Stone Mountain appoints new public works director

City of Stone Mountain seal on the historic railroad depot. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This story has been updated. 

Stone Mountain, GA — After a lengthy executive session, the Stone Mountain City Council, at its Nov. 15 work session, confirmed the appointment of Gerald Adair, who will serve as the next head of public works. 

It was announced in December 2021 that Jim Tavenner would retire as the city’s public works director.

Adair comes to the city with a variety of experience in public works. He currently works with the department of environmental services and has spent time in public works and code enforcement in the city of Atlanta, City Manager Darnetta Tyus said.

In other business, the city council continued discussing putting up street sign toppers honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ten locations have been identified. The mayor suggested that the topper to read “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.” Several examples of street sign toppers from other areas of the country had been presented. Council members were able to use these examples to select a topper style they feel is a good fit for the city.

The council favored an option that would be placed on top of the street signs and is an example from Milwaukee, WI. The city’s public works department will install the toppers. 

There was a 21-day public notice period and a public hearing on Nov. 15 on the topper. 

Residents encouraged the city to move forward. Some favored the toppers, and others questioned whether the city should add them.

Residents wondered about the cost of the sign toppers. The cost of the toppers is not yet known because the number of signs and the design still has to be determined. 

The Rev. Orea Parker spoke in favor of the street topper. She shared a quote stating, “The purpose of a painting is not just to show the world as it is, but as it’s intended to be.”

“What picture do you have of Stone Mountain? This is an opportunity to paint a new picture and a new brand for Stone Mountain,” Parker said. “The question that confronts us this evening, for you as city leaders and we as the community, is what picture, what brand do you want people who live here and those who pass through here…to see when they enter the city?”

She asked if the city wants people to feel a sense of love, peace and unity or thoughts of hatred, racism and division. She said it’s time for the city to change its reputation.

“The topper would say to the world and to the community wouldn’t it be great to say that Stone Mountain is a town that once was known for its hatred and racism is moving forward to change its image to embrace love, to show respect and dignity for all people,” Parker said.

Parker grew up during the time of segregation. She had to ride in the back of buses, attend an all Black school and sit in the back of restaurants.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name represents justice, love, peace,” Parker said. “Dr. King’s name means a lot to me. When I see it, if I’m feeling down, it inspires hope of a brighter day, a brighter tomorrow for my grandchildren and the children that are coming after us.”

“His name is an honor to him. His name is an honor to the sacrifices that he gave and represents us,” she added.

Melanie Florence grew up in Stone Mountain and was also a child during the Civil Rights Movement. She said she doesn’t want to see the town politicized.

“When people drive through this town, walk in this town, they see diversity,” Florence said. “It’s a positive thing. I don’t know what difference a sign’s going to make.”

She added that she’d rather see the city move forward and not live in the past.

Mike Schaaphok said the city is entering a slippery slope and questioned if the city has the right to use King’s name on the toppers.  

“Let the city do something, let the city make its own reputation. We want to borrow, we want to take, we want to have somebody come in and give us a brand because we don’t have any brand of our own,” he said. “What right does this city have to usurp his reputation?”

“Think again about entering this slippery slope of political reasons that are not related to this town to take a great man’s name in vain,” Shaaphok added.

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