Recently, a Roswell High School Senior asked me when Roswell “peaked.” I took his question to be whether Roswell is a better place to live today than in the past.
I quickly assured him that Roswell’s best days are yet to come, but his question deserves a more detailed response.
I have lived in Roswell all my life. I have watched Roswell grow from a small town of 2,500 citizens to a city of 95,000. I have seen farms subdivided into neighborhoods, and dirt roads widened to six-lane highways.
I have watched abandoned fields grow up into pine woods and then cleared for shopping centers. I have hunted quail where there are now subdivisions, and have seen deer in the city where there were none to be found when I was a boy. I have seen apartments built for yuppies become homes for immigrants. I have seen shopping centers developed, grow old and empty, and then redeveloped.
Roswell has lost farms, fields and woods but we have also helped set aside hundreds of acres of land for park land and established stream buffers to preserve our creeks and river.
We have preserved our history by acquiring four of our founder’s houses and the old mill property, by establishing a city archive, and by carefully regulating new development in our historic district.
We have brought arts and cultural programs to a town which offered little outside church and school programs during my childhood.
We lost the Roswell Cotton Mill and its jobs, but we have attracted hundreds of new businesses and thousands of better paying jobs. Today, Roswell’s citizens are wealthier, better educated and more diverse than ever before.
Not everything is better. When I was a boy the only traffic delay was when the Hornets played Alpharetta and the fans left afterwards. Traffic comes with success. With money from the state T-SPLOST tax, Roswell is investing millions in transportation improvements to alleviate our traffic problems.
Measured by growth, finances, infrastructure investments, demographics or awards, Roswell is a huge success.
During my 20 years in office, the city has grown from 55,000 to 95,000 people, we have lowered property tax rates, balanced the budget, maintained a AAA bond rating, built two new fire stations and a new water treatment plant, opened new streets and roundabouts, and purchased over 700 acres of park land having a value of over 100 million dollars.
We have been recognized as being the best city to live, work and play in Georgia and having the best parks department in the nation.
The best measure on whether a city is successful is whether it can attract and retain good citizens.
I was blessed to grow up in a small town, but if Roswell had not grown, I could not have come back from Athens to practice law in my home town. Roswell is continuing to attract entrepreneurs who grew up in Roswell and returned to open businesses and raise families, like the Pernice brothers, (Table & Main and Osteria Matone), Matt Curling (Variant Brewing) and Matt Judy (just elected to the Roswell City Council).
Roswell has the Chattahoochee River, a rich history, a world class parks system, a growing arts community, and diverse and engaged citizens. As long as we recognize that the world is changing and we adapt to those changes, Roswell will not peak, but will become an even better place to live.