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Faces of Peachtree Corners 2021



faces of peachtree corners 2021

This year has presented unprecedented challenges, but it has also given citizens of Peachtree Corners time to reflect on past successes, moments of joy and the things that make this city great. The city has many wonderful features to offer, chiefly technological advancement, business development and scholastic excellence. Yet Peachtree Corners’ most valuable resource continues to be the people that live, work and thrive within its borders.

Faces of Peachtree Corners
Jun Lin, Photos by George Hunter

Jun Lin

Jun Lin calls Peachtree Corners home, along with her husband Mark Lerner and her daughter Ellen. Both her personal and professional activities have proven diverse and compelling. Highlights include working as a teacher, a newspaper reporter and even hosting for the Chinese Basketball Association (essentially China’s NBA).

The team she worked with, Bayi Rocket, even won the championship! Wang ZhiZhi was a member of that 1997-1996 team, and he went on to become the first Chinese basketball player to play in the NBA.

Lin graduated from the Regional Leadership Institute in 2016 and attends the LINK trip every year; it’s organized by the Atlanta Regional Commission and is designed to connect leaders from different metropolitan areas to encourage cooperation and progress.

In her free time, Lin devotes herself to many varied interests. She is a member of the Chinese Entrepreneur Club, as well as serving as vice president of the Linfield Homeowner’s Association.

“I like to work and make friends, reading, playing badminton twice a week for doubles, pingpang and singing karaoke. I found myself so enjoying gardening and cooking when the pandemic time hit,” Lin said.

When her daughter was a student at Northview Highschool, Lin was a dutiful supporter of its PTA as a vice president. She also assumed the VP role in the North Fulton Council PTA.

Though Lin is certainly well-traveled, she plans to continue to call this town home for a long, long time. “We won’t move out because we don’t want to leave our neighbors,” she said. “They are caring, helping each other. And my husband loves to live in this beautiful city.”

Bailey Lesko

Studio Photos by George Hunter

Bailey Lesko is a senior at Norcross High School who looks forward to the possibilities of college but is making the most of the remainder of her high school experience.

Her extracurricular resume is vast, spanning from Lesko’s tenure as Spanish Honor Society Vice President last year and as current President, to leading the charge as the NHS Varsity swim team captain this year. She also was a Governor’s Honors Program Finalist as a Drum Major for the last two school years, not to mention an All State Bassoonist in 2017, 2019 and 2020.

Her participation in the Norcross High School Band appears to be a particularly bright spot in her four years at the school. “The Norcross High School Marching Band has given me the opportunity to lead my peers, play great music and hopefully inspire younger musicians to continue playing into high school and beyond,” Lesko said. “The program is a positive staple of Peachtree Corners, as we love to perform and bring joy to the community.”

Her plans after graduation are ambitious and diverse, as she debates majoring in music education or biochemistry as a pre-med route to becoming a doctor, with a Spanish minor to boot. “I’ve been in band for seven years and involved in music for 12, and I would love to give back to students what my teachers have given me,” she added. “Biochemistry serves as a great basis for medical school, and the way life can be sustained on a molecular level fascinates me. My dad was also a biochemistry major and he raves about it, so it’s always been an influence in my life.

“I want to study Spanish because no matter where I go in my life, being bilingual will serve me well, and I love the language. And finally, I want to be a pediatric doctor with any focus because I love kids and want the opportunity to give them good and helpful experiences with doctor’s visits, like I had growing up.”

A.J. Boyd

Studio Photos by George Hunter

A.J. Boyd holds the title of Director of Business Development at Lakeview Behavioral Health. Her role is focused on marketing the business in a positive light and educating people on the importance of proper mental health practices. She has a genuine passion for helping people during these difficult times.

“I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to connect the community and different referral sources to the mental health resources that they need,” Boyd said. “I hope to continue to be a part of bringing awareness to removing the stigma of mental health, so that more people see it’s okay to ask for help and that ultimately lives are saved!”

Boyd lives in Peachtree Corners with her husband and her son Ezekiel. “My favorite thing is how community oriented and supportive the people of Peachtree Corners are,” she said. “I love how much there is to do in this area and all the events hosted by Peachtree Corners. This is such a great community to raise a family in!”

Boyd has a strong Christian faith, which helps her to maintain a cheery disposition. “My keys to success are: number one, to lean on The Lord daily and allow Him to lead me in this life,” she explained. “Once I have started my day out in prayer, then I move to my calendar and write out my daily to-do list from work items to personal chores.”

Debbie Mason

debbie mason faces of peachtree corners

As the right-hand woman of her husband Mayor Mike Mason, “The First Lady of Peachtree Corners” Debbie Mason has an unparalleled perspective on the inner workings of our fair city.

