-complete compensation study
will include new pay ranges for county jobs,
and for “a number of employees, their current pay will not even be the minimum for
that new range,” May said.

For these employees, the county plans
to “move their current pay up to the minimum of that new range,” May said. Some of
these employees will see their pay increase
as much as 15 percent.
May said the increases would help address the problems the county has in retaining officers.
“We have too many officers that have
been leaving,” he said. “We want them to
start here and retire here. We don’t want
them to leave within three, four, [or] five
years. We want them to be here 15, 20
“Our current compensation level is not
sufficient to keep our officers,” he said.

See Budget on Page 5A

Perimeter regional leaders discuss growth, future
by R. Scott Belzer
For an hour on Feb. 19,
community leaders and government
officials from Chamblee, Doraville,
Dunwoody and Sandy Springs
came together to discuss the future
of a northern DeKalb region.
The Perimeter Business Alliance
(PBA), a volunteer organization
based in North Atlanta, hosted a
luncheon at the Hyatt Regency
Perimeter Center, where the
mayors of Chamblee, Dunwoody
The Perimeter Business Alliance hosted a luncheon discussing growth and transportation
and Sandy Springs answered
Feb. 19, inviting business leaders and government officials.
questions about the region’s
answering questions prepared
chairman of the PBA.
“Each of these folks has a great
by the PBA regarding expansion,
Mayors Eric Clarkson
history of public service in the
infrastructure improvement and
private sector, the public sector and (Chamblee), Denis Shortal
transportation. The questions come
the military,” said Robert Voyles,
ahead of the various cities’ “State of
(Sandy Springs) took turns




the City” addresses coming in the
next few weeks.
The mayors began by explaining
their main areas of focus for
the upcoming year. Paul began
by stating congestion relief in
the region would be his primary
concern. Chamblee mayor Clarkson
echoed this concern in addition
to reinventing Chamblee from an
industrial town to a full-fledged
modern suburb.
“Chamblee has grown over
the last couple of years. We went
from just under 10,000 residents to
28,000 through two annexations,”
Clarkson said. “Our focus will
be continuing what we’re doing,
promoting a more walkable
Shortal, who has only been
mayor for 45 days, kept his answer

See Leaders on Page 5A



The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 2A

Police department makes case for more money, officers
by Andrew Cauthen


n 8-percent
pay raise and
additional officers
is what the DeKalb
County Police Department
needs to serve and protect
“We all know that we’re
losing police officers and
we know that we want
to keep our communities
safe,” DeKalb County
Police Major Tonya
Dedrick told county
commissioners during a
meeting in February.
“We have the men
and women committed to
[serving] but they need the
resources to be able to do
that,” Dedrick said.
On Feb. 25 county
commissioners approved
a four percent pay raise
for police, fire, sanitation,
watershed and E911

Police representatives say a 4-percent raise approved by county commissioners Feb. 25 is not enough. Photo by Andrew Cauthen

employees. Additionally
these employees may get a
raise of up to an additional
15 percent to adjust their
salaries to a new pay
But first responders
told the commissioners the
raise is inadequate.

Dedrick, the police
department’s east precinct
commander, developed
the “To Protect and Serve
Action Plan” which “is
designed to encourage
the citizens to help rebuild
and stabilize the police
department through

Tax Commissioner
DeKalb County, GA


The 2016 Property Tax Exemption Deadline is Fast
If you owned and resided in a home in DeKalb County on January 1st, you may
apply for a Basic Homestead Exemption and Property Assessment Freeze with
the County by April 1st of this year. The home must be your primary domicile
and legal residence for all purposes, including the registration of your vehicles
and the filing of your Federal and State income taxes. Applications received
after April 1st will be processed for 2017.
In addition to the basic homestead exemption available to all homeowners, there
are special exemptions available for residents 62 and older, disabled veterans or
their un-remarried spouses, and other disabled residents. Eligibility for special
exemptions is based upon age or disability, and total household income. They
must be applied for in person. When applying, please bring your State and
Federal income tax forms, Social Security 1099, and any other forms of income
you may receive, to one of our three offices across the County.

North Office

1358 Dresden Dr., NE
Atlanta, GA 30319

Main Office

4380 Memorial Dr.
Suite 100
Decatur, GA 30032

South Office

2801 Candler Rd. #66
South DeKalb Mall
Decatur, GA 30034

Remember, the deadline for applying for all homesteads is
April 1st!
Apply for the Basic Homestead Exemption, the Property Assessment Freeze, or
renew your tag registration online at:

Questions? Call (404) 298-4000 or email us

4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 100, Decatur, Georgia 30032 (404-298-4000)

funding, for long-term
success,” she wrote.
“DeKalb County Police
Department will need
to stabilize its force by
retaining tenured, trained
and experienced officers,”
the report states. “Officers
are leaving this department

at a rapid rate. At a
minimum, current officers
need a salary increase,
additional officers and an
enhanced compensation
incentive to attract and hire
the best candidates to join

See Police on Page 8A


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 3A

aVondale estates

Downtown Development Authority seeks to fill opening
The Avondale Estates Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has
an open board position for an owner or operator of a business located
within the downtown area.
“The DDA plays an integral role in the redevelopment of downtown
Avondale Estates and is seeking members that are energetic, motivated
and willing to utilize their talents and connections to further the mission
and goals of the DDA,” states an announcement about the position.
Candidates must “possess the skills to invigorate other business/
property owners along with residents and visitors to support and grow
the city’s unique downtown,” states the announcement.
The primary goal of the DDA is retaining existing businesses and
attracting new ones.
Anyone interested in serving as a member should complete the
application located on the city website at
For more information, contact Karen Holmes at (4040 294-5400
or via email at Applicants can submit
completed applications to Holmes in person at City Hall, 21 North
Avondale Plaza, by email or by fax at (404) 299-8137.


State representative to host town hall
State Rep. Taylor Bennett will host a town hall meeting March 9 at
Brookhaven City Hall from 7 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. City Hall is located at 4362
Peachtree Road. For more information, visit

City to host Arbor Day tree planting
Brookhaven will celebrate Arbor Day by planting trees in one of the
city’s older parks, Georgian Hills, 2800 East Georgian Drive, on March
12, from 10 a.m. to noon. Mayor John Ernst will read an Arbor Day
proclamation to recognize the importance of trees to the city. City council
members and the city’s arborist will be present to help in the planting of a
new tree. Bartlett Tree Experts is donating a year of care for the tree.
Those attending this event will be eligible to receive a free tree
seedling given away on a first-come, first-served basis. This year the
city is giving away 50 river birch and 50 bald cypress seedlings. Local
arborists and tree services will be on hand, and children are welcome at
this family friendly event.


City conducting survey for trail extension
Cycling, jogging and walking enthuisiasts in downtown Chamblee
have the opportunity to have a say in the city extending a local trail.
The city is considering extending a portion of the Keswick Park
Extension Trail, also known as the Chamblee Rail Trail. The extension
would run along an abandoned rail corridor and link McGaw Drive to
Chamblee Dunwoody Way.
DeKalb residents have the chance to complete a survey on
the city’s website and voice their opinion. The survey offers those
interested a chance to look at examples of current in-use trails and to
proposed development.
The Asphalt Pathway, which currently runs 0.6 miles from Keswick
Park to Chamblee Tucker Road, offers a short, useful path through
downtown Chamblee under Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.
For more information and access to the survey, visit www.


Community center hosts ongoing Tai Chi classes
Those looking to expand their cultural palette and get healthy in
the process can do so at the Clarkston Community Center on Tuesday

Tuesday, March 8, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. attendees will practice Tai
Chi in the East Room of the Community Center in Clarkston. Tai Chi is an
ancient Chinese martial art and exercise designed to strengthen muscles
and improve mental focus. In addition to breathing exercises, students
learn how to hold poses that test physicality as well as endurance.
Suggested attire is comfortable and breathable clothing complete
with tennis shoes. The first class is free, but continuing students will
pay $25 per month for one class per week. For more information, email with Tai Chi as the subject line. Additional
information can be found at


City recognized as ‘Tree City USA’
As part of its annual Arbor Day celebration, the city of Dunwoody was
formally recognized as one of Georgia’s “Tree City USA” communities.
On Feb. 19, Dunwoody celebrated Arbor Day by planting a white oak
and green ash tree at Brook Run Park, located along N. Peachtree Road
by Peachtree Charter Middle School. Arbor Day is celebrated in the
Peachtree State every third Friday in February.
Communities with the “Tree City USA” designation have an
established tree board or department, an ordinance dealing with
trees, a budget for urban forestry and planned Arbor Day celebrations.
Dunwoody joins 3,400 Tree City USA communities nationwide and 135
For more information, visit


Library holding book sale, offering free flu shots
The Friends of Stonecrest Library will have a book sale on Saturday,
March 12.
The book sale, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will feature
fiction, nonfiction, textbooks, encyclopedias, children’s books, romance
series and more. Most books will be $1 or less.
Stonecrest library is located at 3123 Klondike Road, Lithonia. For
more information, call (770) 482-3828.

pine laKe

Kindness Fest 2016 comes to city
Compassionate Kids and EcoArtsCamp are hosting the inaugural
Kindness Fest on March 12.
Local organizations will be on hand to “help local families learn about
channeling love into action through exciting activities, ecoarts, games, yoga
and fitness, presentations and demos featuring service project opportunities
in the metro Atlanta are,” states an announcement about the event.
Kindness Fest 2016 sponsors and exhibitors include The Humane
Society of the U.S., Trees Atlanta, Nonviolence Leadership Project, The
Humane League, Draw Change, Peta Kids, Barefoot Books, Veggie Kids,
Parenting Beyond Punishment, Wild Child Counseling, Joyful Spaces,
InJest Puppets, Ashley Chase Yoga & HUM, The Garden School, Roman
Mitic Fitness, In Home Fitness and Ahimsa Portraits.
Compassionate Kids is an organization whose members seek to
help people, animals, and the environment through the support of local
international projects. EcoArtsCamp is a local summer camp that connects
kids to nature and fuels creative expression.
The event will be held March 12, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Pine Lake
Beach House, 4575 Lakeshore Drive, Pine Lake.
For more information, go to or contact
Kristen Howard at or (740) 417-5860.

stone MoUntain
City to host garden event

Stone Mountain will host Community Garden Work Day March 12,
from 9 to 11 a.m. Master Gardener Talk at 9:30 a.m. will be by Susan
Morrison on tomato blight. For more information, email Columbus
Brown at


Jon Marshall

Jon Marshall was
a successful track and
field athlete at Southwest
DeKalb High School.
He went on to have a
successful career with the
Morehouse College track
and field team. Today,
Marshall, 34, is passing his
knowledge of the sport to
students at his alma mater
Southwest DeKalb.
Marshall has been
a volunteer coach at
Southwest DeKalb for nine
“I was inspired to

return to my high school
after Morehouse College
primarily due to the early
life lessons provided by
my parents,” Marshall said.
“They both taught me the
importance of giving back
to my community and they
demonstrated this through
their own volunteering with
various organizations.”
Marshall has won state
championships with the
Southwest DeKalb track
team as a coach, including
the 2015 Class AAAAA
state title. The 2015 title

The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 4A

was special for the program
because the team was
closing out legendary coach
Napoleon Cobb’s “farewell”
season. Cobb retired after
50 years of coaching.
Marshall said Cobb
played an important role in
his track career.
“My respect and desire
to support the track program
at SWD under Coach Cobb’s
leadership also fostered
my desire to volunteer
with this track program,”
Marshall said. “Coach
Cobb helped develop me

as an athlete and it seems
only right for me to reach
back and provide the same
development to other
athletes too.”
Southwest DeKalb alum
and former track athlete
Omari Crawford expressed
high praise for Marshall and
his work with the Southwest
DeKalb track and field team.
“He’s an excellent
role model and coach and
an example of why it’s
important to come back
and serve your community,”
Crawford said.

Jon Marshall

A watercolor drawing in the current church building
shows an earlier Mount Zion AME church building that
stood on the same spot.

