Former Atlanta mayor still active in community
By Sandra L. Gordy
Paralleling our former U.S. President from Georgia, a former mayor of this state’s capital city also finds himself more popular today, in many quarters, than when in government. Having served 22 years in elected offices, from city councilman in the 200-population city of Mountain Park, Ga., to mayor of the 500,000-resident city of Atlanta, Ga., Sam Massell is going stronger than ever at the age of 87.
Although he successfully fulfilled four vital careers, this is not a biography but an invitation for emulation. His current professional position was begun 26 years ago when he was retained as Founding President of a unique nonprofit named the Buckhead Coalition (identified with the affluent northern quadrant of Atlanta). There he was asked to rent an office, get a logo designed, draw up a set of governing bylaws, and influence chief executive officers of major area firms to lend their names to the Coalition’s mission at annual dues of $5,000.
By way of a couple of upward adjustments over the years, the dues have increased to $9,000; membership in the Coalition is capped at 100 CEOs, with some 30 on its wait-list, and operations are governed by a staff of three-and-a-half (including Mayor Massell himself). Now comes the freedom that invites city and county people to take notice: the association’s mission to “nurture the quality of life of those who live, visit, work, and play in its 28-square-mile-boundary.”
Mayor Massell, like any serving the public, starts with the premise that the proper way will always be one that avoids taxation. With this philosophy, he has pursued a policy since the organization’s incorporation to seek out services the Coalition can stimulate by giving challenge grants that attract wide-spread public interest. He explains, “I have found that those who have an investment – home ownership or other – will come to the aid of such a mission if invited.”
A sampling of the diversification would include partnering with the area hospital to place automatic external defibrillators in public properties; arranging with a pet shop proprietor to install waste-collection stations throughout the neighborhoods; giving free blood-pressure monitors to apartment building managers; placing freestanding 911 emergency telephones in densely populated night-life areas; and, most recently, starting a pilot project of providing trauma tourniquet kits for police which individual citizens can contribute labeled with credit for the donors. To celebrate its Silver Anniversary, the Coalition published a booklet with about 180 different initiatives from some 800-total since its inception, a primer for startups and senior groups alike.
Because of his creative abilities and energetic personality, there’s no end in sight for his achievements. One selection group after another has singled him out with different awards, and has led to his induction into the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau “Hospitality Hall of Fame”; International Civil Rights King Center “Walk of Fame”; Georgia State University Robinson College “Business Hall of Fame”; and Georgia Trend Magazine “Most Influential Georgian’s Hall of Fame”.
He’s no longer in elected office, but from the press coverage he receives, the reader sees him having an even greater impact on the progress and prosperity of his surroundings. Nevertheless, his formula to “create, execute, and report” is one that can be emulated by each of us.
Sandra L. Gordy is president and CEO of American-Superior and is a resident of Buckhead, Ga.