“I have always been active in my neighborhood and community, and now I found it necessary to find my new place. My goal for Peachtree Corners as a new City was to make it a place for its citizens to make memories right here in their own City of Peachtree Corners,” Mason said.

Her life has been full of proud points of note, many of a personal nature. “My proudest moment was becoming Mike Mason’s wife 47 years ago, followed by the births of my two boys Matt and Nick, and most certainly, becoming grandmother to Clara,” she said. “[Our sons] have grown into fine young men of whom I am proud.”

Mason’s professional and altruistic achievements are certainly worth mentioning as well. “I am very proud to have been part of the team that created the City of Peachtree Corners, one of the Founders of Peachtree Corners Festival, on the Board of Directors of United Peachtree Corners Civic Association which does great work in our City and I am proud to have been named to the Norcross High School Foundation Hall of Fame for my various activities,” Mason explained.

On a lighter note, there is a more relaxed side to Mason that some may not have seen.

“I am from Indiana, I love Yorkies, I love to cook for those I love, and I absolutely live for gardening in the Spring by planting flowers in every corner of my backyard,” she said.

Stephanie and Tye Hanna

Tye and Stephanie have lived in the Norcross/Peachtree Corners area for 24 years and are proud parents to a daughter and son who graduated from Norcross High School. Both have contributed much of their time and financial support to many NHS programs. The couple is among the honorees of the NHS Foundation for Excellence Hall of Fame.

Over the past decade, Tye has served as President of the Soccer and Baseball Booster clubs and continues to serve on the Foundation Board. Stephanie spent three years on the PTSA Executive Board. They both continue to serve as officers of the Football Booster Club and contribute much of their time each week to the NHS Football program. They have also supported the Band, Cross-Country, Tennis, Lacrosse, Softball and Volleyball programs at NHS and were instrumental in procuring new scoreboards for the Football and Baseball programs.

“What we are most proud of at NHS is helping to establish and support the After-School Matters Program which provides after-school learning opportunities for at-risk students. To date, the program has assisted over 400 students to improve grades and graduation rate, with a long-term goal to prepare students for a career, military service or post-secondary education,” Stephanie said.

Tye and Stephanie also give their time and financial support to other causes in the Norcross/Peachtree Corners community, including the Norcross Cooperative Ministry, where Tye has recently become a member of the Board of Directors.

The couple has also had a fair amount of professional success, as well. “We both started as CPAs, which gave us the financial and operational background to start and grow our own businesses,” Stephanie explained. “As an entrepreneur, Tye has enjoyed the success of running his own businesses, which not only provided for our family, but also for the hundreds of employees that those companies had along the way.”

Portions of this profile were adapted from norcrosshighfoundation.org/honoree/stephanie-and-tye-hanna/.

Dave Huffman

faces of peachtree corners dave huffman

Dave Huffman retired in 2010 after a 30-year career as an electrical engineer with local defense electronics company L-3 Technologies Display Systems, specializing in aircraft displays. He had overseen research and development from the ground up. As groundbreaking and captivating as his professional endeavors were, his current interests and philanthropic efforts are equally so.

Working with his church, Pleasant Hill Presbyterian, and the World Relief Agency, Huffman has assisted in welcoming over 30 refugees from Myanmar as they resettled in Gwinnett County.

“They have all now bought houses, have good jobs and the kids are doing well (mostly) in school. We even have a couple of “our” kids now in college on their way to professional careers. These folks are living out the American Dream and it is inspiring to know them,” Huffman said.

He has served as the president of the Peachtree Corners Festival committee, responsible for putting on community events like the summer festival and annual holiday parade. Huffman has also supported the community by being an involved parent at Norcross High School (NHS) while his son attended and beyond. His favorite experiences with the school include volunteering behind the scenes for the marching band.

In recognition of his dedication, Huffman is one of this year’s honorees in the NHS
Foundation for Excellence Hall of Fame
. For more information, visit norcrosshighfoundation.org/honoree/dave-huffman/.

Lex Stolle

lex stolle faces of peachtree corners
Photo courtesy of Wesleyan School

Lex Stolle is like many 6th grade boys at Wesleyan School, with a hunger to learn and a lively view on life. But his recent leukemia diagnosis and treatment has given him a maturity rare for his age — yet his outlook remains sunny and positive, in large part due to the support of his teachers and fellow students.

“I love my school! I have had so much love and support from my teachers, principal, counselors and all the students,” Stolle said. “Last year, several of the teachers let me shave their heads after I lost my hair with chemotherapy. I even got to shave my headmaster’s head! I was super nervous about that because I didn’t want to cut him! I was really humbled that these men that I look up to would let me do that in front of the entire middle school. I also like how everyone is always praying and thinking of others.”

