For the second time in two years, the City of South Fulton is considering rebranding itself. In 2017, just months after incorporating, the city tried and failed to change its name to Renaissance.

In mid-September, South Fulton’s Mayor William “Bill” Edwards, Mayor Pro Tem Mark Baker, and District 3 Councilwoman Helen Z. Willis sponsored legislation to create a council-appointed task force to come up with five options for potential City names that could appear on the ballot for the November 2020 election.

“This citizen-led task force will give residents an opportunity to engage and give their consensus on what our name should be for the City,” Willis said about the legislation. “Each councilmember will name two residents from their specific districts and two district-wide appointments to serve on the Community Renaming Committee Taskforce.

As the city of South Fulton goes through this process of selecting a new name for its municipality, one thing is for certain: its residents are in good hands under the leadership of its city manager Odie Donald II.

After all, Donald — towering at 6-foot-seven-inches — grew up in and around parts of southwest Atlanta that are now part of South Fulton. He has had an impressive career in workforce development for two of the U.S. largest metropolises.

“I’m so excited to be a part of what is now South Fulton and making all of those dreams become a reality because of South Fulton is metropolitan Atlanta’s and Fulton County’s third-largest city,” Donald said. “The biggest thing that’s going on with South Fulton right now is that, now that we’ve made it through the transition period, we’re trying to identify our sense of place and where we’re going to establish our foundation.”

And that process includes exploring the idea of renaming. Willis and other supporters of the name change say there’s confusion between the actual municipality and other unincorporated parts of southern Fulton County.

They believe that waiting to rename could potentially bring negative attention to the city as it attempts to grow.

Another part of that process of placemaking involves making decisions around where the city’s urban center will be, Donald said.

“Our council is evaluating where downtown would be, where our main streets would be, and where our city center will be,” said Donald, identifying several busy corridors under consideration like Wolf Creek, Cascade and Old National. 

“We’re not through with the process yet, but I think we’ve identified that Old National is a very important corridor,” he added. “Also the area around Wolf Creek, including the Vandivers Lake area is also a real central part of the city. Further, we also look at Cascade as a very integral pathway into our city. So we’re kind of looking at all of those different areas to kind of decide which place is most appropriate for the various opportunities that we have.”

The city of South Fulton was incorporated in May 2017 as part of the metropolitan Atlanta area. South Fulton is the third-largest city in metro Atlanta and the eighth-largest city in the state of Georgia, serving the population of 98,000 according to the US Census Bureau’s report estimate for 2018 census projections. 

The City is home to the South Fulton Parkway Corridor, which is only minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The Old National Highway Corridor is one of the region’s most densely populated areas and serves as the largest commercial corridor within the City’s limits.

In a 2020-2023 Strategic Plan released last week, the city has adopted as its vision to become an innovative, diverse community that is safe, environmentally conscious, healthy, transparent and financially sustainable for all its citizens and visitors. 

The plan also identifies five key near-term objectives, which include: investing in developing strong teams; grow infrastructure and solidify finances; increase community collaboration and quality of life; focus on economic development; and, create an efficient government.

“It is clear that South Fulton was created out of an overwhelming desire for self-governance, improved service delivery, and self-determination,” Donald said in a letter to constituents related to the strategic plan. “Now that we have clarity about the challenges and have set forth specific focus and initiatives, we will begin to execute these plans and communicate progress with you, our valued residents and business stakeholders.”

He added, “City-building is not easy, but through continued collaboration and partnership between city officials, residents, and businesses we will continue to ensure we make the City of South Fulton ‘Where You Want to Be.’”

According to the City of South Fulton’s government website, Donald and his team are responsible for making recommendations to the council concerning programs and policies and developing methods to ensure the effective and efficient operation of city services.

Donald’s office also coordinates and administers the implementation of policies, procedures, and ordinances that will provide for the sustainable, managed growth of the city. It has oversight over seven departments, including Destination South Fulton, Community & Regulatory Affairs, Public Works, Fire, Police, Parks & Recreation, and Communications & External Affairs.

“I am responsible for managing all day-to-day operations and helping to bring the vision of our 100,000 residents and our eight dynamic elected council members to fruition through excellent service delivery,” he said.

To clarify, Donald’s role as the city manager operates in a different capacity that Edwards. City managers and mayors, while they’re quite different, work hand in hand and have different responsibilities depending on the form of government that’s in place, Donald said. 

“Many times the mayor is the ambassador and large visionary for the city,” Donald explained. “I’d compare a city manager to being more of the tactician and mechanic, making sure that the service delivery and the model is intact and that day-to-day activities under the governance and guidance of the mayor and city council are carried out effectively. One is more of the big picture strategists while the other is the implementer and delivery mechanism.”


Otey Donald II serves as city manager for the city of South Fulton, where he oversees the day-to-day operations of the city under the governance and guidance of the mayor and city council. (Courtesy / Odie Donald II)

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