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Does Smyrna Need an Image Makeover?

Some members of the Smyrna Rotary Club discussed what they feel are misconceptions about the city and offered suggestions for how to correct them.

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.’”

What are your suggestions for improving Smyrna’s image? Tell us in the comments.

smurf April 11, 2012 at 04:39 PM
well said
Michelle April 11, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Agreed Donna. The reality is that if the parents that are so quick to put a for sale sign in the yard or immediately and only consider private would put the same energy and resources into the local public schools, who knows how successful they could become. Clearly, that exact philosophy has proven successful for Nickajack, Teasly, King Springs and even Brown. All of those schools received parental and community support and have made great improvements. Although Campbell Middle has had struggles, it appears they are on the path of improvements and hopefully the same will happen to the high school. Unfortunately, if "people" don't get involved, set standards and expectations....the same old same old will be in place. Bottom line....instead of running from the problem and expecting it to change, families and the community as a whole need to stand strong, committed and willing to support our local schools....the trickle down effect is immeasurable. I think a marketing strategy is a brilliant idea....why not, private schools do it...even the charter schools which are funded in part with public school money. If you are interested in being a part of the grassroots effort to encourage families to attend the new Smyrna elementary school, please contact me directly through Patch. We are looking for people willing and eager to be a part of making this a GREAT school for our CHILDREN and COMMUNITY. :)
Plank April 11, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Smyrna needs to decide what it wants to be: a small, rural neighborhood town, or a large, bustling inner suburb. The area directly surrounding Market Village and the city services is lovely, but is very reminiscent of a small rural town. Smyrna's city limits extend as far south as veterans memorial highway in Mableton though, and the city has plans to extend even more. The city needs to spend resources making streetscapes as pedestrian friendly as already exists further into downtown Smyrna. There also needs to a focus on South Cobb Drive--the city limits extend down to the interstate (and have for many years), yet this section of town gets NO improvements like Atlanta Rd receives on an ongoing basis.
Brian April 13, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Schools. Schools. Schools. Perception is everything. Outreach campaigns and commercials should be focused on schools. Almost every new home is a family house. School perception is super important. It doesn't matter how good the schools are if people don't realize it.
smurf April 13, 2012 at 10:10 AM
As long as Mayor Bacon is Mayor (his father was Mayor before him) the perception of Smyrna as a redneck community will not change. Smyrna will maintain the image of that old TV show the Dukes of Hazzard with Boss Hog as Mayor and a step and fetch it council reminiscent of Hazzard's police department, serving at Hog's pleasure.
Amy April 13, 2012 at 12:53 PM
So you really think people who don't live in Smyrna know who our mayor is? Of the surrounding areas, I can think of only 2 mayors' names: Kasim Reed - Atlanta, and Bucky Johnson - Norcross. And if it weren't for Bucky's GT connection, I would only know Reed. It is pretty egotistical to think there is some majority outside Smyrna who actually know or care who our mayor is.
Freya Stark April 13, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Bacon has a rep. And it's not good. Smyrna also has a rep. And it's not good either. Ask people where they live and they answer Vinings. smurf is dead-on right.
smurf April 13, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Freya Stark...you called it just right....that's why so many subdivisions use Vinings in their name...trying to distance themselves from Smyrna as much as possible. And, for Amy, yes a lot of folks...business leaders...developers...those in real estate...those who INVEST in communities.... do know who the mayor is. But, you missed most of my point....its not so much WHO he is as HOW he leads.....he is far more concerned with the trappings of being mayor and being called mayor than with improving city government....changes that threaten his "status" is an affront to him.
Maggie April 13, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Smyrna has potential, & the bones to be a progressive city- a place that people look to for inspiration, entertainment, and to live. Some of the great elements are: the recycling program, The Market Village with shops, restaurants, a library, community center and town hall all in walking distance of each other, Campbell Middle & High Schools International Baccalaureate programs, the proximity to the Chattahooche River & Silver Comet trail, Atlanta Rds instant connectivity to downtown Atlanta, being up in the hills, the wide sidewalks being created on Atlanta Road. Yet, there is something missing- what is it? (will continue in another submission- writing too much here...) .
Maggie April 13, 2012 at 09:56 PM
(continued..) So what is missing? I think it is the intimacy in our design. Our community is socially tight but not design tight.I Iove that whenever I call the water department or town hall the folks feel like a good friend. That in itself is worth its weight in gold. But, I think other aspects- namely in design- we need improvement. We need to create a sacredness and openess of place. How do we do this: One thing we can do is look at other cities that we all love: Paris, Amsterdam, Washington, D.C. San Francisco, Portland, ME and Oregon... and figure out what it is about these cities that make us want to be there and bring them to Smyrna. Portland, Oregon- it's connectivity & clean air- how do they do it- great public transportation, bike paths, & sidewalks that join all areas of the town together. inviting bridges- that promote romantic walks across them, Street lined streets - are always and attraction. I have never seen a street with trees lining it that did not look good. Why aren't their trees being planted between Atlanta Rd & its new wide sidewalk? Without the trees it just looks barren,runners,bikers & walkers are going to be bloody hot. Market Village is a great concept, yet why isn't it working? Well, what great city has a big wall announcing the shops and the village itself? This wall of announcements prevents the village from seamlessly integrating into the community- tear down the signs, open up the center to enjoy and connect with the o all of Atlanta Rd.
Maggie April 13, 2012 at 10:04 PM
