With its main mission accomplished, the Peachtree Corners Veterans Monument Association recently voted to change its name.
“We built the monument between 2015 and 2019, so our first Veterans Day ceremony held at the monument was in 2019,” said Robert Ballagh, past president of the Peachtree Corners Veterans Monument Association.
With the structure in place, the volunteers who make up the organization voted to focus more on the mission and dropped the word “monument.” It is now the Peachtree Corners Veterans Association.
“We want to form a broader community awareness in Peachtree Corners and provide a place for veterans to come in and seek assistance in getting the right kind of assistance,” said Ballagh. “We’re not going to replicate [existing services]. There are a lot of things that we can do for veterans who want to do get actively involved with those.”
Another big step has been putting a new leader in place.
“We invited Chris Lindenau to join the board and then to become our executive director, and he accepted,” said Ballagh.
Lindenau is CEO of Fusus, a company known in law enforcement and public safety circles for its leading-edge RealTime Crime Center In The Cloud (RTC3) platform. A 2020 member of Atlanta Inno’s “50 on Fire,” Fusus has been recognized as among the hottest new companies in the Atlanta area.
“Bob approached me with [board member] Tiffany Grave de Peralta about taking over,” said Lindenau.
He was impressed with what they’d accomplished so far — a beautiful monument to commemorate the brave men and women in military service.
“They were such good stewards of that program …that the desire to grow the organization and perhaps bring a new perspective and strengthen the association’s awareness in the community [appealed to me],” he said. “But I also wanted to take a fresh look at things like the mission, which we’ve recently rewritten.”
New mission with focus on veterans’ services
It’s a broader umbrella with some realistic goals, given the size of the organization — and the fact that burnout can make it necessary to focus on specifics instead of trying to be everything to everybody, Lindenau added.
“I’m humbled that they would be interested in having me take over the organization,” said Lindenau.
But he really wanted to focus on next steps. He wanted to make sure that now that the monument has been finished, the focal point would be the veterans themselves.
“We all just kind of had a realization …that the objective [of building the monument] has been achieved and yet the broader objective of reaching out to the veteran community and to the larger Peachtree Corners community that appreciates the veterans [was next],” he said.
With that, the association vowed to align efforts towards something to honor and support the existing veteran community and Peachtree Corners and their families. “So we felt justified in the creation of a [new] mission statement,” Lindenau added.
Now with new marching orders, the renamed organization will continue its expanded mission of serving veterans and the community.
Supports for the veteran community
In the short time that Lindenau has come aboard, the board has decided on two areas as the cornerstones.
- Philanthropy: Through the sale of pavers and some engraving at the monument, the organization has banked a tidy sum. It is looking at providing post-secondary education funds for children of veterans, whether at a four-year college, technical school an advanced learning program or something in between.
- Socialization: With so many veterans in the community, it’s important to bring them together on a regular basis. Even though special events like Veterans Day and Memorial Day are imperative, the other 363 days of the year are important as well.
“We’re thinking about holding another event …where we can spend some time with veterans,” said Lindenau. “Obviously, the challenge is always to identify who are the veterans in the community. …But it’s probably a good time for us to get the word back out to the veteran community that we’re thinking about holding an event so that they can come in, we can hear their opinions, obviously, through that process, identify who’s in the area and then provide a forum to listen and really solicit feedback.”
When all is said and done, the ultimate goal is to find out what issues matter the most to the veterans and support them. As a veteran himself, Lindenau understands the importance of transitioning back into civilian life.
“We’ve identified a handful of things that are always challenges for veterans, like the transition from service to the private sector,” he said. “And many, many folks, like myself, have made that transition and are interested and eager to help, because candidly, our companies can benefit from the kind of leadership and teamwork characteristics that people from the service espouse. So it’s actually a win-win, in that regard.”
Peachtree Corners Veterans Association mission statement
The Peachtree Corners Veterans Association will strive to build relationships on local veterans, while also honoring their service and contributions to our nation and community.
Veterans Day event
This year, there are a few changes to the Veterans Day festivities. Of course, it will be at the monument and, as usual, the association rotates the principal speaker and supporting roles.
“We like to do two ceremonies a year — Veterans Day and Memorial Day — and we like to involve the community in both of those ceremonies,” said Ballagh. “For Veterans Day, because it’s during the school year, we’ve always had a band. And we always have the Norcross High School Junior ROTC participate in the ceremony.”
This year, however, the Wesleyan School Band will perform, but once again the Norcross Junior ROTC will participate as ushers and with a color guard.
Because it’s a sacred ceremony, there will be an invocation. This year it will be performed by Father Charles Byrd, pastor of Mary Our Queen Catholic Church.
The actual ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. sharp with Peachtree Corners Director of Communications Louis Svehla as master of ceremonies. The new director of the newly named Peachtree Corners Veterans Association, Chris Lindenau, will be the keynote speaker.
