Does Smyrna need an image makeover? Some members think so. At their meeting Tuesday the conversation turned toward outsiders’ perceptions of the city and what its residents can do to make it better.
A Mistaken Identity
Suzanne Pruitt, the Smyrna Rotary Club program chair, moved to Smyrna several years ago from Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood. She said her friends were shocked when she told them she was moving to Smyrna and some didn’t know where it was.
“People don’t know about Smyrna,” she said. “Smyrna is the closest suburb to the city. I think it suffers from a huge perception problem and I don’t know where that’s come from over the years, but people have this preconceived notion about Smyrna that’s not true. It’s a lovely place.”
Smyrna’s Ward 4 City Councilman Charles “Corkey” Welch was the meeting’s guest speaker. While he said he’s an advocate of Cobb County schools—both his children graduated from —he said he thinks schools in Smyrna are judged prematurely.
“A lot of it is, and I believe this, it’s the perception of the schools,” he said. “It’s not the actual schools, it’s the parent perception of ‘Oh I don’t want my children going here for one reason or another.’ But we still have a good school system in this county. If we can’t just get that around, I think we can make a lot of headway.”
Dr. Denise Magee, Campbell High School principal and a Rotarian, agreed with Welch saying she’s battled misconceptions about Smyrna schools since she became a principal five years ago.
What’s Being Done Now
Welch said that education was one of the five areas the new Council agreed deserved attention over the next four years. The Council came up with the list at its annual retreat in January. Other items for consideration were business retention, especially in .
Welch said city staff created a list of Smyrna’s vacant properties and has presented it to the for suggestions to increase development. He said Council representatives are also asking local business owners what the city can do to help stimulate growth. City officials will take suggestions from South Cobb Drive business owners at a town hall meeting Tuesday, April 17 at 7 p.m. at the .
Citizens can also bring suggestions to Welch at his Ward 4 town hall meeting Thursday, April 12 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
What Can Be Done in the Future
Like Pruitt, Laren Odom, Smyrna Rotary Club president, agreed that “there’s a lot Smyrna has to offer” and suggested a media campaign showing Smyrna in a positive light might help attract new businesses and residents to the community.
“Sometimes you have to spend money to make money,” he said “But we have a lot to offer (…) I think if we present the city in a commercial or a magazine I think that would go a long way for changing the perception. I don’t think it’s the reality.”
For Welch, Smyrna’s residents are the best PR campaign. He said he speaks highly of Cobb County public schools everyday and encourages other Smyrna residents to advocate for them as well. However, he added that parent involvement is the key to Smyrna school’s continued success.
“There’s one other issue and I think that’s parent participation,” he said. “Both of my children went through school and made it look easy. My wife and I neither one of us were ‘A’ students, but both my children were. They just studied and I think it was because we had the drive to at least sit them down in the evenings and say, ‘OK, this is what you’ve got to do now.’”