Stolle’s school pride is evident in all the activities he participates in. He made his long-awaited debut with the middle school’s theater company at the end of October. To pay it forward, he works with the Rally Foundation to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer. And as a student council representative for his grade, he has helped organize food and hygiene drives for local charities throughout our community.

Khadijah Akbar

Studio Photos by George Hunter

Khadijah Akbar is a senior at Norcross High Schoolwith ambitions to attend law school and become an intellectual property lawyer. “I want to be an intellectual property lawyer to protect the ideas of the individual,” she explained. “After undergrad, I want to go to law school and study intellectual property law. I am very interested in law and computer science, and patent law incorporates both.”

This intelligent young woman already has some educational experience in front of the bench as a veteran in the Mock Trial program. Akbar has competed as an attorney for four years, and as a lead attorney for two of those years. She has coached and assisted underclassmen in the “courtroom,” and this past year, NHS advanced to the state competition for the first time.

Akbar has also been involved in High School Democrats of Gwinnett as a Norcross Representative. She taught students how to register to vote, collected and reported a political census of her school and campaigned for State House District 52-elect Shea Roberts.

Akbar’s strong passion for justice presents itself in diligent service to the Peachtree Corners community. As a volunteer at the Peachtree Corners Library, she has assisted in shelving books, signing up library patrons for the summer reading program and answering questions about it, reading to children and organizing summer events.

“The Peachtree Corners Library has so many opportunities to help and be a part of your community; I think it is a part of the foundation that makes this city so great,” Akbar said. “I hope I can be a part of a system that supports its community in the same way when I am older.”

Other interests of Akbar’s include the art of henna, the Science Honor Society and learning languages — both linguistic and programming.

Helen West

faces of peachtree corners helen west
Photo courtesy of Helen West

Helen West is a Middle School Writing Teacher, as well as Coach of Cross Country and Girls Soccer at Cornerstone Christian Academy. She takes great pride in her work there.

“With targeted instruction and personal feedback, the writing program at Cornerstone equips all students with the opportunity to improve and hone their skills,” she said. “Cornerstone positively impacts the community through service projects and providing a high-quality education alternative for local families.”

West also takes great joy in the everyday pleasures of her community, from hiking the Simpsonwood Trail to kayaking on the Chattahoochee and, most importantly, the people around her. Her keys to success are simple but profound — trust in God, quality friendships, habits that keep her on track and creating a supportive family environment.

That being said, not everything has to be quite so serious. Like most teachers, West bolsters herself with a healthy dose of coffee, and she also enjoys the occasional shopping trip around Town Center and other local shopping hot spots. When it comes time to make a meal or grab a bite, Trader Joe’s and Taqueria del Mar are among her favorites.

And recently, she developed a new talent of sorts. “I started cutting my husband’s hair during COVID, and it actually looks good!” West said.

Mason Kaplan

faces of peachtree corners mason kaplan
Photo from Mason Kaplan’s Twitter

Mason Kaplan attends Norcross High School, where he is a senior and the quarterback for the football team. And he is a member of the National Honor Society, with an impressive 4.26 GPA.

Kaplan was recently featured on WSB Channel 2 News as their Scholar Athlete of the Week. The enterprising young man also earned the Captain Award, voted on by Norcross football teammates.
Additionally, he was selected by NHS to attend the IDEALS Leadership School program. This prestigious leadership program is run by a Peachtree Corners non-profit “designed to focus on high school student athletes who have shown the desire to better equip themselves to be positive leaders and who want to make a difference in their schools, their teams and in the lives of those they influence,” according to IdealsLeadership.org.

Kaplan recognizes that he is in a position to be a positive role model for the kids growing up behind him, and he takes that responsibility seriously. “As representatives of the school and members of the community, my teammates and I love to help out the community whether it be by reading books to younger kids or helping the youth league sports teams with their practices and motivating them to be a positive members of and role models in the community as they get older,” he said.

“Other kids from Norcross and I are given the opportunity through the [IDEALS Leadership] program to learn how to be better leaders and positive athletes in our community and can use those skills to help make Peachtree Corners as great as it can be.”

Aidan Bailey

faces of peachtree corners aidan bailey
Photo Courtesy of Greater Atlanta Christian

Aidan Bailey is a senior at Greater Atlanta Christian and lifelong Peachtree Corners resident who has made his mark through his dedication to lacrosse, football and public service. He has played lacrosse for 13 years and competed in the state championship. Bailey has also played in the state semifinals in AAA football and played on the winning region championship team every year he has played.

Other shining moments for Bailey include his induction into Beta Club, going to the Face-Off Academy national showcase and his selection as a Gwinnett Daily Post Fan’s Player of the Week Nominee.