In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved indoors to Christ the King Episcopal Church.
New this year, there will be access to services that veterans can tap into, said Ballagh.
“Sometimes all you need is somebody to point you in the right direction,” he explained. “Ora Douglass approached the city with adding these services and vendors and I think it dovetails nicely with the event.”
Veterans Day Community Health Fair
Saturday, November 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Town Center Veterans Monument
3200 Peachtree Corners Blvd., Peachtree Corners
The health fair will include immunizations, health screenings, blood pressure checks, AIDS/HIV screenings, veterans’ benefits, mental health information and giveaway items.
Candidates for Peachtree Corners Council Square Off at UPCCA Forum
The city of Peachtree Corners Council Post 5/At Large is the only citywide race with at least two candidates, and it was imperative to let residents learn more about them.
United Peachtree Corners Civic Association hosted a forum on Thursday, Oct. 19, at Christ the King Lutheran Church to hear these candidates’ voices.
Moderated by local attorney Jim Blum, candidates Ora Douglass and Brent Johnson appeared to have more viewpoints in common than in opposition.
Both candidates conveyed their love for the community and their passion to see it remain a great place to live and raise a family.
Community concerns about crime, growth and development
The first question asked the candidates what they thought were the top three issues facing the city that they would address if elected.
Douglass: “The citizens that have really been vocal as I’ve knocked on doors—they don’t like the apartments. They want their property values to remain at a reasonable level. They don’t like the traffic. They don’t like the bridge. It’s been there for a long time. Still, they don’t like that bridge.
So, I think the top priorities for me would be communication between the council and the city because there’s clearly a disconnect between what the residents feel and think and what’s going on in the city council.”
Johnson: “The top three things I want to accomplish if I get elected is to make the government smaller and more efficient. Right now, we’re operating at a much higher efficiency than we were ever set out to be. We were supposed to be a small city—three services—we’ve kind of morphed into a full city now. We’ve lost more efficiencies that we need to have in place.
Second, the rapid development of high-density housing has got to stop. It’s going to kill traffic. It’s going to kill the schools and the crime rate is going to increase. We’ve got to stop that.
The last thing is public safety because of a lot of the high-density housing we’re putting in place. We’ve got to curb the crime that’s in Peachtree Corners like robberies at The Forum and shootings at Quik Trip. We’ve got to stem the tide on that and get out ahead of it before it gets really bad.”
Doing good in the neighborhood
The candidates were then asked to describe the community service activities they each have led in Peachtree Corners and how they would continue those efforts if elected.
Johnson: “The community service I’ve done in Peachtree Corners has been more on the sports organization side from coaching sports with my kids—baseball and soccer. I help fundraise for food drives.
The biggest community service activity we need to implement, as I’ve stated before, is getting the community involved in what’s going on.
A lot of people like to complain about things, but nobody wants to get involved with things. So, we’ve got to do something to bring the city together, to voice their concerns, and get with the government to actually listen to the concerns—not that they aren’t.
If you like to complain and people over here are doing things, someone’s got to get them together and bring them together. That’s my biggest community service for the city that will make the city better—everybody on one page so we can make this a great place to live—continue to make this a great place to live.”
Douglass: “My motto is service first because I believe in serving you first over self. I am the person who charted a chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha [Sorority] right here in Peachtree Corners.
We clean up 1.6 miles of road of Peachtree Corners Circle, quarterly picking up trash from the south side. The other thing that I have done is, just a few months ago, I coordinated a clothing drive and a sanitary napkin drive for children and teenage girls over at Landmark Church. We had over 250 residents there.
We gave out food and we gave out clothing. Coming up here on November 11, mark your calendars, I am coordinating a veteran’s event out at Town Center where we have all of our veterans and their families out there.
The thing that I would do when I’m elected is to bring more community service within Peachtree Corners—not just at The Forum, not just at Town Center, but on south side as well. I would like to bring activities that bring us together. Maybe we can have one and cross that bridge.”
Taking a different approach
The candidates were then prompted to recall a city council decision that they disagreed with.
Johnson: “What I’m talking about, and brought up, is the $10 million bridge that we built, that probably didn’t need to be built. We couldn’t use it for heifers all said and done. It was a substantial amount of money that we spent on that bridge. That’s one of the big things we’ve done.
Also, maybe not have done the condo for rent places right next to the liquor store. Those are the two big things that I will say most recently that we have done that I was not very pleased with because we started all this based on fear of apartments at the Town Center.
That’s the reason for forming this city—was to protect property values and protect housing density.”
Douglass: The first one is the intersection that’s near my house off Bush Road. I go the wrong way there all the time. I understand from the people that I’ve knocked on their doors that there have been quite a few accidents there. That’s one of the decisions that I just do not like.
I wish that they could hurry up and get it completed so that I can know which way I’m supposed to go. … I think I agree with Brett that those apartments behind the liquor store are hideous.”