The current Mount Zion AME Church building was
completed in 2001. Photos by Kathy Mitchell

Mount Zion Pastor David F. Richards III gave a history
of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Three Jewish children killed by the Ku Klux Klan are
among those buried in the cemetery adjacent to Mount
Zion AME Church.

Historic community celebrates its heritage
by Kathy Mitchell


hose traveling along busy
Lavista Road might have
a difficult time envisioning
it as the rural agricultural
community it was in years
just after the Civil War. Still, one
institution remains as a reminder.
Mount Zion AME Church,
established in 1870, and its
adjacent cemetery continue to be
prominent landmarks on Lavista.
Founded by former slaves, the
church became the heart of
a community that each year
celebrates its rich heritage.
The church, originally called
Rocky Knoll AME Church, first
met in a railroad boxcar in the
Lawrenceville Highway area. Within
a few years a modest building
was erected on the current site.
Over the years, structures have
been constructed and improved.
The current church building was
completed in 2001.
A program, Memories of the

Little White Church on the Hill,
was held Feb. 20 and repeated
Feb. 27 as part of this year’s
anniversary celebration. It included
a presentation on the founding of
the African Methodist Episcopal
(AME) church by Mt. Zion’s current
pastor, David F. Richards III.
Richards explained that the
AME church, like many in the
Black community, was founded by
Christians who wanted to be able
to worship where they could have
dignity and respect. He explained
that despite the word African in
the name, AME churches exist
across the globe and people of all
ethnicities are welcome. Mt. Zion,
he said, is the oldest AME church in
DeKalb County.
DeKalb History Center Archivist
Fred Mobley showed slides of
vintage photos, news articles and
transcripts of oral histories given by
members of what is known both as
the Nelms Community—named for
one of the original families—and the
Mt. Zion Community.

“It’s quite usual for 19th century
communities, particularly Black
communities, to be named for a
church. Churches not only were
the heart of the community, but
also often were the only institutions
owned by the community,” Mobley
said, adding, “You can’t separate
Mt. Zion Community from Mt. Zion
He explained that essentially
no structures remain from the
original community. “There may
be a chimney that was part of an
original building, but it must be
remembered that a few years after
the end of slavery, those who had
been enslaved had no money for
the types of building materials that
would last. Their homes and other
buildings were simple wooden
buildings that time would quickly
destroy,” according to Mobley.
First person accounts
given over the years tell of the
hardscrabble lives of those living in
the Mt. Zion community who lived
primarily on what they could raise

on small farms, supplementing their
living by selling vegetables and
eggs to their White neighbors or by
doing laundry or domestic chores
for them.
Adrienne “Polly” NelmsHickman, minister of music at
Mt. Zion—dressed as her greatgrandmother, who had been a
Mt. Zion member—led a call and
response musical historical tribute
with such songs as “O We’re
Down Here, Lord, Just Waiting
on You,” “By and By, When the
Morning Comes,” and “Glory, Glory,
Hallelujah! Since I Laid My Burdens
She said that although the
Mt. Zion Community, like most in
the South, had its share of racial
tensions, there was primarily
cooperation between Black and
White families along Lavista Road.
“That’s why we survived. We came
together and worked together long
before the law decreed it.” The

See Mt. Zion AME on Page 9A

The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016


Page 5A


Continued From Page 1A
Some public safety personnel and advocates say
the increases do not go far
“What’s been put on the
table, we’re liking because
it’s putting money back
into public safety where it
belongs,” said Jeff Wiggs,
president of the DeKalb
Fraternal Order of Police.
“Obviously it’s not enough,
but it’s a step in the right direction. And we certainly do
appreciate that.”
DeKalb Police Sgt. Marnie Mercer said officers are
grateful for the raise, “but it
is not enough.”
“Unless you fix the other
issues—the promotional
pay and the lack of merit increases—you will not solve
the problem or stem the
tide of officers leaving the
department,” she said. “And
we’ll be back in June asking
for the same thing.”
Faye Coffield, a
DeKalb resident and public safety advocate, said
the budget “does not have
enough in there for public
safety and it doesn’t have
enough in there for sanitation raises and improvements.”
“Until we address the
issues of public safety, of
pay, of equipment, you guys
should be ashamed,” Coffield said.

Approximately 2,800 county workers will receive varying raises in May. Photo by Andrew Cauthen

Commissioners Kathie
Gannon, Nancy Jester and
Jeff Rader voted against
the budget.
“I’m certainly disappointed with the outcome of our
budget today,” said Jester,
who wanted funding in the
budget to replace DeKalb
County fire station No. 7,
which is in poor repair.
“If we held our board
meeting at fire station
[No.7] it would get fixed,”
she said.
“Budgets are choices
and the choices we make
tell a lot about us as a government,” Jester said. “I
hope that our police and fire

will continue to come to our
meetings. We certainly let
them down today.”
Gannon said, “I believe
my constituents are more
interested in public safety
than the other things we are
spending our money on.”
One issue that was debated was the funding of a
new library at Wade Walker
In a statement, Jester
said, “Rather than fund the
rebuilding of dilapidated
and unsafe fire stations,
DeKalb’s CEO and Board
of Commissioners chose
to build a new library and
senior center even though

they are close to existing
“The additional increment of funding added to
police and fire is insufficient
to address the real structural problems with compensation in those departments,”
she stated. “It was a political Band-Aid placed over a
stab wound. It’s like taking
cough syrup to try to cure
Rader, in a statement,
said, “DeKalb’s operating strategy seems solely
focused on short-term
political benefit, new debt
for facilities that we can’t
afford to operate, and politi-

cal posturing in an election
The budget “represents
a missed opportunity to
strengthen the county’s
financial position, builds
pressure for increased personnel costs, and sets the
county on the course to unsustainable facility expansion,” Rader stated.
In the budget, the general fund reserve remains
at a one month of operating expenses; $200,000
is allocated for more code
enforcement officers and
equipment; the new internal
auditor’s office is funded at
$1 million; and $1 million is
allocated in sanitation funding for mowing and litter
The budget also includes $4.9 million in HOST
funding for road resurfacing
and transportation; $1.1 million for additional firefighter
safety equipment; and $2
million for technology to
streamline permitting and
other development costs.
Supporting the budget,
Commissioner Larry Johnson said it is “responsive
to the needs of the people,
addresses the capital needs
of the county, fair compensation for employees and
remains fiscally prudent.
“We maintained a prudent budgetary reserve,
which ensures that DeKalb
will retain its superior credit
rating. That’s a win for taxpayers,” Johnson stated.


Continued From Page 1A
simple. Before talking about improving roads
through repavement, Shortal stated continuing
partnerships is a number one priority.
“My number one goal is personnel wise:
I want to continue to create an atmosphere
of mutual respect between our citizens and
leadership, our residential community and
business community, and our city’s leadership
and leadership of neighboring cities,” Shortal
said. “We’re all in this together.”
The second question dealt with the presence From left, Mayors Rusty Paul (Sandy Springs), Eric Clarkson Yvonne Williams, president and CEO of Perimeter Community
(Chamblee) and Denis Shortal (Dunwoody).
Improvement Districts.
of MARTA stations in each city as well as the
prospect of future MARTA plans, including bus
have to work on making our citizens aware,”
lanes throughout the I-285 and GA 400 corridor
consider alternative means of transportation
Shortal said. “How about incentivizing work pools other than rails and automobiles. These include
and additional rail stations in each city. Each
and car pools? This is going to require us to think above ground train systems and even gondolas.
mayor was questioned about how they plan
outside the box.”
to deal with future public transit expansion,
The PBA is a partner of the Perimeter
Paul mentioned numbers, stating 102,000
primarily in regards to construction.
Community Improvement Districts (PCIDs)
trips go out of the region daily, 84,000 come into
“The word collaboration is something we all
originally founded in June 2012. The
the region, and 7,000 stay within the region.
need to focus on,” Clarkson said. “You have to
organization operates within a four-square-mile
Paul said that reducing congestion by 10 percent district encompassing parts of Brookhaven,
look outside of your borders and work together.
would help traffic flow.
We need to keep up basic communication and
Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. According to
“If 70 percent of residents could get to where
find out where those challenges will be and
the organization’s website, the PBA focuses on
they needed to go in an efficient, safe and timely issues pertaining to “attracting and sustaining a
educate folks about them.”
manner, they would prefer to not use their cars,”
Shortal brought up the prospect of
quality workforce and quality businesses” in the
said Paul. “That’s the level of frustration and the
synchronizing lights, collaborating with transit
northern perimeter area.
level of congestion we face on a daily basis.”
officials and changing things in an instant. The
For more information on the PBA or PCIDs,
Paul concluded by stating the leadership
mayor also suggested working with mobile apps.
visit or call (770) 390within the region would be “stupid” not to
“Awareness, advertising campaigns – we all

The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016


Page 6A

The doldrums of late winter
With MLK’s birthday and
President’s Day behind us,
we have no other national
holidays on the calendar
until late May, unless one is
lucky enough to have Good
Friday off prior to Easter.
Otherwise, its five days a
week of the same old daily
grind for most of us.
It is the time of year
when the days are still too
short, and often too cool,
to enjoy most outdoor
activities. And, it seems as
though those rare winter
days filled with sun usually
fall on workdays and we get
windy, overcast weekend

John Hewitt

Chief Operating Officer
For many years at
this time, I have gotten
inspiration from an art piece
by British artist Graham

Sutherland that was given
to me by my older sister.
It was a purchased at the
National Gallery Museum
in London and features
a collage of a vintage
typewriter, an image of a
tranquil country setting
and a newspaper clipping
with the following words of
the poem Go Out Into The
The spring days which
come in mid-winter are
among the best of the year.
They never fail to appear in
January or February.
Go out into the country

Do not wait for Easter. It
may be snowing.
Do not wait for August. It
will probably be raining. 
Is there fog in town?
There may be brilliant
sunshine a few miles out.
Is the sun striking palely
on the rooftops or on the
south side of the street? It
will be flooding the fields.
Go out and find it.
There is something
about this passage that
captured my imagination
the first time I read it. It
is simple yet profound. It

speaks volumes to me. It is
a simple piece of art that to
me signifies many important
aspects of my life—a
newspaper, typewriter and a
glimpse of the simple life. It
helps me in ways that many
won’t understand.
During the winter
doldrums, I often look at this
piece of art that has hung in
my office for more than 20
years and anxiously await
the return to daylight saving
We need only wait until
March 13 to again see
longer days. It can’t come
soon enough in my opinion.