Despite his success, Bailey works to stay humble. “I have had a number experiences in my life that have taught me to keep a level head, treat everyone with respect and be the hardest worker in the room,” he said. “A large key to success is my ability to handle and adapt to whatever life throws at me.”

Brandon Branham

faces of peachtree corners brandon branham

As the Assistant City Manager and Chief Technology Officer for the City of Peachtree Corners, Brandon Branham spearheads many key initiatives relating to economic development, technology deployment/development, community engagement and strategic planning.

He has proved instrumental in the launch of Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, the world’s first 5G-powered smart city and autonomous vehicle living laboratory.

“A lot of our residents may not know the full extent quite yet, but we’re truly a model for the rest of the country on how government and the private sector best collaborate to advance the global smart city vision for the positive benefit of society,” he said. “Some of the world’s most prominent technology companies have their eyes on our city, as we are one of the first to have created a real-world smart city environment, complete with city-owned infrastructure, that is giving everyone a glimpse into how everyday life may look in the future.”

Branham has made a cozy home here for his wife and two daughters, as he works to make sure that the city continues to be a great place to live and learn.

“Living in Peachtree Corners drives a lot of the decisions that I make, because it’s not just a place or a job. It’s my home, and I want what is best for my community,” Branham shared. “I am truly honored to be able to serve this community and be a part of shaping the future of Peachtree Corners — while advancing efforts here that will have a positive impact on society, cities and business across the globe through the development of smart city technologies.”

Brian Morgan

faces of peachtree corners brian morgan
Studio Photos by George Hunter

As a lifelong Peachtree Corners resident, Brian Morgan has roots deeply entrenched in this town.

“We love the location of Peachtree Corners. It’s like its own little corner of the world for us. We have food, shopping, recreation, nature, services — all within walking distance or a short drive. The people are friendly, the area is kept well, it feels safe and it feels like it will always be our home,” Morgan said.

“For many of my Microsoft years, when people would be moving to Georgia or metro Atlanta, I’d always tell them they needed to look in Peachtree Corners.”

As Chief Operations Officer at Wesleyan School, he has been instrumental in overseeing its efforts to keep children safe through the pandemic.

“My wife and I have been a part of Wesleyan since the early 2000s. Both of our girls attended school and graduated from Wesleyan. We’ve always loved the school, what it stands for, the balance between a genuine Christian mission and high academic standards, the beauty of its campus and buildings, but most importantly, the genuine inner-beauty of the people that make up Wesleyan — teachers, staff, coaches, facilities workers, families and students,” he explained.

Some fun facts about Morgan are that he has a passion for tennis, an interest in photography that has culminated in a side business and a long history of water skiing.

Lisa Proctor

Studio Photos by George Hunter

Lisa Proctor has made a point to contribute to her local Peachtree Corners community through her business experience, most notably through becoming one of the founding members — and current President — of the Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA).

The basic idea was to have a business counterpart to the United Peachtree Corners Civic Association, a platform for the residents and homeowners to have a voice in the community.

Similarly, PCBA provided a platform for businesses located in Peachtree Corners or that want to do business in Peachtree Corners to have an opportunity to network and share. “I am proud of the fact that the PCBA has donated over $88,000 to local non-profit charities and provided scholarships in our local community through the support of our members, sponsors and annual charity event,” Proctor said.

Her professional achievements are remarkable. Proctor’s experience as a CFO, Vice President of Operations and Director of National Recruiting for AXA Equitable prepared her for the opportunity to create her own firm, Sanford Rose Associates – Lake Lanier Islands. The firm is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year.

Despite the demands of operating her own firm and working with the PBCA, this high-powered businesswoman understands the importance of taking time for family. “Personally, one of my proudest accomplishments is living an intentional life with my husband and best friend, James (Jay) Proctor,” she said. “We have been married for 35+ years and enjoy taking this journey of life together.”

Sarah Lim

faces of peachtree corners sarah lim
Photo courtesy of Sarah Lim

As an 11th grader at Wesleyan School and a Peachtree Corners resident, Sarah Lim brings a fresh perspective to the community.

“I am an Asian-American with Korean and Taiwanese heritage. My parents’ stories of the discrimination and challenges they faced while growing up as second generation Asian-Americans inspire me to embrace the unique characteristics in each of us and make an impact in my community,” Lim said.

She has grown up in this community and has a fond appreciation for all it has to offer. “Having lived in Peachtree Corners my entire life, I appreciate the resources and experiences this community has provided me, which includes the culture and sense of belonging,” Lim explained. “I especially love the recently built Town Center, where I often meet friends, eat good food and witness our community joyfully gathering.”

She has made a point to be active in her community and in her school by joining the Honor Council, the Chapel band, the golf team, Mock Trial and the high school theater program. She was part of the theater program’s cast that placed second in the District One-Act competition.

