Paul, set to succeed venerated city matriarch Eva Galambos, is the key figure in a changing-of-the-guard transition happening in city government that will also see three new council members take their seats beside him. He defeated Bob Brown in the November general election, and Galambos, who is retiring, did not seek re-election.
Paul said in an interview last month his taking office essentially paves the way for his three-pronged campaign platform to graduate to his administration’s agenda.
First up is taking the reins of the push to bring the oft-publicized downtown revitalization initiative to fruition.
“That’s my first priority. That’s probably what I’m going to spend the first part of next year focusing on because we’ve got a lot of things to get done in a short period of time and to get things moving as quickly as possible,” said Paul, who served as the city’s District 3 councilman from 2005-09 and on the Stone Mountain City Council before moving to Sandy Springs.
The city center project is also vital to the second of the incoming mayor’s chief priorities — community building.
“Sandy Springs is a wonderful collection of individual neighborhoods, but there’s very little opportunity across neighborhoods for what I call creating community,” Paul said. “We have some things where community happens — the Concerts by the Springs in the summer, at the [Sandy Springs] Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and at events like Tossed out Treasures and Elegant Elf.
“One of the reasons why the downtown city center is so important is … I want to see more of those kinds of activities within the city, where we get outside of our little neighborhoods and have an opportunity to create more of a sense of community within Sandy Springs.”
Concerted, comprehensive facelifts along Roswell Road rounds out the agenda for Paul, a businessman who owns iSquared Communications.
“The entire corridor is ripe for redevelopment,” he said. “I want to try and do things that will encourage it — for old, dilapidated and deteriorating apartment complexes as well as older strip malls that need to be updated, renovated or totally removed and rebuilt … [giving rise to] something that will attract the kind of retail center where the folks in Sandy Springs would be proud to shop.”
Galambos, who endorsed Paul at the start of his then-candidacy for mayor last spring, lauded her successor’s capabilities.
“I’ve known Rusty for many, many years,” said Galambos. “He helped us on the committee for [Sandy Springs cityhood], served as a city councilman for four years and put us on the right track as far as parliamentary procedures and how to govern … I could see [then] that he was very sound.”
District 52 State Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, has known Paul since 1988, when Paul worked for Housing and Urban Development.
“I think this is one of the great things about the legacy of our city and the continuation of this great experience that’s worked so well,” Wilkinson said. “Eva was there for the city and its people. It’s the same thing for Rusty. He’s there for the city. We are so very fortunate to have someone like Rusty. He is my best friend in politics and one of the best friends in life and he’s there or all the right reasons. …
“I think the people of Sandy Springs are going to be very, very pleased to have him as their mayor.”