guest editorial

Pupils over politics

Is the Georgia General
Assembly putting politics
ahead of pupils?
Last year, when I
became superintendent
of the DeKalb County
School District, I assumed
the responsibility—and
privilege—of continuing
to improve classroom
instruction and learning.
One of my major duties
includes good stewardship
of our financial resources.
We face an ongoing
challenge. Our district is
just three years removed
from the devastating impact
of the Great Recession.
Until 2013, we operated
at a deficit. At one point,
our district was placed on
probation, one step before
losing accreditation–a
devastating blow for any
educational system, but
certainly hard for a system
that serves 102,000
students in 135 schools.
Those students come from
180 different countries
and speak 144 different
Today, after much work,
we have finances under
control with fiscal integrity,
but our system remains at
a crucial stage of recovery.
We still need resources to
address aging classrooms,


teacher pay, safety and
support services. 
We have a plan and
a commitment—and a
laser focus on classroom
instruction and learning.
We’ve made progress with
a 103-point increase in SAT
scores, an 11-point increase
in graduation rates, a return
to full accreditation, and
pay raises for teachers
and principals. We’re
competitive again for
talent at the front of the
Now, we face a new–
apparently politicallymotivated–obstacle.
I recognize the call of
some who want our school
system to financially assist with the redevelopment
of the former General Motors factory and the downtown area in Doraville.
To secure $247 million

in infrastructure bonds,
our school district, along
with local city and county
governments, has been
asked to approve creation
of a Doraville Tax Allocation
District, or TAD. The debt
service for this project will
exceed $600 million over
the life of the bonds.
Unfortunately, our district
is being asked to pay more
than half of the public funding for this project.
I have met more than
half a dozen times with
officials from Doraville and
DeKalb county governments
to discuss the proposed
TAD and its impact to the
After listening with
an open mind, I remain
convinced that our core
business should be
teaching and learning and
the direction of the financial
resources to our students.
DeKalb schools have
never before participated
in tax allocation districts.
Schools are our business.
Our research of past TADS
in DeKalb County yielded a
history that concerns us.
Two of three current
TADs in DeKalb County
have never met tax revenue
projections. The Kensington
and Briarcliff TADs have de-

creased in tax value since
their start, Kensington’s
by more than 20 percent.
And recent headlines have
documented the inability of
the city of Atlanta and the
Atlanta Public Schools to
fulfill their agreement based
on a TAD for financing the
Beltline project. That impasse showcases how unforeseen pitfalls can cost a
school system time, money
and focus.
For the Doraville TAD,
the school tax digest would
be fixed for 25 years—with
a best-case scenario of
nine more years before
DeKalb would recoup lost
taxes. What advantage
does a 25-year commitment
to freezing the school tax
digest give students and
We face growing pressure from powerful parties that would put politics
ahead of pupils.
House Bill 969, newly
introduced in the Georgia
General Assembly, proposes to eliminate $63 million
a year from state funding of
education in DeKalb County
by reducing our allotment
from the Quality Basic
Education program. The law
would only apply to DeKalb
County schools. It wouldn’t

reduce one penny of property taxes paid by county
residents and businesses.
It would take $63 million
each year from DeKalb students—and give nothing at
all back to DeKalb taxpayers.
We recognize our role
in economic development.
A good school system is
one of the top reasons for
private investment. We
believe our school system
can invest $63 million
more wisely. How? By
contributing to Georgia’s
economic development at
the most basic levels:
• We’ll prepare students for
college and careers, so
they become future jobcreators, wage-earners,
taxpayers, and responsible citizens.
• We’ll reinvest resources
directly into our communities (not into developers’
pockets) by building new
schools and facilities.
• We’ll play an important
role in attracting new
residents and businesses.
(The Daimler Benz North
American headquarters
recently announced its
relocation here, basing its
decision, in part, on the
quality of local education.)

See Politics on Page 7A

The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016


Page 7A

One Man’s Opinion

“No one should die trying
to get home,” said Rebecca
Serna, executive director
of the Atlanta Bicycle
Coalition, following the
tragic death of 14-year-old
Alexia Hyneman, at the
intersection of Piedmont
and Monroe drives, and the
entrance to the Beltline.
I am a biker, sometimes
a hiker. A double-heel break
following one of my lifetime
dumbest choices back in
the late ‘80s took some of
the allure out of distance
running. Our home is on the
PATH trail; every member
of the family has a bike. For
most of the past three
years, I was averaging 5075 miles a week on my Fuji.
Unless you have
witnessed a fellow biker,
close friend or even a
perfect stranger on a
bicycle lose a battle with
an automobile or truck,
you may not be aware of
how horrific the effects of
running into a several ton
moving object can be on
the comparatively delicate
and lightweight frame of
a bicycle, or worse yet, its
human rider. I unfortunately
have seen several of these
collisions, including a
triple fatality in Thailand,

Share the road, arrive alive

Bill Crane

involving a mother and her
two children (none wearing
helmets) and a light-duty
truck on a rainy afternoon
on the tropic island of
Phuket. It took several
hours of heavy showers to
wash all of the blood away.
I share this as I am
always mindful, traversing
the busy thoroughfares
and side streets of Atlanta
that one inattentive
moment, lapse in judgment,
mad dash through an
intersection, ignoring the
traffic signal on my bicycle
might be my last such
trip.  Several near-misses
have almost maimed me,
but either by the grace of
God, quick reflexes, or that
one mystery pedal push
has given me on several

occasions the sheer inches
needed to avoid serious
In Georgia, biking
on sidewalks is illegal,
if you are older than
12. Thankfully, our capital
city and many of the
counties and municipalities
across the metro area are
adding miles of bike lanes,
even among their most
congested corridors. 
The PATH Foundation,
partnering with many
of these same local
government entities, has
completed more than 300
miles of PATH trails across
Georgia, with dozens of
additional miles currently
under construction. The
Beltline, now transforming
and linking greenspaces
along the northeast side of
the city, should eventually
encircle Atlanta with a 22mile loop.
Roadside memorials
dot many of our busiest
thoroughfares. Bikes
painted ghost white chained
to a utility pole or guard rail
to memorialize the loss,
and yet, tomorrow, in our
oncoming and beautiful
spring weather, another few
dozen bikers will similarly
throw caution to the wind.
Yes, I get it, by law,

bicycles and bikers are
entitled to share the roads,
which many of us helped to
pay for. Yet there is another
well-known and established
rule of the road commonly
agreed to by all: slower
moving traffic yields and
moves to the right. Using a
bike lane, hugging a curb
and actually abiding by stop
signs and traffic lights are
not just being courteous,
it is obeying the law. The
bikers who flaunt same also
leave residual bad will for
the next biker to absorb or
As the weather gets
warmer and better,
traffic will increase, for
all modes of transit and
transportation. But the
fatalities and maiming
injuries do not have to
soar. Yes, drivers should
be more cautious, use
their peripheral vision
and mirrors, put down
the smartphone and take
care when passing bike
riders. But in case they
do not, bikers should stay
in their lanes, ride single
file unless roadways are
closed for a race or biking
event, yield to faster traffic
by moving to the right and
utilize the paths, lanes and
trails built specifically for

their use.
I can already hear the
Trump-like language which
I expect to be fired back
at me, even some biking
buddies who will call me
a traitor. I have my own
break with the law, in that
I really don’t like wearing a
helmet myself, but I yield
to the automobile, stay to
the right, use the bike lanes
and can be seen on many
miles of the PATH trail or
Beltline many days of the
week. Besides watching
out for me, I’m aware that
my choices may impact
other bikers. I don’t want
the death of another high
school co-ed just trying to
make it home on her bike
on my conscience. 
Share the road, respect
its common sense rules,
and above all, arrive alive.
Bill Crane also serves
as a political analyst and
commentator for Channel
2’s Action News, WSB-AM
News/Talk 750 and now
95.5 FM, as well as a columnist for The Champion,
Champion Free Press and
Georgia Trend. Crane is a
DeKalb native and business
owner, living in Scottdale.
You can reach him or comment on a column at bill. 

Politics Continued From Page 6A
Here’s the truth: Georgia can come up with
better ways to redevelop the GM site–ways that
don’t do it on the backs of students and schools
for the next quarter century.
Let’s be clear: removing critical resources now
would disrupt and damage efforts to get DeKalb
schools back on their feet. Instead, with $63
million annually, we could:
• Give three more pay raises to all teachers (similar to the raise teachers received last month),
keeping and drawing top talent to classrooms.
• Build three new, state-of-the-art, 900-student
schoolhouses like those at Peachcrest and



Fernbank elementary schools. (Our school
buildings now average 20 years of age.) Or,
• Buy more than 800 new, safe, comfortable,
fuel-efficient school buses (Our buses average
10 years of age.)
Most reasonable people would agree that a
smart, efficient redevelopment of the Doraville
GM site has every chance to stimulate the area’s
long-term economy.
Most reasonable people would also agree
that it would be self-defeating to raid resources
from a public school system focused on
educating young people to graduate with ideas
and initiatives to make the GM site a long-term


Let Us Know What You Think!

THE CHAMPION FREE PRESS encourages opinions
from its readers. Please write to us and express your
views. Letters should be brief, typewritten and contain
the writer’s name, address and telephone number for
verification. All letters will be considered for publication.

Send Letters To Editor,
The Champion Free Press,
P. O. Box 1347, Decatur, GA 30031-1347;
Send email to
FAX To: (404) 370-3903; Phone: (404) 373-7779.
Deadline for news releases and advertising:
Thursday, one week prior to publication date.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions written by columnists and contributing editors do not necessarily reflect the opinions
of the editor or publishers. The Publisher reserves the right to reject or cancel any advertisement at any time. The
Publisher is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts.

Founding father Benjamin Franklin once
wrote, “An investment in knowledge pays the
best interest.”
We agree.
We strongly believe our schools should be in
the business of developing students.
Given the choice between the educational
well-being of our students and politically
motivated land deals, we’ll choose our students
every time.
Dr. R. Stephen Green
DeKalb County School District

John Hewitt

Production Manager:
Kemesha Hunt

Chief Financial Officer:
Dr. Earl D. Glenn

Travis Hudgons

Managing Editor:
Andrew Cauthen

Staff Reporters:
Carla Parker
R. Scott Belzer

The Champion Free Press is published each Friday
by ACE III Communications, Inc.,
114 New Street, Suite E, Decatur, GA. 30030
Phone (404) 373-7779.
DISPLAY ADVERTISING (404) 373-7779 x 110

Statement from the
We sincerely appreciate the
discussion surrounding this and any
issue of interest to DeKalb County.
The Champion was founded in 1991
expressly to provide a forum for
discourse for all community residents
on all sides of an issue. We have no
desire to make the news only to
report news and opinions to effect
a more educated citizenry that will
ultimately move our community
forward. We are happy to present
ideas for discussion; however,
we make every effort to avoid
printing information submitted to
us that is known to be false and/or
assumptions penned as fact.


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 8A

Hundreds of Brookhaven residents attended Mayor John Ernst’s town hall meeting.

Mayor John Ernst announced that MARTA and Brookhaven City Center Partners
agreed to postpone submitting rezoning applications for the stations’ Transit
Oriented Development. Photos by Carla Parker

MARTA postpones rezoning request for Brookhaven/Oglethorpe station
Plans to revitalize the
MARTA Station have been
put on hold.
Mayor John Ernst
announced Feb. 22 at
a town hall meeting that
MARTA and Brookhaven
City Center Partners agreed
to postpone submitting
rezoning applications for the
stations’ Transit Oriented
Development (TOD) until
June 1.
Brookhaven City
Center Partners, a master
development joint venture of
Integral and Transwestern
Development Company,
was selected as MARTA’s
development partner for the
MARTA proposed a
mixed-use development
with residential space—126
senior affordable

apartments and 560-580
market rate units; 40,000 to
60,000 square feet of retail
space; 120,000 to 400,000
square feet of office space;
10,000 to 40,000 square
feet of civic space and a
community green transit
Ernst’s announcement
was met with applause from
“After discussions
with me, [MARTA] did not
believe they were ready for
that at the moment,” Ernst
told the crowd at Briarwood
Recreation Center.
“I’ve heard residents’
concerns, and there
are many unanswered
questions regarding these
plans,” Ernst said in a
released statement. “Any
development at this site will
have a big impact on our
community for decades,
and this process cannot be
rushed. I’m pleased that all

parties agree that we must
The initiative will feature
way with residents on
plan smarter in order for this 13 task forces involving
the project during the
property to meet the needs
residents in each of
postponement period and
of our city.”
Brookhaven’s 13 “character
throughout the course of
MARTA officials were
areas” portrayed in the
the permitting process,
meeting with Brookhaven
comprehensive plan. The
according to the city.
residents to present
task force will review their
“MARTA looks forward
preliminary plans for the
neighborhood plan and
to continued discussion
project and to receive
make recommendations
with all of our stakeholders,”
feedback on the transit
for the zoning code rewrite
MARTA General Manager
system’s proposed TOD for
efforts,” according to the city. and CEO Keith T.
the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe
The current Zoning
Parker said in a released
Code Rewrite Committee
statement. “We expect the
The project was
will be suspended until
Brookhaven TOD to be
proposed for 15 acres of
the completion of these
an excellent example of
under-used surface parking
Character Area task forces.
on the east and west sides
Brookhaven, MARTA
of Brookhaven/Oglethorpe
and Brookhaven City
Station on Peachtree Road. Center Partners will
According to the city,
continue the outreach
Ernst plans to enhance
program currently under
the city’s comprehensive
plan over the next few
Available Where YOU live!
months and review zoning
regulations through a
Call TODAY For This
resident-led initiative to
Limited Time Offer!
strengthen Brookhaven’s
development policies and



(404) 975-9002


by Carla Parker


POLICE Continued From Page 2A
in the efforts to protect and serve the citizens
of DeKalb County.”
In the plan, the police department
proposed “an 8 percent salary increase for the
next three years and annual 5 percent merit
increase to be reinstated in the fourth year for
sworn personnel.”
“Other than the 3 percent cost of
living increase approved by the Board of
Commissioners for DeKalb County personnel
in 2013, there has not been a salary increase
for DeKalb County police personnel since
2006,” the report states. “A greater salary
increase is needed to retain tenured officers
and an enhanced compensation incentive is
needed to attract the best qualified candidates
to hire and this should remain constant.”
According to the report, the cost to raise
the salaries would be $4.33 million in 2016,
$5.07 million in 2017, $5.48 million in 2018
and $3.7 in 2019.
In addition to increased pay for officers,
the department needs to hire more officers,
the report states.