Lim also participates in the school’s No Place for Hate Initiative and Let’s Do Better, a non-profit movement founded by an alumna and current junior at Wesleyan. These diversity initiatives focus on raising awareness of racial and social inequalities and fostering communities of unity, within and outside of Wesleyan.

Jennifer Jordan

Studio Photos by George Hunter

Jennifer Jordan has called Peachtree Corners home for 14 years. She has two sons with her husband Greg; the oldest, Will, is a junior at Norcross High School and the youngest, Charlie, is a 6th grader at Cornerstone Christian Academy (CCA).

Jordan considers herself blessed to be able to use her gifts and training in a variety of ways throughout this community. She currently serves as Director of Music and as Choral director at Christ Church Episcopal Norcross, as well as the director of the musical theatre program at CCA. Private voice lessons are another service she provides to CCA.

As if that wasn’t enough, Jordan is also the Show Director and teacher for the Peachtree Corners branch of CYT Atlanta (Christian Youth Theatre).

Jordan spoke about the challenges of continuing with an active youth theatre program in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she confirmed that rehearsals and performances will continue to go on with appropriate safety precautions, such as face shields.

Jordan has an active private studio, teaching and coaching students in both the classical and musical theatre arenas, in addition her career as a freelance soprano. “The Peachtree Corners community is very supportive of the arts,” she shared. “From schools to churches to the community at large, the arts are a huge part of the identity of our town. The vitality of the Peachtree Corners community provides a strong foundation for creative growth. I simply can’t imagine a better place to do what I love.”

Chris Ortiz Zamora

Studio Photos by George Hunter

As part-owner of the family landscaping business, Zamora Landscaping, Chris Ortiz has made himself a valuable contributor to the Peachtree Corners community.

“I think my keys to success are mostly determination and discipline. Having your own company takes a lot of work but with the help of your customers, things become a lot easier and it makes you feel you’ve helped someone in the community,” Ortiz said.

As a Norcross High School alum, he has grown up in the area appreciating all the opportunities he has had to learn, live and work.

“My dad started the business in early 2000s with not a lot, but with years and years of experience, it has grown to what it is today. He is very dedicated and definitely a hard worker,” Ortiz said. “I owe it all to my dad. I started working with him during the summers and now I work full time with him, getting to know great people around Georgia and the Peachtree Corners Community!”

In his free time, Ortiz enjoys the finer things in life, like playing golf while enjoying landscapes on the course, collecting watches and rebuilding a 1985 Toyota Corolla. He said he also likes hanging out with his friends at the Forum, adding, “I love how we keep on growing, and I can’t wait to watch my kids enjoy the Peachtree Corners community.”

Jesse McMillan

faces of peachtree corners jesse mcmillan
Photo by Bob Chadwick

Coach McMillan, his wife Elizabeth, and two children — Elyse and Mason — are long-time Norcross and Peachtree Corners residents. McMillan has been Head Coach for Boys Basketball at Norcross High School (NHS) for 11 years, and a teacher and coach at Norcross for 20 years.

His Norcross teams participate in showcases and invitationals across the nation. During his time as head coach, NHS won two state titles (2011, 2013) and finished state runner-up in 2017 and 2018.

McMillan grew up in a family of educators and knew early on that teaching and coaching was something he wanted to do. He is successful, in part, because he holds the players to a high standard and evolves the program from being “coach-led” to “player-led”, empowering the team to make suggestions and hold each other accountable. Coach McMillan has been recognized in the Gwinnett Daily Post as showing “a great ability to build chemistry [among the players].”

Of course, his greatest pride is not in the scoreboard or his own personal achievements, but the student athletes he mentors. I’m most proud of the young men who have come out of program to represent Norcross High School and our community,” McMillan said. “We have alumni who have graduated from some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country. We have professional athletes, lawyers, ministers, educators, military personnel, etc. that have worn a Blue Devil jersey. Those young men mean more to me than any trophy or win.”

His fondest athletics moments and most satisfying victories are Final Four and State Championship victories and memorable playoff wins versus Pebblebrook (2017), McEachern (2018) and Grayson (2019). Those games stand out because the team rose up against great odds and competed at the highest level.

He said he’s also a bit superstitious; he makes sure to use his lucky pencil to fill out the scorebook at each game.

McMillian is one of four honorees joining the NHS Foundation for Excellence Hall of Fame this year. “When I was told of my selection, I really didn’t expect it. Even though this is year 20 for me, it still feels like my first year. Time really has flown by and I think that goes to show how much I love my job and Norcross High School,” he said. “To be included with so many wonderful people is a true honor and one that I will appreciate very much.”

Portions of this profile were adapted from norcrosshighfoundation.org/honoree/jesse-mcmillan/.