Both candidates remarked that they want Peachtree Corners to continue to be a place for families.
Douglass has raised children in the area and Johnson is currently raising children. Johnson pointed out that he works full-time and isn’t retired, but still wants to devote a significant portion of his time to the betterment of the city where he was born and raised.
On the other hand, Douglass doesn’t punch a clock but is heavily involved in many activities. She said she brings a vision and diversity that the city needs.
Watch the complete candidate forum here.
The next municipal election is scheduled for November 7, 2023.
Advanced voting will close at 5:00 p.m. Friday, November 3, 2023.
All municipal elections take place at Peachtree Corners City Hall, 310 Technology Parkway, Peachtree Corners, Georgia, 30092, regardless of polling places for county, state or federal elections.
For information on where to vote and general elections visit the Georgia Secretary of State My Voter Page (MVP).
Peachtree Corners Councilmember Sadd Schedules Town Hall Meeting for November 2
Post 1 Councilmember Phil Sadd is hosting a Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, November 2, at 7:00 p.m. at Winters Chapel United Methodist Church, which is located at 5105 Winters Chapel Road.
The issues that will be discussed include:
- The new Marshal Program and Crime Prevention,
- The Forum and Town Center initiatives,
- Key transportation improvement projects,
- Curiosity Lab Innovation initiatives and
- Candidates for the City Council open seat.
“Meeting with constituents and residents to provide them with information regarding the city is vitally important for transparent communication,” said Sadd.
“The upcoming Town Hall will not only provide our residents with information and an opportunity to ask questions, but also it will allow me to hear directly from them about their concerns and desires of our city for the future,” he added.
The Town Hall Meeting will be held in Peachtree Corners District 1 and is a non-partisan event open to all citizens.
To get in touch with Councilmember Sadd, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gwinnett County DA Shows Compassionate Side of Law
Although crime shows like “Law & Order” may have many of us thinking we know how the legal system works, we probably aren’t as accurate as we think we are. To inform the business community about the resources available and the responsibilities of the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s office, the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce (SWGC) invited Gwinnett DA Patsy Austin-Gatson as the speaker at its September Coffee Connections.
Austin-Gatson started off by talking about a special initiative to bring local high school students to work in her office to get a first-hand look at how the wheels of justice turn. She started it last year with 12 students and it has already grown to a cohort of 49 this fall that spent 10 days with the DA’s office.
“I love our community. It’s diverse, it’s beautiful. And these students when they came in, they didn’t know really what to expect,” said Austin-Gatson. “But we expose them to what the DA’s office does, and how we work, and also to other agencies like the police department and medical examiners. …We just took them around and really showed them a lot.”
Besides putting education first, Austin-Gatson said the program is fiscally responsible in that it didn’t cost taxpayers anything. “Restaurants and businesses donate their lunches every single day. So it was just a beautiful experience, and demonstrated how cohesive our community is,” she said.
Law and order Gwinnett style
A few things Austin-Gatson wanted to key in on was that her office works directly with local police and courts. The mission of the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office is to seek and pursue justice on behalf of victims of crime through the fair and ethical prosecution of those who commit offenses in the community.
The DA’s office strives to impact the community through education, engagement and reduction in recidivism while working vigorously to keep the community safe so that all Gwinnett County citizens and residents can thrive.
With that in mind, she explained that her office is an advocate for victims of crime.
“They have a right to know everything that’s going on with a case that they are involved in. And that’s a constitutional requirement …that we walk them through the system,” she said.
Anyone who’s tried to read through a legal document can attest to how complicated the law can be, but the DA’s office strives to make sure victims are aware of their rights and completely understand the process.
On the flip side, those accused of a crime have rights as well.
“There’s a plea of guilty / not guilty. …If there’s a trial, we go through that, and sometimes there are appeals,” she said. “Basically, the legal case is still centered on protecting the defendant’s rights, just like victims’ rights.”
Austin-Gatson pointed out that often friends and family want to see a conviction overturned.
“I’m getting some groups of people that go out and send 20 million texts, emails and things like that to [get the convicted person] freed, but unless they have additional evidence, we can’t let them walk,” she said. “We have to support the jury system when somebody was convicted of a crime; they went through appeals, they got that handled, then I’m not going to be one to set that aside.”
Ways to improve things
But a high conviction rate isn’t the goal for Austin-Gatson.
The DA’s office has initiatives such as rehabilitation and maintenance programs to turn former criminals into productive citizens.
“That’s where 17- to 28-year-olds were having their first brush with the law,” said Austin-Gatson. “We try a program …to deflect people from getting deeper into the criminal justice system.”
The first cohort graduated in December, she said.
“We all have a responsibility to do something. We sit back and say things are so horrible, things are awful,” she said. “I’m all about getting people [changing] their future.”
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