“We do know that we are losing officers,”
Dedrick told commissioners. “We do have a
great police department, committed to serving
the citizens of DeKalb County, but they need
more officers out there.”
Staffing of uniformed officers in the police
department is “at a critical stage and must be
addressed,” Dedrick’s report stated.
According to the report, dated Jan. 28, the
police department has 808 staff members,
including police trainees. There are 158
vacancies in various ranks, 109 of which are
police officer positions.
“Therefore, the department is well below
the authorized strength of 1,121 sworn
personnel,” the report states. “Hiring an
additional 100 officers per year for the next
four years is needed to improve this staffing
The report states that DeKalb County has
1.1 officers per 1,000 residents, below the
national average for this region of 2.7 officers
per 1,000 residents.
“The department is in dire need of

police officers in order to provide a safe and
proactive police presence in the County and
meet demands and calls for service by the
citizens,” the report states.
“As a precinct commander, I attend many
community meetings and concerns that
resonate at most of these meetings are high
crime rates, slow response times, lack of
police presence in neighborhoods, quality of
life issues and being placed on hold when
calling 911,” Dedrick wrote. “The majority of
these issues are the result of the low staffing
level of the police department.
“The police department has been
relentless in trying to fight crime while
being severely understaffed; however
hiring additional officers will help meet this
challenge,” she stated.
Dedrick wrote, “The department is critically
challenged on many levels and there is an
immediate need for rapid improvements.”
“The time to act is now,” Dedrick told


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 9A

The Lithonia mayor and city council held a special called meeting to discuss
the investigation of Chief Roosevelt Smith and Captain Lloyd Owens. Photos by
Travis Hudgons

Lithonia Mayor Deborah Jackson
announced the investigation is still

Lithonia Police Sgt. Angela Hatchett listens in
on the city council’s special called meeting.

Investigation on Lithonia police chief still ongoing
by Carla Parker
The investigation of Lithonia
Police Chief Roosevelt Smith and
Capt. Lloyd Owens for an alleged
assault on a teen while in custody is
still ongoing.
Lithonia Mayor Deborah
Jackson and the city council held
a special called meeting Feb. 29 to
discuss City Administrator Eddie
Moody’s investigation. Smith and
Owens are under investigation by
the city for allegedly assaulting
17-year-old Isiah Harvey, who was
in custody for burglary on Feb. 5.
After an executive session that
lasted more than an hour, Jackson
announced that the “investigation is
still ongoing.”
“We will await the conclusion of
the city administrator’s [investigation]
on this matter,” Jackson said.
Former Lithonia police officers

and Sgt. Angela Hatchett were
visibly upset by the mayor’s
announcement. Hatchett’s statement
about the Feb. 5 incident aligns with
Harvey’s version of the events of
that night.
Both said in written statements
that Smith choked Harvey while he
was handcuffed and Owens had
a struggle with the teen as well.
Hatchett and Harvey also said that
Smith pointed a Taser at the teen’s
“Chief Smith and Capt. L. Owens
assaulted Mr. Harvey,” Hatchett
stated. “There was no reason at all
for them to put their hands on Mr.
Harvey in that matter. Their actions
were unjustifiable and unethical.”
Smith admitted to putting his
hand around Harvey’s neck and
holding the Taser to Harvey because
he was being “combative.”
Harvey’s lawyer Frank T. Smith
was at the meeting. Smith sent an

MT. ZION AME Continued From Page 4A
Mt. Zion cemetery, for
example, is the final resting
place for three Jewish
children who were burned
to death by the Ku Klux
Klan, she said.
Nelms-Hickman told
the story of child in the
Nelms family who while
playing near a boiling
wash pot fell against
the pot and received
life-threatening burns.
Her mother did not trust
the local hospital to do
everything possible to
save the child, but a White
family took the little girl
into their home and had
their family doctor treat her
until she recovered.
Much of the racial
tension, according the
oral histories, came in the
20th century as land along
Lavista Road became
valuable and developers
wanted to drive the Black
families away.
An account given
by Rev. Ace Rowe, a
longtime community

member also related to the
Nelms family, states, “The
race relations were not
overtly hostile, However,
there were repeated
attempts for acquisition
of Black-owned land….
Many conveniences, such
as sewage, were not
available to residents in the
Black community, stopping
around Richard Stokes
Drive and resuming near
Vista Groves Shopping
center. This was perceived
as yet another indirect form
of coercion for Blacks to
sell their property.”
The church has two
remaining events in
its almost two-month
anniversary celebration.
The anniversary worship
service, followed by food
and fellowship, will be
Sunday, March 13, at
10:30 a.m. The guest
speaker will be State
Rep. Dee DawkinsHaigler. The final event
will be Taste of Mt. Zion on
Saturday, April 16, 4-7 p.m.

“ante litem notice of demand” to
the city to make them aware of the
chief’s actions. He gave the city 30
days to respond to the notice before
he decides whether to file a lawsuit.
The notice was dated Feb. 11.
The family of the teen requested
a $75,000 settlement in the notice.
Attorney Smith said after the
meeting that he was not surprised
the investigation is still ongoing
“because it’s in the hands of Moody.”
“The city administrator is the
wrong person to investigate this
matter,” he said. “With everybody
being right here within this city, even
the DeKalb County officer being right
down the street, this investigation
could have been completed in a
day or two days. You’re not taking
any polygraphs, you’re not going to
outside resources, you’re not doing
these things, but you’re dragging
your feet.”
Frank Smith said his main goal

is to have Owens and Chief Smith
removed from their positions.
“My next focus at this juncture
is all the issues with all of the police
officers, being past and present,
having to deal with this council, having
to deal with this chief and seeing what
can be done to be able to grant them
some relief and justification as well,”
Frank Smith said.
Former and current officers
have complained to the city about
incidents involving Chief Smith and
Owens with no resolution to the
matter, according to the officers.
Former officer Foster Hill said
after the meeting that he is frustrated
for the current officers.
“The mayor and Mr. Moody have
known about [the issues] for a whole
year,” Hill said. “Any fool can look
at [Chief Smith’s] record and tell
that he has a history of this type of
behavior everywhere he has gone.”
See related on page 10.


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 10A

Legislative Black Caucus
dinner recognizes sports
and entertainment greats

Actor Tommy Ford and Rep. Dee Hawkins-Haigler pose with
legislative interns.

by Steen Miles

Lithonia police officers said Chief Roosevelt Smith created a hostile work environment. File photo/
Carla Parker

Lithonia police chief accused of
creating ‘hostile work environment’
by Carla Parker


n the 15 months Roosevelt Smith has
been chief of police of Lithonia, he has
created a hostile work environment
and engaged in corrupt and unethical
practices, according to former and current
Lithonia police officers.
The Champion was the first to report
that Smith and Lithonia Police Captain
Lloyd Owens are being investigated by city
officials for an alleged assault on 17-yearold Isiah Harvey, who was in custody for
burglary on Feb. 5. The Champion received
police reports and statements about the
incident from an anonymous source.
That source also provided a sevenpage document that outlines and
describes multiple incidents involving
Smith and Owens. The document is
titled “The Problems with the Lithonia
Police Department: A Collection of Issues
Complied by Lithonia Police Officers, both
Past and Present.”
In the document, officers state that they
have filed several complaints with no “real
action, reaction or resolution.”
“In the past, we, as a group and
individually, have made our concerns
known to the Lithonia City [Administrator]
Eddie Moody and city council, only to
have our complaints revealed directly or
indirectly to [Smith] with no resolution,”
officers also state in the document.
“Contrary to popular belief, many officers
did not leave the police department based
on finding better opportunities. Many
officers left because it was the apparent
lack of concern from the city [administrator]
and/or city council and the countless times
their complaints were not satisfactorily

addressed, if addressed at all.”
Moody said he would investigate all of
the complaints.
“I’m going to look at this whole thing in
totality,” he said. “I’m taking the most recent
thing [the Feb. 5 incident] first and then I’m
going to work backwards. It will be a part of
a whole big scope of work.”
Moody also pointed out that no
individual officers’ names were signed on
the document. The document is signed
“A collection of past and present Lithonia
“I can imagine, probably, why no names
where attached because there are probably
very few people who would come [forth],”
Moody said.
Smith would not comment on the
complaints due the current investigation.

Complaints against Smith
In the document, officers stated
that Smith “has engaged in corrupt and
unethical practices, mismanagement,
violation of oath, favoritism and nepotism,
and has exhibited hostility, bigotry and
bullying and has made verbal threats
towards his subordinates, created a hostile
work environment and committed crimes
against the general public.”
In one incident, during the IGLOO—
Di Original Cooler Party (a Jamaican
festival) at Lithonia Amphitheatre in May
2015, former officer Foster Hill witnessed
Smith and another officer Sgt. Angela
Hatchett collecting money from partygoers
for parking on properties outside the
Amphitheatre, according to the report.

See Lithonia Police on Page 11A

Youth took center stage
at the Georgia Legislative
Black Caucus Heritage
Dinner held Feb. 25 at the
Georgia World Congress
While the dinner saluted
luminaries in the world of
sports and entertainment, it
was the young people who
stood out during the program,
including a parade of several
dozen legislative interns
from around the state. Each
intern was introduced and
stood in the spotlight taking
their bows while their name
was called. Even the color
guard was made up of young
people, the Navy Junior
ROTC from Martin Luther
King High School in Lithonia
where caucus chairwoman
Dee Dawkins-Haigler once
served as PTA president.
Members of the Georgia
Legislative Black Caucus
introduced the honorees—
stars of track, field, football,
baseball, basketball and
Sen. Donzella James
of Atlanta introduced soccer
great Phoday Dolleh.
Currently general manager
of the Atlanta Silverbacks,
Dolleh said his award was
one of the most important he
has ever received.
“To be honored among
these legends in this country
is something I will always
cherish,” said Dolleh, a native
of Liberia, who, with his
wife Kim and four children,
resides in Alpharetta.
Dolleh said after he
retired from soccer, he
wanted to make a difference
in the lives of young people.
“I mentor young people and
I teach them if they want to
compete they have to strive
be the very best.”
Others honored included
baseball’s Brian Jordan and

Marty Perez of the Atlanta
Braves who were introduced
by Sen. Gloria Butler. Sen.
Ed Harbison of Columbus
introduced former Atlanta
Hawks basketball player
Mike Glenn and Debbie
Miller-Palmore, a former
Olympian and standout
WNBA player. Rep. Dewey
McClain, co-chairman of the
event, saluted football giants
Stevie Braggs, Solomon
Brannon, Ezra Johnson,
and Gerald Riggs. Rep.
Pam Dickerson brought
track-and-field star Ralph
Boston to the stage while
Sens. Emanuel Jones and
Gail Davenport presented
awards to entertainers
Terrance “TC” Carson, Carl
Payne, Terri Vaughn and
Tommy Ford. Ford shared
his time on stage with a
dozen or more of his young
While every effort
was made to engage the
youth, the dinner officially
commemorated the 20th
anniversary of the 1996
Summer Olympic Games
held in Atlanta and Black
History month. Special
guests included the general
counsel of Liberia and
state Sen. Tanya Cook of
Nebraska, and Michael
Thurmond, candidate for
DeKalb County CEO and
former chairman of the
Georgia Legislative Black
Radio and television
personalities Ryan Cameron
and Rashida Ali were the
master and mistress of
ceremonies for the event. To
much laughter and applause,
Ali seized the opportunity to
make the audience aware
or remind them that her
father, Buck Godfrey, held
the distinction of being the
winningest football coach in
Georgia History at Southwest
DeKalb High School.