Homero Lopez

faces of peachtree corners homero lopez
Photo courtesy of Jazmin Lopez

If you are looking for hard-working in the dictionary, you might find a picture of Homero Lopez next to the entry. As the owner and head painter for Lopez Painting and Remodeling, Lopez has made a name for himself in the highly competitive Georgia interior design market.

“My work has taken me to meet great clients, to the point of working with great interior designers and from there, the opportunity to even work with celebrities as my clients,” Lopez said. “Also, I have had the opportunity to not only work in residential homes, but in hotels and restaurants as well.

“I enjoy that my clients are satisfied with my work. I enjoy making my clients happy and I always try my best to go above and beyond to ensure that happens,” he continued.

The things that make Lopez happiest are life’s simple pleasures. “I know how to sing and enjoy doing it on my free time. Also, I love baseball. It’s my favorite sport and I enjoy watching and playing it when I can,” he said.

Lopez also appreciates being part of the Peachtree Corners community. “My favorite things about the Peachtree Corners area are that it’s really central, everything is nearby. It has great schools and a great community.”

Erica McCurdy

Studio Photos by George Hunter

Erica McCurdy of McCurdy Solutions Group has made it her mission in life to help “people in transition and navigate those waters successfully.” As an active part of the Peachtree Corners business community through involvement in the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the Peachtree Corners Business Association and a Rotary board member, McCurdy has had a front-row seat to the professional growth of this area.

“McCurdy Solutions began when I was on staff at North Point Community Church,” she said. “I have always mentored teens and adults who felt like they were at a turning point either personally or professionally. At North Point, I was introduced to the field of executive coaching. I achieved my certification and as demand for my services grew, I made the difficult decision to leave North Point to open my own practice.”

Since that time, McCurdy has served as a go-to voice for publications when they wish to discuss topics such as employability, communication and transition. She has been featured in over 100 articles by Forbes, US News, Business News Daily, Recruiter.com, Entrepreneur.com, MSN and others.

After getting connected to Forbes, McCurdy became deeply interested in the work of the SEAL Future Foundation – a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that helps career Navy SEALs transition to civilian life. This is a charity that McCurdy regularly supports.

Despite the many professional and altruistic endeavors she is involved in, McCurdy tries to stay grounded. “My family has always been my first priority — often making career decisions that pulled me away from the “corporate ladder” in favor of those that allowed me to be present in my children’s lives as they grew up,” she said.

Mitsue Ostapiuk

Mitsue Ostapiuk is a senior at Greater Atlanta Christian School (GAC) who lives in the Neely Farm neighborhood of Peachtree Corners. She is a lively contributor to her community, involved in charity work and the GAC Swim team.

In her sophomore year, Ostapiuk received the Bronze Presidential Volunteer Service Award. She has been involved in the National Charity League since middle school, which has allowed her to serve her local community and surrounding cities.

During the pandemic, she joined fellow students in packing goodie bags filled with crossword puzzles and health products for a retirement home. Through National Charity League, Ostapiuk has been able to work with foster care, the Children’s Restoration network and more. Through GAC, she has volunteered her time for the Peachtree Corners Light Up the Corners benefiting the YMCA, as well as tutoring elementary school kids.

Ostapiuk shares her love of the water by coaching her neighborhood summer swim team, relishing the chance to meet new kids and teach them how to swim. During the school year, she spends almost as much time in the pool as out of it, which has helped her achieve numerous accolades in the sport, including an All-American distinction as a sophomore.

Kelsey Asher is a proud graduate of the University of West Georgia with a Bachelor’s in Communications. She has held a variety of marketing leadership roles for several small, startup companies in a variety of industries including publishing, construction and technology.

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City Government

City’s First Employee Steps Down



At a City Council meeting on April 23, Diana Wheeler was recognized for more than 12 years of dedicated service to the city.
Diana Wheeler on stage at Town Center // Photos by Tracey Rice

Diana Wheeler starts her own consulting business

When a city is established, there’s a lot to do to get it going. One of the most important decisions is hiring effective staff. Diana Wheeler was one of those qualified employees who helped turn Peachtree Corners into the community it is today. She’s also credited with being the city’s first hire.

“I worked in Alpharetta for about 20 years as a community development director, and I decided that it was time to try something new and different, something I hadn’t done before. I was going to start up my own consulting business,” said Wheeler.

She was only a few days into her new career when the city of Peachtree Corners called.

“They said, ‘Hey, we’d like you to come and help us out. We’re starting up a new city, and we don’t really have any planners. We need a community development department,” said Wheeler.

So, she went back into city government work and put off starting her business.

Years of service

“I was the only employee for a while,” she said. “There were a lot of interesting times, and there were opportunities I’ve never had before, like setting up all of their programs and systems at the beginning.”