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 11A

LITHONIA POLICE Continued From Page 11A
According to the
complaint, when Hill advised
Hatchett that she could not
collect money for parking,
she told Hill that she was
following Smith’s instructions
and she gave the collected
money to Smith.
“The pair thereafter
ceased collecting money,”
the complaint read.
“Subsequently, Sgt. Hatchett
asked Chief Smith what he
was going to do with the
money already collected.
Chief Smith advised Sgt.
Hatchett that he was going
to put the money in a slush
fund. Per this discussion, the
slush fund would be applied
to purchasing new Tasers.”
The Champion was at
the May 4, 2015, Lithonia
City Council meeting during
whicj residents complained
about the noise level and
other things they saw from
partygoers. One resident
said she saw police officers
charging partygoers to park
in some areas, but Smith
denied the claim at the time.
“There were residents
charging people $15 to $20
to park at [an apartment
complex] and at [a nearby
church],” Smith said at the
time. “When we saw that we
made them give the people
their money back.”
According to the
document, Hill asked Moody
and other supervisors about
the slush fund—none of
whom confirmed the fund’s
“Moody advised that
he would investigate the
matter, but nothing, to our
knowledge, was ever done
about the incident,” the
document stated.
One month later, in June
2015, Hill was accused
by a complainant (later
identified as Smith) of
smoking marijuana with a
defendant at Hill’s home,
according to the document.
Hill was ordered by Owens
to take a polygraph test
at Georgia Department of
Public Safety headquarters
on Constitution Avenue in
Atlanta. When the polygraph
examiner asked Hill if he
knew why he had to take the
test, Hill gave the examiner
the paperwork provided to
him from Owens.
“However, once
the examiner saw the
paperwork, the examiner
noticed that the paperwork
did not match the file
previously forwarded to
Georgia State Patrol,”
the document read. “No

paperwork presented to
the Georgia State Patrol
identified a complainant.”
The document claims
Owens told Hill that the
police chief was the
complainant and filed the
complaint based on an
anonymous tip. When Hill
asked if Smith had filed a
written statement about the
alleged marijuana incident,
Smith allegedly told Hill that
he did not have to write an
official statement because
he was the chief, according
to the document.

Was a background
check done?
Hill said officers have
questioned whether proper
background checks were
done on Smith and Owens.
The Champion also received
copies of Smith’s and
Owens’ backgrounds in
law enforcement from the
anonymous source.
The documents were
obtained from the Georgia
Peace Officer Standards
and Training (P.O.S.T.)

Hill believes Smith should
have never been hired to the
Lithonia department.
“If you look at his P.O.S.T.
record he has been with
[12] departments,” Hill said.
“How he has enabled his
way in and out is beyond me.
Common sense will tell you
that if you see a record like
that, you wouldn’t hire him.
Something is wrong.”
Hill said he and other
officers have told city leaders
that Smith shows favoritism
to Owens. According

‘He decimated my character, and it had no merit
because if it had merit I would be in jail.’
– former officer Foster Hill
“In that same exchange,
Chief Smith admitted to
having ‘a bone to pick’ with
Hill because he complained
of harassment to Moody,”
the document read.
Hill, who spent four
years on the Lithonia Police
Department, would later
resign from the force after
Smith had someone—
who refused to provide
identification—try to conduct
a polygraph test on Hill,
according to the document.
Hill told The Champion
that Smith told a “blatant” lie
on him.
“He decimated my
character, and it had no
merit because if it had merit
I would be in jail,” Hill said.
“This has been ongoing.”
Hill, who has more
than 20 years in law
enforcement, said Smith’s
actions have no place in a
police department.
“When you’re in charge,
you can’t do people like that
especially with policemen,”
Hill said. “That’s what causes
animosity in the department.
“If you see how small
the department is and see
20 officers just quit like that
you would have some type
of suspicion,” Hill added.
“I have documents where
he has stolen, sneaking
weapons out of the property
room, and [the city] did
nothing, zero. I don’t know if
it’s politics because they’re
trying to get annexation,
but I believe that’s what it
is. The reason they’re not
doing anything to cause
bad publicity is because of

Council. According to the
report, Smith has been
employed with 12 different
law enforcement agencies in
Georgia since 1988.
Smith was investigated
twice by the P.O.S.T.
council, once in 1994 and
again in 2001, according
to the report. According to
the 1994 case summary,
Smith, then an officer with
the McDonough Police
Department, damaged a
law enforcement vehicle
while responding to what he
assumed was a call for help
from another officer.
According to the case
summary, Smith did not
file an immediate report as
required and was charged
with failure to operate a law
enforcement vehicle “in such
a manner as to avoid injury
to persons or damage to
“Upon review, said
officer was terminated as a
result of the aforementioned
violation, which occurred
during his/her probationary
period of employment,” the
summary stated.
The P.O.S.T. council did
not take further disciplinary
action in that investigation,
as well in the 2001
investigation, which stated
Smith was investigated for
obtaining a “criminal history
improperly and possibly
illegally,” according to the
case summery.
Smith was also
terminated from his job
with the Henry County
Sheriff’s Office in 1990. The
document did not explain
the reason for Smith’s

to Owens’ and Smith’s
background information, the
two have worked together
since 2010 beginning with
Morris Brown College
Campus Police Department.
Smith was hired by
Morris Brown in February
2010 and Owens was hired a
month after.
Smith also began
working with the Lovejoy
Police Department in 2011
as a reserve officer while
employed as deputy chief
with Morris Brown.
When the Morris Brown
department was deactivated,
Owens was hired as a
peace officer with Lovejoy
in January 2013. He was
also hired by then Lithonia
police chief Moody as an

investigator and reserve
officer in February 2013.
He became a full-time
investigator for Lithonia in
September 2013.
Smith, who was also
hired by Moody as a reserve
officer in February 2013,
was promoted three months
later to captain, according to
his record. Smith was then
promoted to chief—based on
Moody’s recommendation—
when Moody was promoted
to city administrator in
November 2014.
In January 2015, Owens
was promoted to sergeant by
Smith, and then promoted to
captain in January 2016.
Hill said there were other
officers who have done
more work than Owens
has and have been with
the department longer than
Owens, yet Owens received
the promotions.
“Owens has done
absolutely nothing,” Hill said.
“[Smith] gives this guy all the
perks and he conspires with
him, and takes the extra jobs
from other officers and gives
it to this guy. The guy lives
with him. Everywhere Chief
Smith has been Owens has
Moody said the questions
surrounding Smith’s and
Owens’ background will be
“First of all, Lithonia
doesn’t pay a big salary,”
said Moody. “So when we
talk about background
checks—people have to be
careful how they throw out
rocks and hide their hands
because everybody has a


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 12A

Representatives from Renfroe Middle School’s student government volunteered at Atlanta Community Food Bank on Feb. 24. Photo provided

Renfroe students prepare for food drive
by R. Scott Belzer


or half a day on
Feb. 24, more than
20 students from
Renfroe Middle
School received a crash
course on hunger.
In preparation for
the school’s annual
food drive on March
1, 24 representatives
from Renfroe’s student
government volunteered at
Atlanta Community Food
Bank (ACFB), located on
Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. in
western Atlanta.
They joined more than
1,700 monthly volunteers
and 150 staff members at
the Atlanta facility, which
serves food pantries,
community kitchens,
childcare centers, night
shelters and senior centers
in northwestern Georgia.
Students worked in the
food bank’s warehouse,
learned how donated food
gets processed and sorted
before creating boxed meal
packages are created. In
addition, the students were
given a tour of ACFB and
taught how grocery stores
donate fresh food to the
downtown facility.
Attending students
sorted 9,058 pounds of

food while working in the
warehouse, enough for
6,050 meals.
Upon their return
to Renfroe Middle, the
students spent the rest
of their day writing public
service announcements
and commercials. Both will
be used to further students’
homerooms’ efforts in the
March food drive, which
becomes a schoolwide
Robyn Tibbetts,
Renfroe Middle student
advisor and seventh grade
humanities teacher, said
the purpose of the trip
was for students to take
ownership of the upcoming
“We wanted a small
group experience to show
them it’s more than a
competition,” Tibbetts said.
“They’re not only more
interested in the food drive
in March, they’re caring
more about publicizing and
advertising the event. A lot
of [students] said they were
going back [to ACFB] with
their families.”
According to Tibbetts,
the experience instilled
participating students with
a sense of community
“I hope students
carry forward an active,

participating role in the
community,” Tibbetts said.
“[The visit] shows them they
can put their critical thinking
skills to good use to solve
problems. You start locally
and move on globally.”
This is the second year
Renfroe Middle has visited
the food bank and the
seventh year of its annual
food drive. Students were

inspired to hold a March
food drive by ACFB’s
“Hunger 101,” a workshop
and curriculum raising
awareness about hunger
on local, state and national
“Students are much
more interested in a
March food drive because
people always want to feed
other people just during

the holidays, but people
are hungry all the time,”
Tibbetts said.
For more information
on Renfroe Middle School’s
March food drive event,
contact the school at
(404) 370-4440. For more
information on Atlanta
Community Food Bank,
visit or call
(404) 892-9822.


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 13A


Renfroe Middle School’s student government volunteered at Atlanta Community Food Bank on Feb. 24. The 24 students used the volunteer work and tour of the facility as
preparation for an upcoming three-week food drive in March. Photos provided

Several organizations set up informational tables during an event to jumpstart DeKalb Kelly Cato, an aide for Commissioner Stan Watson, passes our popcorn during the
County’s film and entertainment commission on Feb. 17. Photos by Andrew Cauthen

DeKalb County Commissioners Nancy Jester and Stan Watson talks to the crowd at
the film commission event.


Shelbia Jackson, the county’s Camera Ready liaison, and DeKalb County Police
Chief James Conroy attended the event.

DCTV Channel 23

Get your front row seat to all things DeKalb County
through your EMMY Award-winning station

DeKalb County Gov

E-mail us at


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 14A

Dunwoody Rotary Club hosts ‘State of the City’
by R. Scott Belzer


unwoody officials, business
representatives and
community advocates
came together Feb. 25 to
hear the seventh annual State of
the City address from Mayor Denis
The three-hour event, hosted
by Dunwoody Rotary Club at the
Crowne Plaza Ravinia on Ashford
Dunwoody Road, saw attendees
converse with local leaders over
a catered meal and scheduled
program. Shortal capped off the
event with a speech addressing the
state of residents, finances, core
values, police, efficiency, schools,
infrastructure, traffic mitigation,
parks and economic development.
While most of the subjects
discussed by Shortal were not
controversial, the mayor proposed
Dunwoody, as a city, take over
governing its schools.
“We need to take control of our
schools,” Shortal said. “We must
continue to improve our schools to
enhance the public education of our
students. To me, the best way to do
that is to take control of our local
Currently, seven schools are
in Dunwoody’s city limits as part of
the DeKalb County School District.
These include Austin, Chesnut
Charter, Kingsley, Vanderlyn and
Dunwoody elementary schools
in addition to Peachtree Charter
Middle School and Dunwoody High
The mayor said state
representatives such as Rep.
Tom Taylor were trying to pass
legislation similar to House
Resolution 4, which would make
it easier for cities to form an
independent school district. The
bill would amend the Georgia
constitution to “authorize any
municipality in the State of Georgia
to establish by local law an
independent school system.”
Shortal admitted the bill has
been stuck in committee since last
year and would in all likelihood not
become law in 2016.
“Listening to you, as citizens,
you want to take control of our
school,” Shortal said. “Stand by for
2017, we’re going to reload and hit
them full force.”
In addition, Shortal did not
shortchange the issue of growth,
specifically in the realms of traffic
and infrastructure. The main
topic Shortal discussed was the
upcoming I-285 and GA-400
interchange, a possibility through
the city’s partnership with the
Perimeter Community Improvement
Ground will be broken on the
project in late 2016 or early 2017,
according to Shortal.

Mayor Denis Shortal spoke at the
Dunwoody State of the City, outlining
future plans for schools, infrastructure
and finances.

From left, Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal, Dunwoody Rotary Club president Lorri
Christopher and Dunwoody city manager Eric Linton.

Attendees examine the upcoming I-285 and GA-400 interchange which has a planned ground breaking in Dunwoody by late 2016
or early 2017. Photos by R. Scott Belzer

“It’s a 48- to 51-month project,”
Shortal said. “Yes, there will be
some inconveniences while it’s
going on, but in the long term,
the inconveniences will be far
outweighed by the benefits.”
The mayor said 37 percent
of Dunwoody’s roads have been
paved in seven years’ time due
to no change in the city’s paving
budget after taking into account
inflation. He promised to “expedite
the paving rate” by proposing an
increase in the budget of $250,000.
Shortal did not shy away from
stating Dunwoody would remain
fiscally prudent under his control.
The mayor shared his experiences
in Chicago during the ‘70s and
‘80s as a source for keeping a tight
“We have to make sure we

remain fiscally prudent,” Shortal
said. “[Chicago] was a city that
worked and they had a AAA bond
rating. In May of last year, their
bond rating was junk. The largest
city in the United States has junk
bonds. That’s what will happen if
we don’t watch our finances.”
Shortal said economic
development has changed in
Dunwoody over the past five years
from bringing in new businesses
to maintaining them. Occupancy
in Dunwoody has increased in
that time period from less than 60
percent to 87 percent, according to
Shortal also announced plans
to start a Dunwoody Citizen’s Patrol
force later this year. In addition
to conducting security checks,
directing traffic and assisting police

officers, Shortal said their future
presence will provide a “natural
crime deterrent.”
Dunwoody Rotary Club
president Lorri Christopher took
time during the event to explain
what the club offers to residents
and the city. This included
charitable 5k runs, organizing the
DeKalb Special Olympics, aiding
the homeless as well as hosting
seminars on bullying.
Time was also taken by
Dunwoody city manager Eric
Linton to present municipal court
clerk Norlaundra Huntington with
the Employee of Distinction award
for 2015. Additionally, Dunwoody’s
Sustainability Committee
chairman Kevin Sok presented
Tina Wilkinson with the 2015
Sustainable Hero Award.


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 15A

Andrea Strommen puts gloves on to prepare instruction for Georgia Piedmont
Technical College students Joshua McLain and Jared Prince.

Andrea Strommen shows how to install a braking system on an Chevrolet El
Camino SS. Photos by R. Scott Belzer

Awarded DeKalb instructor defies expectations
by R. Scott Belzer
To say Georgia Piedmont
Technical College (GPTC)
automotive instructor Andrea
Strommen is just a teacher would
be inaccurate.
The Wisconsin native, who
has been teaching at GPTC for
five years, is not only an educator,
but a mechanic, saxophone
player, mother and, ultimately, an
inspiration to her students.
“You have to work in a field
that’s also your hobby,” Strommen
said. “My two hobbies are music
and cars. I used music to help
me get a career as an automotive
Strommen’s efforts have earned
her the 2016 Rick Perkins Award
from GPTC, which also names
her the Clarkston-based college’s
Instructor of the Year.
“I’m honored,” Strommen said.
“GPTC is a great place to work; I
love our sense of community and
Since graduating from
Sprayberry High School, Strommen
has pursued a career in the
automotive industry. She studied
the subject at Chattahoochee
Technical College as well as at
Georgia State University before
becoming a high school automotive
teacher in Paulding County.
In 2011, she brought her talents
to GPTC.
“It’s one of those jobs you never
not want to go to,” Strommen said.
“It’s a job where you wake up and
want to go to it. I like [that] I can
make my automotive passion my
job. I get to eat, sleep and breathe
cars all day long.”
Strommen’s affection for cars
is nothing new. Before deciding to
teach, she did her time in car bays:

Georgia Piedmont Technical College’s
2016 Rick Perkins Award recipient,
Andrea Strommen

she performed oil changes, fixed
lube systems, changed tires and
reinstalled batteries. Strommen
earned an apprenticeship with
Carmax, but found she had
plateaued after two years.
At this time, she had earned
her teaching certification and was
teaching high school in Paulding
County. Still, she worked part time
in the field and was forced to take it
on fulltime after being laid off.
While Strommen loved what she
was doing, she’s quick to say it had
its fair share of downsides. The
instructor insists the automotive
field is more difficult for women
because it’s considered a “nontraditional role.”
“I had to show perseverance
24/7,” Strommen said. “I had to be
rock solid on the outside and not
let anything bother me. It can be
brutal, even for an entry level male
technician. The odds are against you;
everyone’s going to challenge you,
try to break you and get you to quit.”

The instructor said she has a
passion for music. After work, she
would often play saxophone in a
backing band or featured band,
citing it as a great source of balance
to an otherwise hectic work life.
Night shows playing in productions
of Grease or The Buddy Holly Story
helped Strommen keep her sanity,
she said.
Strommen eventually found a
master technician role at a local
Pep Boys where she met Stephen
Bullock, automotive program
director at GPTC. Bullock is quick to
point out how deserving Strommen
is in deserving of the 2016 Rick
Perkins Award, which notes her
attention to detail and flexibility
among her highest qualities.
“We definitely have a much
better representation for nontraditional students in the
automotive department [because of
Strommen]. You’re seeing someone
find success as a non-traditional
student when all expectations are
that she will not,” Bullock said.
“Even when male students talk
to Strommen, they’re like ‘Wow,
you were in a Toyota dealership,’
or ‘Wow, you were in a Ford
dealership,’ and it definitely helps
inspire them.”
After working under Bullock
at Pep Boys for a brief amount of
time, he suggested she consider a
position at GPTC. The following fall,
she was enrolled as an instructor.
“I really liked working in the
field as a tech, but I found myself
leaning toward that training side,”
Strommen said. “I wanted to help
new technicians coming in and talk
through things.”
Strommen said she and other
instructors in the automotive
department teach students real
world survival in the industry. Under
her instruction, students not only

learn a trade but the business and
sales aspect of automobiles.
“We tell students how to
succeed and make money in the
field,” Strommen said. “We teach
them why, not just theories. We
connect that back to the field and
tell [students] how it can make them
Changing things on an
individual basis, meeting students’
needs and accommodating all of
her students regardless of physical
ability or age are just a few of the
things Strommen cites as earning
her the Rick Perkins Award.
“I’m always open to meeting
students’ needs,” Strommen said.
“I’m not here to teach me. I’m here
to teach them. I try to make sure I’m
constantly getting feedback.”
When she’s not in the garage
at GPTC, Strommen can be found
pursuing her bachelor’s degree
in educational leadership at
Kennesaw State University, where
she also plans on pursuing her
master’s degree.
“It’s something my family
believes: every day you’re working
to better yourself,” Strommen said.
Strommen said her colleagues
at GPTC often bring her their
daughters to get advice on jumping
into the automotive field. The
instructor is glad to pass on her
wisdom, especially when it pertains
to persevering in a male-dominated
“You have to be thick-skinned
and you can’t walk in with a chip on
your shoulder,” Strommen said. “I
walked in completely open-minded
and I got the job; I earned it and
I’m here. People are going to try
to push you out of the position
and that’s OK. ‘Perseverance’ is
something I had to print out, put
on my cart and look at on a daily


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 16A

Longtime MARTA board member dies
Harold S. Buckley Sr.
whose 30-year tenure on the
MARTA Board of Directors is
the longest in the authority’s
history, died Feb. 23 from a
Buckley, 72, represented
DeKalb County on the board
since 1985.
“Harold Buckley was a
wonderful man and was an
unwavering advocate for
MARTA,” said board Chairman
Robert L. Ashe III. “The
courage of his convictions, and
dedication to a decades-long
dream to expand transit along
the I-20 corridor, are lessons
we all benefitted from, and were
inspired by.”
Buckley served in a
leadership capacity–either as
chairman or vice chairman–for
the board’s audit committee
since 2010; he last presided
over a meeting on Feb. 18.
He also served as board
treasurer and on the operations
& safety committee, formerly
known as the safety & security
committee. Additionally, he was
the board representative for

Harold Buckley

MARTA’s pension committee.
A native of Biloxi, Miss.,
and a graduate of Tuskegee
Institute (later named Tuskegee
University), Buckley moved
to the Atlanta area following
a stint in the U.S. Army. Later
relocating to Decatur, Buckley
earned his real estate license
and founded a practice serving
residential and commercial
In addition to his service to
MARTA, Buckley has served

on the board of directors
for DeKalb Chamber of
Commerce, DeKalb Private
Industry Council, Georgia
Association of Realtors, Wesley
Chapel YMCA and American
Heart Association. He was
the chairman of the DeKalb
Private Industry Council. He
also served as a member of the
committee that developed the
Vision 2000 Plan for DeKalb
County, a member of the
General Advisory Council for
DeKalb Technical College and a
charter member of Leadership
Buckley is survived by
his wife Sally and two adult
children, Harold Buckley Jr.
and Sarita Anderson, and two
“Mr. Buckley was a tireless
advocate for his community
and he had a deep and abiding
commitment to public service,”
said MARTA GM/CEO Keith
T. Parker. “We will cherish
his profound contributions to
MARTA and appreciate his
lasting legacy of civic duty that
is an example for us to follow.”

Doraville Police Department receives
grant for drug collection unit
Doraville has been awarded a grant from
CVS Pharmacy to install a Drug Collection Unit
(DCU) drop box.
Located in in the lobby of the Doraville Police
Department at 3750 Park Avenue, the DCU
drop box “will provide residents with a safe and
environmentally responsible way to dispose
of unwanted, unused or expired medication,
including controlled substances,” a news release
about the program stated.
“The DCU is intended to help reduce the
amount of unneeded medicine in residents’
homes and decrease prescription drug abuse,
which has soared in recent years, especially
among teenagers,” the news release stated.
“More than 70 percent of teenagers say it
is easy to get prescription drugs from their
parents’ medicine cabinets, according to a 2014
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids study.”
Placing old or unneeded medicine in the
DCU drop box will also help Doraville prevent
contamination of local landfills and water supplies
from unused medication, the news release
The new DCU represents one of 1,000 units
CVS Pharmacy and The Medicine Abuse Project,
a five-year initiative of The Partnership for DrugFree Kids, are providing across the country.
Doraville’s collection site is open to the
public daily and drugs can be dropped off with
no questions asked. Doraville residents and
CVS Pharmacy customers can also inquire
about the Medication Disposal for Safer
Communities Program at the toll free phone
number 1 (866) 559-8830 or visit

Items accepted include prescriptions,
prescription patches, over-the-counter
medications, ointments (prescription only),
vitamins, samples and medications for pets.
Items not accepted include needles and/or
sharps, inhalers, aerosol cans or any combustible
items, thermometers, non-prescribed ointments,
lotions, liquids and hydrogen peroxide.

Keep DeKalb Beautiful
recognized at national
awards ceremony
Keep DeKalb Beautiful (KDB), the
community outreach unit of the DeKalb
County Sanitation Division was recently
recognized with the 2016 Keep America
Beautiful Affiliate of Excellence Award.
KDB was honored for distinguishing
itself as an exemplary affiliate organization
in the “250,000 and above” population
category, and for its outstanding litter index
and single-stream recycling programs,
various beautification initiatives, and
other community improvement programs,
according to a news release.
“KDB has done a remarkable job
engaging innovative ideas and proven
strategies to help combat littering, improve
recycling participation and beautify our
communities,” said Billy Malone, the
county sanitation division’s associate
director. “As we continue to advance our
environmental stewardship efforts, we
look forward to continued collaborations
with community organizations and groups
sharing this common purpose.”