At a City Council meeting on April 23, Wheeler was recognized for more than 12 years of dedicated service to the city.

“A lot of things were accomplished, and after 12 years, I thought, well, you know, I still want that one last sort of professional challenge that I hadn’t ever done before, which was to go out on my own and take advantage of the connections that I’ve made over the years and work on projects that were of interest to me,” she said.

She let the city leadership know that it was time for that change and that she’d be making that change at the end of April.

“Diana’s daily presence was profoundly valued by her colleagues, who benefitted from her expertise, leadership, and perhaps most importantly, her composure in the face of the numerous challenges that the Peachtree Corners city government has encountered during her tenure,” read a statement from the city.

Don’t call it a retirement

As the community development director, Wheeler wore a lot of hats, metaphorically speaking.

“When I was community development director, I had four divisions: the building department, which issues permits and performs inspections; code enforcement, which basically enforces the city’s regulations in commercial and residential areas; planning and zoning, which does all the public hearings and all the zoning research work, and when we added the Town Center, we added special events,” she said. “It’s just a lot of different things. And the city has a very limited number of employees. So, everybody does multiple tasks.”

But she hasn’t entirely left the city. Through the end of the year, she’ll be coordinating the special events at the Town Center.

“We’ve got an incredible lineup. We have all sorts of really cool concerts …  and we’re also introducing a night market, which is like a farmer’s market,” she said.

The market will take place on the second Saturday of the month and will have about 14 different vendors selling produce, homemade products, and other items.

“We’re going to have a talent competition this year,” she said. “It’s called Peachtree Corners Has Talent, and we’re asking people to submit YouTube videos, and there are prizes for winners.”

Additionally, there’s a children’s festival and one for the canines in the new dog park.

“On December 4, we’re going to have the huge holiday glow event, which is our big holiday gala at the town center with a concert and Santa and all sorts of stuff for kids to do and a sing-along and lots of free hot chocolate and cookies and things like that,” she said.

Wheeler is unsure if she’ll continue working as a consultant with the city beyond December, but she’s excited about her next chapter. Her consulting business is focused on special projects.

A new journey as a consultant

“In communities where they have a limited staff but would like to take on a project, for example, the city of Jasper and the city of Milton have two different areas where they have projects that they would like to take on, but they don’t have the staff resources,” she said.

That’s where she’ll come in.

“They hire people sort of as a side project to work just on that project. And those are the sort of things that I would do,” she said. “I get to focus on a specific project and don’t deal with the day-to-day things.”

Wheeler said she likes that she gets to choose what she wants to work on and use her skills and experience to the fullest.

Highlights of Wheeler’s career with the city of Peachtree Corners:

  • She laid the groundwork for the establishment of Peachtree Corners’ inaugural City Hall.
  • She was instrumental in the development of the Holcomb Bridge Corridor Urban Redevelopment Plan, Livable Centers Initiative, Innovation Hub Master Plan, Winters Chapel Road Corridor Study and conceptual planning for the Multi-Use Trail network.
  • She established and nurtured the Arts Council, created the Arts & Culture Master Plan, and promoted other public art initiatives, bringing the residents enriching cultural experiences, artistic expression and a sense of community pride.
  • She played a pivotal role in the establishment and ongoing support of the Peachtree Corners Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Downtown Development Authority, Redevelopment Authority, Arts Council, and Green Committee.
  • She played a crucial role in securing the city’s Green Community Certification and its Tree City USA recognition.
  • She spearheaded the implementation of the city’s initial zoning laws and led the Code Enforcement, Building and Permitting and Planning and Zoning Departments.
  • She pioneered the city’s first Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
  • She played a key role in launching Special Service Districts, contributing significantly to their initiation and success.
  • She Diana guided Town Green and Town Center initiatives.
  • She organized and managed Peachtree Corners’ special events.

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Rooted Interiors Unveils Largest Transformation Project Yet for a Family in Need



Grandfather's bedroom before and after // photos courtesy of Rooted Interiors

Rooted Interiors, a new non-profit organization dedicated to transforming lives through design, has announced the completion of its largest transformation project to date.

With a commitment to providing complete interiors to individuals and families emerging from homelessness, Rooted Interiors continues to make a profound impact on communities, one home at a time.

The latest project marks a significant milestone for Rooted Interiors as it demonstrates the organization’s unwavering dedication to creating havens where families can plant roots and thrive.

Through meticulous planning, collaboration and the support of generous donors and volunteers, Rooted Interiors has successfully transformed a once hopeless space into a warm and welcoming home for a deserving family.

At the heart of this project is a single mother, accompanied by her two children and her father, who found themselves in dire circumstances after the mother fled from an abusive partner, forcing them to seek refuge at the Family Promise shelter in Athens, Ga.