County’s public works
committee to host
DeKalb County Commissioners
Stan Watson, Sharon Barnes Sutton
and Nancy Jester, members of the
commissioners’ public work committee
members, will host a meeting on Thursday,
March 3, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the
Maloof Auditorium at 1300 Commerce
Drive, Decatur.
The meeting will give residents an
opportunity interact with department
representatives on topics such as water
billing, water leaks, potholes, sanitation,
recycling and claims. Updates to revised
services and future initiatives also will be
This meeting is free and the public
is encouraged to attend. Advance
reservations are not required.
For more information, contact Portia
Reeves at (404) 371-3681 or pareeves@


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 17A

The Marco’s menu includes subs, salads, chicken wings and other items in addition to pizza.

Yatin Patel says product quality is one of the reasons he chose to
associate with the Marco’s brand. Photos by Kathy Mitchell

Pizza with ‘authentic Italian roots’ comes to Stone Mountain
by Kathy Mitchell


ith training in textile
engineering and
experience training
operators of convenience stores,
Yatin Patel said he’s now doing
what he always dreamed of—
owning his own businesses.
Patel held the grand opening of
a Marco’s Pizza in Stone Mountain
near Highway 78 and Rockbridge
Road on Feb. 21, his second store
in the Marco’s chain. He said the
business brings 30 new jobs to the
Patel said that before becoming
an owner of one of its stores, he
was a fan of Marco’s Pizza. “I
was a customer first. You can’t
successfully sell a product unless
you truly believe in it,” he added.
“I was attracted to the Marco’s
brand because unlike some pizza
brands it has true Italian roots.
It was founded by a man born in
Italy, who wanted to offer a product
that is authentic and high quality.
We use fresh ingredients and take
pride in every pizza we make,
crafting it in the tradition of classic
Italian cooks.”
He said the never-frozen
cheese is the company’s own
blend of three varieties and the

dough is made each day in the
store. The sauce is from a secret
recipe developed by the founder
with his father to what the company
calls a “high integrity authentic
Italian” standard.
“I believe customers who
compare us with typical chain
pizzas will immediately taste the
difference,” he said, noting that
there is a great deal of competition
within the $40 billion pizza industry.
In addition to pizza, the menu
at Marco’s includes salads,
submarine sandwiches, chicken
wings, desserts and other
Marco’s was founded in 1978
by Pasquale “Pat” Giammarco
and is headquartered in Toledo,
Ohio. According to information
released by the company, it is the
only national pizza chain founded
by a native Italian.
Calling it “the fastest growing
pizza company in the United
States,” Mario’s officials say the
company averages at least one
store opening every other day.
Marco’s Pizza now has more than
600 stores in 35 states and the
Bahamas and if openings continue
at the current rate the 700th store
will open by the end of the year.
“Another thing that really

impressed me was the corporate
management,” Patel said. “The
top executives at Marco’s are also
store owners. They care about
keeping every Marco’s to the
highest standards. That convinced
me it was the company I want to be
associated with.”
Patel said his nine years as
an account executive for an oil
company and then as a franchise
business consultant prepared
him to run his own business.
In his work with gas station
convenience stores he was
responsible for all aspects of daily
operations, including analyzing
financials, human resources, loss
prevention, promotions, training,
merchandising and safety. Patel
coached and trained franchisees,
franchise managers and
operational designees to improve
efficiency in 17 retail locations with
quick service restaurants.
While working in the business
world, Patel said, he developed a
four-point business success plan:
• Don’t waste your time –
“Know exactly what you want to do.
Don’t waste your time by dabbling
in other areas.”
• Determine staying power
– “As a customer of Marco’s Pizza
before knowing I wanted to buy


a location, I knew the pizza had
staying power.”
• Develop certainty – “Don’t
expand until all systems are
second nature and your first store
is successful and sustainable,” he
said explaining why he operated
the Lilburn store for three years,
making sure it was a success
before opening the Stone Mountain
• Deepen Your Love –“Love
the community you serve and
immerse yourself in it. I have
developed a loyal customer
base, in part, by participating in
community events.”
Although Patel opened his
first store in Lilburn, he said Stone
Mountain had always been part of
his plan. “I [have] lived in Stone
Mountain most of the time I’ve
been in the United States,” he said.
“I love this area and I’m proud to
open a store here.”
Born in east Africa and
educated in India, Patel said he
loves Stone Mountain’s diverse,
international atmosphere. “There
are people from everywhere living
in Stone Mountain and people here
don’t judge you by where you come
from. They respect you for what
you do and what you bring to the

DeKalb Chamber of Commerce • Two Decatur Town Center, 125 Clairemont Ave., Suite, Decatur, GA 30030 • 404.378.8000 •


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 18A

Wadsworth supporters request expansion

by R. Scott Belzer
About 100 concerned
parents, teachers and students
from Wadsworth Magnet School
caught the ear of DeKalb County
superintendent Stephen Green on
the evening of Feb. 24.
Through a slideshow
presentation, several passionate
pleas and an address from a former
student, the group’s request was
clear: extend the school’s included
grade levels to seventh and eighth
The meeting, headed and
initiated by parents Omotayo
Alli and Armand Gabriele,
lasted for about an hour in the
school’s auditorium. Much of the
presentation was aimed directly at
Green and most of the speakers
spoke directly to him.
“Dr. Green, we’re here to have
a conversation,” Alli said. “When we
called you, you answered. I thank
you for trying to fix what you did
not break. We don’t have the same
education options in south DeKalb.
We don’t have equal assets in
south DeKalb.”
Alli called Wadsworth the
best option for middle school in
south DeKalb but characterized
it as limited. Gabriele and Alli
called Wadsworth’s curriculum an
opportunity to highlight and elevate
south DeKalb.
“We’re talking about the future
of our children,” Gabriele said.
“Wadsworth has proven over and
over again that they have our
children’s best interest at heart.
They’ve done an exceptional job
at preparing our children to be
forerunners in the future.”
According to its website,
Wadsworth Magnet School
currently offers fourth-, fifth- and
sixth-grade DeKalb students “an
enriched version of the DeKalb
County elementary and middle
school curriculum.”
“Our education program for
the high achievers is designed to
enable students to be creative,
lifelong learners who excel to
their individual potential,” reads
a statement from the school’s
webpage. “Our school environment
offers academic experiences in
which students are taught to take
responsibility and ownership for
their individual learning.”
Alli and Gabriele’s proposal
would extend this program
to seventh- and eighth-grade
Currently, students are elected
to attend Wadsworth through
a lottery system conducted by
the DeKalb County Board of
Education’s Magnet Office after
completing an application. Students
considered eligible to attend are
higher than the 75th percentile in

Wadsworth parent Armand Gabriele publicly addressed DeKalb County school
superintendent Stephen Green on Feb. 23, proposing expansion. Photos by R. Scott

Ahmaud Gabriele, a
former Wadsmworth
student, spoke about his
experiences at the south
DeKalb magnet school.

Omotayo Alli is one of the
parents proposing the
expansion of Wadsworth
Magnet School.

Stephen Green concluded
the public meeting by
vowing to take the next
step in a “long process.”

they’re doing?”
Gabriele’s son, Ahmaud
Gabriele, a sophomore at
Chamblee High School, also
offered perspective as a former
Wadsworth student.
“Teachers [at Wadsworth]
expect nothing but your best,”
Ahmaud Gabriele said. “Students
here are getting one of the best
deals around in all aspects of life. If
students were still given the same
areas of growth throughout seventh
and eighth grade, no matter where
they go for high school, they will
have a full foundation.”
Green gave a statement
after parents had their say. While
he commended Wadsworth’s
accomplishments and said he has a
“personal interest” in south DeKalb,
Green said there is a lot of work to
be done on a long process.
“I can’t speak in front of the
board right now, I can’t make
promises I can’t produce,” Green
said. “I don’t commit to something
I can’t deliver on. What I can do,
after listening to the presentation
tonight, is consider and explore with
you the struggle in finding out what
it would take to expand. I’m willing
to have that conversation and take
the logical next step.”
Green said it will take
future collaboration to spread
Wadsworth’s success with other
DeKalb County schools. This will
require a well thought out proposal
as well as engagement with
appropriate subcommittees, he
Green concluded by bringing
up south DeKalb’s plight in a larger
“We need to roll up our sleeves
and go to work,” Green said. “I’ve
seen it before where excellence
stays contained. Then you get
into areas of exclusivity and
discrimination. The journey is not
just about here; the struggle is
bigger than here. It’s bigger than
Wadsworth and south DeKalb.
There’s a political dynamic going on
here that needs to be addressed to
create opportunity for all children.”

reading and math portion of the
the school instills in its students
Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS)
leadership, character, responsibility,
and higher than the 85th percentile
accountability and community
overall. In addition, students must
have higher than a 3.0 grade point
“Why not continue this success?
average (GPA) the semester they
Why curtail it after just three
years?” Gabriele asked. “Why not
Kittredge Magnet School in
continue this excellence until they
Brookhaven is the only other school are ready for high school? We’re
in DeKalb with similar expectations
shortchanging our students. Why
and entry system.
put brakes on their learning when
While rigorous, the school’s
we can extend and continue what
admission system
seems to be working
well. Gabriele cited
statistics indicating
100 percent of
Not a
Wadsworth students
Binge Drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the U.S.
passed the Georgia
is more common in men than it is in women. In the US, 50% of
Milestone, 76
problem! men anddrinking
39% of women binge drink.
percent are gifted
Binge drinking is defined as 5 or more drinks in a single setting for males and 4
and 77 percent are
or more drinks in a single setting for females.
in the Junior Beta
Binge drinking costs the US $249 billion dollars a year due to lost workplace productivity, healthcare expenses, and crime.
Club. The school
Binge drinking is responsible for 88,000 deaths annually, including 1 in 10 deaths among working
was also awarded
age adults.
the distinction of
About 1 in 4 high school students report they binge drink.
a Blue Ribbon
Be safe DeKalb!
School after five
consecutive years of
consistent academic
Gabriele stated

Did you know?

For more information
Call (770) 285-6037 or


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 19A

Dunwoody Elementary students raise hands to show Olympic gold medal winner Angelo Taylor they
also want to be champions. Photos by R. Scott Belzer

Four-time Olympic gold medal winner Angelo Taylor explains what
it takes to be a champion to Dunwoody Elementary students.

Olympian challenges Dunwoody students to be champions
by R. Scott Belzer


ew understand the
recipe for success
as well as Olympic
gold medal winners.
determination, discipline
and hard work are terms
world-class athletes come
to define through their
For more than an hour
on Feb. 24, one Olympic
gold medal winner shared
his track record for success,
literally and figuratively,
with DeKalb elementary
Dunwoody Elementary
School hosted track star
Angelo Taylor, a fourtime gold medal winner
and DeKalb County native,
as part of the school’s
celebration of Black History
Month. Taylor, who has
represented the United
States’ track-and-field team
since 2000, gave a detailed
account of how to become
a champion to more than
100 third-, fourth- and fifthgraders.
“Today I’m going to tell
you what it takes,” said
Taylor. “Very few athletes
actually play professionally,
but those who do only do so
after years of playing school,
club sports and training.”
Taylor stressed the first
step to success does not
come on a field or track, but
inside the classroom. The
Olympian mentioned math

and science intelligence
before such terms as desire,
dedication, perseverance,
ethics and family support.
“There’s a lot of math
and science involved in
sports. I think that’s why I
was so good at track-andfield: math and science are

too early, too high or at
the wrong velocity, Taylor
would lose ground on his
opponents and may have
missed out on the gold.
“Hurdling is pretty much
a large geometry equation,”
Taylor explained. “To
become a great hurdler, you

and attended Southwest
DeKalb High School.”
Principal Jennifer
Sanders could not contain
her enthusiasm for hosting
“I never, ever dreamed
I would get to meet a true
Olympic medal winner,”

I never, ever dreamed I would get to meet a true
Olympic medal winner.’

– Principal Jennifer Sanders

two of my favorite subjects,”
Taylor said. “When I was in
high school, I was always on
the honor roll. Because of
my academic as well as my
athletic accomplishments,
I was able to obtain a
scholarship to Georgia
Taylor was eventually
selected for the 2000 United
States Olympic Team,
which competed in Sydney,
Australia. There, he won a
gold medal in 400m hurdles
as well as the 4x400m relay.
He claimed two more in the
same events in the 2008
Beijing Games. Video clips
of Taylor competing were
shown to students and met
with raucous applause.
The medal winner
explained how a hurdle jump
is one giant math equation.
For example, if he jumped

have to run with efficiency.
You have to have the right
At the end of the event,
Taylor challenged the
students to be the best they
can. A pledge was taken
by most in attendance,
committing to leading a
healthy lifestyle with a
positive attitude.
“Who wants to be a
champion?” Taylor asked
before seeing hundreds of
hands shoot into the air.
Taylor said he was
glad to share his story of
success with people from
his old stomping grounds.
“I am from Decatur,
Ga.,” Taylor said. “I
attended school in DeKalb
County. I went to Woodward
Elementary and Panola
Way. I went to Stone
Mountain Middle School

Sanders said. “I am in awe
of today. What a special
occasion. I hope [the students] understood what a
special occasion this is.”
The event was accompanied by performances by
Dunwoody Elementary’s

Grade 4 Chorus as well as
the school’s overall chorus,
the Dunwoody Singers. The
two groups sang “Let My
People Go,” and “Follow the
Drinking Gourd,” respectively, to keep the event in
the theme of Black History
Third-grade student
Kennedy Reynolds
explained why the gathering
was held on Feb. 24, stating
the importance of honoring
Black achievers both past
and present.
“The imprint of
Americans of African
descent is deeply imbedded
in the narrative of the
American past,” Reynolds
said. “Today, we recognize
Angelo Taylor, for helping
establish hallowed ground
in becoming a four-time
Olympic medalist. I thank
him for showing student
athletes like me that we, too,
can be champions.”

Monday, March 7, 2016
5:45 p.m.

J. David Williamson Board Room
Administrative & Instructional Complex
1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd.
Stone Mountain, GA 30083

The DeKalb County Board of Education will hold a public budget
input meeting to solicit feedback from the public regarding the
2016-2017 school system’s budget.



The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 20A



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The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 21A

Five teams to play for a state title
by Carla Parker


ive teams from
DeKalb County,
public and private
schools, will play for
a state title March 4-5 at
the at Macon Centreplex in
Greenforest boys’
and girl’s teams, Miller
Grove boys, Southwest
DeKalb girls and Tucker
girls will all play in the
championship game
of their respective
The Greenforest Lady
Eagles will be making
their first appearance in a
state title game in program
history. No. 3-ranked
Greenforest will face
No. 1-ranked St. Francis
on March 5 in the Class
A-Private girls’ title game.
Game time is set for 11
The Lady Eagles
advanced to the title game
after defeating Tattnall
Square 35-28 in the
quarterfinals, and beating
Eagle’s Landing Christian
46-39 in the semifinals.
Greenforest boys will
be playing in their third
title game in four seasons
and hope to bring home
a second state title. The
No. 1-ranked Eagles will
take on No. 4-ranked
St. Francis in the Class
A-Private boys’ title game
on March 5. Game time is
set for 12:45 p.m.
This game will be a
rematch of last year’s
Class A-Private, when
St. Francis defeated
Greenforest. The Eagles
advanced to this year’s
title game with wins over
Tattnall Square (78-48)
in the quarterfinals and
Stratford (78-62) in the
The Class AAAAA title
games will also feature
two DeKalb teams. Miller
Grove will play for the
boys’ title and Southwest
DeKalb will play for the
girls’ title.
The No.1-ranked
Southwest DeKalb Lady
Panthers will take on
Winder-Barrow March 4
at 7 p.m. This will be the
Lady Panthers’ fourth state
title game appearance
in five years. Southwest
DeKalb advanced to the
title game with 65-50 win

over Columbus in the
quarterfinals, and a 55-47
win over Sequoyah in the
The Lady Panthers
started both games slowly
offensively but fought their
way back to win. After the
Columbus game, coach
Kathy Walton said she
was proud that her players
did not quit after the slow
“They maintained the
pressure and they didn’t
give up,” she said. “A lot
of things were against us.
We’ve been off for quite a
while, so we didn’t have
the luxury of playing a
game before this one so
we needed this [win].”
The No. 1-ranked Miller
Grove Wolverines will be
making their seventh state
title game appearance
in eight years on March
4. They will take on No.
2-ranked and undefeated
Allatoona at 8:45 p.m.
The Wolverines
advanced to the title game
with big wins over South
Paulding (66-41) in the
quarterfinals and McIntosh
(72-52) in the semifinals.
Coach Sharman White
said his players have been
fighting to get back to the
title game after losing
in the quarterfinals last
“Our guys didn’t like
the way last season ended
last year and I think they’re
proving it every game
we go out because we’re
playing with that chip on
our shoulder and we’re just
trying to continue to get
better, even this late in the
game,” White said. “We’re
trying to do things more
consistently so that we can
be able to put ourselves in
position to get our trophy
The No. 5-ranked
Tucker Lady Tigers will
play for the Class AAAAAA
girls’ state title against No.
3-ranked McEachern on
March 5. Game time is set
for 7 p.m.
This is Tucker’s
second state title game
appearance in three
seasons. The Lady Tigers
won the 2014 Class
AAAAA championship.
Tucker defeated
Woodstock 74-60 in the
quarterfinals, and beat
Douglas County 79-67 in
the semifinals.

Miller Grove’s Aaron Augustin guards a McIntosh player in the Class AAAAA semifinals game.
Photos by Mark Brock

Southwest DeKalb players Ruona Uwusiaba, right, and Daisa Alexander defend a Sequoyah player.

Tucker’s Bria Bass dribbles by a Douglas County player.


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 22A


An Oglethorpe tennis player goes up to serve the ball. Photos provided

Oglethorpe men’s tennis defeats Methodist
The Oglethorpe men’s tennis
team exhibited gutsy play Feb.
28, including a three-set victory by
senior Briton Richardson in what
turned out to be the deciding match,
to knock off regionally-ranked
Methodist 5-4 in Fayetteville, N.C.
The result improves the Stormy
Petrels to 2-0 on the season.
The match got off to a good
start for the Petrels in the doubles
competition. Though sophomore
Judd Motz and Richardson
dropped their No. 2 doubles match
8-3, the Petrels won the other
two. Senior C.J. Antonio and
sophomore Rhys Richardson took
down the No. 1 match 8-3 while the
freshman combo of Angel Llerena
and Richard Johnson won 8-3 at
No. 3 doubles, giving the Petrels a
2-1 lead headed into singles.
Antonio made quick work of
his opponent 6-2, 6-2 to begin the
singles portion, giving the Petrels
a 3-1 lead. Oglethorpe pushed that
to within a single match of taking
the entire dual match when Llerena
won 6-0, 6-3 at No. 3. Taylor
Buchholz, the 22nd-ranked player
in the Atlantic South, took out Motz
6-4, 6-2 at No. 2, giving Methodist
another point and making the score
The remaining three matches all
went three sets, creating a dramatic
finish for the afternoon. Johnson
fell 4-6, 6-4, 3-6 in his No. 6 match,
making the overall score 4-3.
Methodist would then tie the dual
match when Richardson fell 2-6,

C.J. Antonio won a No. 1 singles match 6-2, 6-2.

6-2, 3-6 at No. 4, putting everything
on the No. 5 match featuring his
brother Briton.
Briton Richardson fell 6-4 in
the opening set, but came back
for a 6-3 win in the second to
force a third and decisive frame.
Rhys Richardson fell behind 4-2
in the third, but stormed back and
eventually won four straight games
to take the No. 5 match 4-6, 6-3,
6-4 and the dual match 5-4.

“This was a great, hard-fought
match and a fantastic early-season
win for our guys against a strong
Methodist team,” said Oglethorpe
head coach Peter Howell. “We
showed a lot of heart in pulling out
this very competitive victory with
the final three matches each going
three sets. I was extremely pleased
with our doubles play and the play
of C.J. Antonio and Angel Llerena.
Briton Richardson was awesome

in coming back from 4-2 down in
the third to clinch the match. All in
all, this was a terrific college tennis
The Petrels will now take a
week off to prepare for their trip to
central Florida as part of the Spring
Break Sports program March 6- 8.
They’ll take on No. 36 Coe, Lake
Forest, Wheaton (Illinois) and
Messiah over their three days in the
Orlando area.


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 23A


Columbia pitcher Elijah Hammonds looks for the pitch signal from his catcher.

Miller Grove pitcher Daniel Harris throws out a pitch.

Feb. 24

Feb. 27

Columbia 9, Miller Grove 4
St. Pius X 7, Pace Academy 2

Columbia 7, Cedar Grove 6
Stephenson 5, Redan 4
Allatoona 7, Dunwoody 3
Griffin 5, Redan 0
Westminster 8, St. Pius X 0
Ramsay 12, M.L. King 10
Jefferson Davis 6, M.L. King 1
Griffin 4, Stephenson 2

Feb. 25
GAC 9, Chamblee 1
Griffin 7, Tucker 3
Newton 17, M.L. King 2

Columbia pitcher Elijah Hammonds throws a pitch. Photos by Travis Hudgons

Miller Grove first baseman Zandon Finch catches the ball to tag out Columbia’s Jamal Huff.

Feb. 26
Druid Hills 16, Shiloh 11
Southwest DeKalb 8, Alexander 6
Towers 23, Clarkston 5
Riverdale 10, McNair 9
Wesleyan 11, Redan 7
Miller Grove Lazarian Bloodsaw swings and misses.


The Champion FREE PRESS, Friday, March 4, 2016 • Page 24A

Developers present plan
for western gateway
by Carla Parker

Avondale Estates
elected officials and
residents were pleased with
the plans presented for the
western gateway area.
South City Partners
presented its plans of a
mixed-use project for the
area at the Feb. 24 Board of
Mayor and Commissioners
Work Session.
When the western
gateway area—from Maple
Street to Sams Crossing—
was annexed into the city,
plans to redevelop the area
were included in the city’s
2014 community planning
activities and the Downtown
Master Plan document to
enhance that entrance to
the city.
South City Partners
approached the city with
plans to redevelop the 3.17acre property on the north
side of East College Avenue
between Hillyer Street and



South City Partners proposed a development with approximately
10,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, apartments and

Sams Crossing.
South City Partners
proposed a development
with approximately 10,000
square feet of retail and
restaurant space on the
ground floor.
The development also
includes 175 residential
units, one acre of open
space, including a park.
There will be a rear parking
deck with additional
on-street parking with
sidewalks and trees.
“Besides the fact that

I’m happy to see mixed
used architecture at
our western gateway—
apartments, retail—that
alone makes me happy, but
this is a really good looking
building,” Mayor Jonathan
Elmore said. “I think it will
be a great addition to the
Members of the
Board of Mayor and
Commissioners and
residents were also pleased
with the design of the
proposed building.

Dustie ID# (30322444) is the sweetest boy
around! This bow-tie loving three year old gives the
best kisses and is filled with love for his new family.
He dreams of having a backyard, a few toys, and a
comfy bed to call his own. He is great with other dogs
who love to play as much as him. He is a quick learner
and is eager to please. Teaching him new tricks should
be a breeze! Meet Dustie at Lifeline’s DeKalb Animal

Ask about our March adoption special. Adoption
includes spay/neuter, vaccinations, microchip and
more! If you would like more information about Dustie
please email
or call (404) 294-2165. All potential adopters will be
screened to ensure Dustie goes to a good home.

Let’s bring dinner back to the table. Let’s leave our devices and distractions behind.

Let’s pass food and share stories. Let’s laugh until it hurts. Let’s smile. And love. Let’s breathe new life into
old traditions. Let’s make dinner on Sunday, Sunday Dinner again.