Upon securing a new home, however, their relief was short-lived as they found themselves in a space devoid of warmth and lacking the essentials of a home.

With no furniture besides a dining room table, no washer and dryer and a malfunctioning fridge, their daily struggles persisted for three long months.

But Rooted Interiors didn’t just redesign the family’s space, they filled it with love and hope.

Through this project, the organization transformed the family’s house into a sanctuary, addressing not only their physical needs but also their emotional well-being. From carefully selected furniture to thoughtful décor choices, every detail was curated to create a space that felt like home.

“We are thrilled to unveil our latest project, which represents our continued commitment to serving those in need,” said Kristina McCalla, Founder and Executive Director of Rooted Interiors.

“Our Rooted in Renewal Program not only revitalizes physical spaces but also renews hope and stability for the family who calls this house their home,” she added.

Rooted Interiors offers a lifeline to families in need, empowering them to thrive and succeed in their journey towards independence.

“This journey is not just about creating aesthetically pleasing interiors; it’s about using the language of design to uplift and restore,” said Kristina McCalla, also Lead Interior Designer at Rooted Interiors.

“Rooted in faith and love, each project is a testament to the belief that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, deserves a place that reflects their humanity and worth. By providing a thoughtfully designed and fully furnished home, we aim to empower families to thrive and succeed in their journey towards independence,” she explained.

As Rooted Interiors continues its mission to fully furnish homes for those emerging from homelessness, this project serves as a testament to the organization’s impact and the generosity of its supporters.

Through ongoing partnerships and community engagement, the organization remains committed to building brighter futures for individuals and families in need. For more information about Rooted Interiors and how you can support their mission, visit rootedinteriors.org.

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BRACK: Peachtree Corners to lose Peterbrooke Chocolatier



Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson.
Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson. Photo provided.

Peachtree Corners will soon lose one of its most iconic, popular and tasty businesses.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier, run by Geoffrey Wilson and Scott Gottuso, has been told by Peachtree Forum landlords, North American Properties and Nuveen Real Estate, that its lease will not be renewed. The last day of business will be July 25.

Meanwhile, Peachtree Forum is getting several new stores. They include Kendra Scott, Sucre, and The NOW Massage. Previously announced were Alloy Personal Training, Cookie Fix, Gallery Anderson Smith, Giulia, Lovesac, Nando’s Peri-Peri and Stretchlab. Wilson adds: “We are not in their big picture.”

Wilson has operated Peterbrooke at the Peachtree Forum for 14 years and Gottuso has been there nine years. They have made the chocolatier profitable and doubled sales. Wilson says: “We turned it around through community involvement and made relationships. We worked with the schools, gave donations, did a lot in the community, and made a difference. We produce most everything we sell in the shop, so it’s labor intensive. We make European-style chocolate treats from scratch from the very best ingredients, package it, make gift baskets, and also sell a lot of gelato.”

Key items include truffles, hand-made caramels, cherry cordials, chocolate-covered cookies and pretzels and strawberries hand-dipped in their own blend of chocolates. (They are all good!) One of Wilson’s and Gottuso’s most iconic products is chocolate popcorn. Once you try it, regular popcorn is tasteless. “We sell a lot of it.” Wilson adds: “Gelato sales have carried us in the summertime, since there are not many chocolate holidays in the summer.”

Peterbrooke now has five employees, and would like to have 10, but it is difficult to hire people with the skills in chocolatiering. A key part of its business is corporate companies, such as Delta Air Lines and Capital Insight. The Peachtree Corners’ Peterbrooke has corporate customers as far away as Cleveland, Ohio.

The operators were surprised when the Forum owners did not renew its five year lease. “The big decisions were made in Charlotte or Cincinnati, not locally,” Wilson feels. “We were no longer in their big picture. They want new and glitzy, shiny, fancy and trendy.”

The operators plan to start their own chocolate company, to be called “Scoffrey,” and initially sell online, plus have pop-up locations during holidays, and possibly have a booth in other merchants’ stores on occasions.

“Whatever we do would look different. We might rent a space somewhere close by so that people can still have the good chocolate experience with us, but we won’t have a regular audience walking by.”

Another element: the price of chocolate futures has spiked this year, with a bad crop production year. Wilson says: “That is key to our business and a huge cost increase. That doesn’t help.”

Wilson adds that the forced closing of the Peterbrooke location “is something like the death of a friend. But you go to the funeral and to the wake, and in six months or a year, It won’t be so bad.”

Have a comment?  Send to: elliott@elliottbrack

Written by Elliott Brack

This material is presented with permission from Elliott Brack’s GwinnettForum, an online site published Tuesdays and Fridays. To become better informed about Gwinnett, subscribe (at no cost) at GwinnettForum

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