excellent comments. I could not agree more. you can read my post. the past 6 months there have been meetings regarding Vinings Village Future Plan. I was able to go to a few, and kept trying to mention the need to connect -pedestrian wise- smyrna with Vinings Village. It is a desert between Atlanta Road- Paces Ferry intersection- all the way to the village. If there was a beautiful walking, biking path- imagine how vibrant both City of Smyrna and VInings would be. I could see everyone biking and walking to different area destinations. - plant those street trees!
Maggie April 13, 2012 at 10:08 PM
what is East Cobb doing that West Cobb is not doing- in terms of schools. We moved to Smyrna a few years ago, and constantly here that once their child is in 3rd or 4th grade they plan to move to East Cobb for their schools, or send their child to a private school. Parent involvement- is huge- what else. Let's make it happen here. I think the step to having IB programs is great. The step to have larger classes- stinks. It is a proven fact that the more one on one a student is with a teacher the more they will learn, and the happier they will be. Education is so important to making a community desirable- the budget cuts should not ever be with education!
Maggie April 13, 2012 at 10:20 PM
We moved here from Intown Atlanta- and the looks and comments I received from our "intown" friends when I told them we were moving to Smyrna were not supportive nor encouraging. When I told my family- they were a bit smug- they had never heard of it, and could not pronounce the name. & once they pronounced the name, it just did not sound quite sophisticated enough for them. So when it gets down to it - why is City of Smyrna not respected- I think the name does not serve it well, and being "a suburb" of Atlanta seems also to play a negative part. though CIty of Decatur- which is technically a suburb of Atlanta- has really built its reputation. All this said, the responses, yes they hurt my feelings, yet after living in Smyrna for a bit- I now feel like I live in the best kept secret type town ever- they can all think what they want- but little do they know how great we are and how much greater we will become.
Mike April 13, 2012 at 10:34 PM
On one hand Smyrna seems to not have a clear identity for other residents. It seems to draw a blank until you mention Vinings which we all know has a aura of class and elegance. On the other hand these people have no idea what they are missing since I love Smyrna, its one of the nations best kept secrets to me.
Duncan April 13, 2012 at 10:59 PM
People identify with Vinings rather than Smyrna for the same reason a corporation I worked with in the early '80s managed to have an Atlanta mailing address even though they were on Vinings Mtn. in the office park on Mr. Wilkinson Pkwy; they wanted a 'classier' sounding name than 'Vinings', which at the time was NOTHING like it is now...., there were still packs of stray but friendly dogs inhabiting the pasture where the Quik Trip station is now and one farm had cows and horses in a corraled area next to Paces. The Inn was where all us drunks hung out and some even spit on the floor. Mrs Vanneman was still on all fours raising hell. But this corporation I worked for had loftier ideas about 'brand identification' and somehow got an Atlanta mailing address as I mentioned before. Vinings HAS INDEED turned into one of the more classy slums I've ever driven through but it is NOTHING like it was....; I think the real reason Smyrna suffers..., if in fact it DOES suffer, is because of its name. After all, SMYRNA ain't a very sexy name...., it's kinda like GLADYS.
Maggie April 13, 2012 at 11:05 PM
interesting to note- the history of the name, Smyrna. Though not very sexy or sophisticated sounding, it does have roots in one of the most ancient, and at one time progressive societies- Greece & Turkey... (read below- from Wikipedia) Smyrna (Greek: Σμύρνη or Σμύρνα) was an ancient city located at a central and strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. Thanks to its advantageous port conditions, its ease of defence and its good inland connections, Smyrna rose to prominence. The ancient city is located at two sites within modern İzmir, Turkey. The first site, probably founded indigenously, rose to prominence during the Archaic Period as one of the principal ancient Greek settlements in western Anatolia. The second, whose foundation is associated with Alexander the Great, reached metropolitan proportions during the period of the Roman Empire. Most of the present-day remains date from the Roman era, the majority from after a 2nd century AD earthquake.
another comment April 13, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Unfortunately, Cobb County keeps on giving the Schools the dreggs of Principals. They think that Campbell Highschool needs to have a minority principal. No Campbell needs to have a qualified Principal. The student body, black, hispanic, and white all loved the long time white male principal. Campbell had the IB program and a great leader of the IB program. Then Cobb sends Grant Rivera, the fake Hispanic who really could not even speak proper spanish ( the Hispanic kids had no respect for him, because he could not properly speak spanish). Jose from the baseball team even offered to do the announcements himself. Rivera came in and treated all the students like they were criminals. Passing out his sweat suits like they do in jail intake, if you didn't wear skirts past the knee for girls. Chaining and pad locking the fire doors the minute school ended, while students were still in the school for tutoring and sports ( against fire code). He fired 10 out of 17 Math teachers, including 2 of the best, who got their jobs back. All to bring his munions from South Cobb. Then the big cover-up of the alleged Rape by the Marietta High Asst. Principal Son, during a Basket Ball game. Finally, Dale Gadis got rid of this mess who took the spirit away from Campbell. You thought it couldn't get any worse but then the last Supt. over promotes Denise Magee. Talk about affirmative action gone wrong.
another comment April 13, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Now to the continued downward spiral at Campbell with Denise Magee. She is simple over her head. She is treating the students like they are in elementary school. With her bell schedule reducing it to 5 minutes and one tardies. Hall sweeps, and Saturday School. Last night was my last straw with this incompetant woman. I told her that there was gross incompetance in her administration to her face today. They sent out a voice message to every student and told them that they had to report to Saturday School this Saturday. This Saturday is the big test date to take the ACT for Juniors hoping to get into college. This incompetant principal should not be scheduling any Saturday schools with a consequence of receiving an out of school suspension for any dates that the SAT or ACT are given. She should know this since Campbell is an administration site, but she is too ignorant to know that. Then two hours after the first anouncement their is a second that it was a mistake, and should have only gone to certain students not school wide. I confronted her about this, she tried to blame a male Asst. Principal. I told her that I had been a manager of a diverse workforce for many years, and that as the boss, you are responsible for all actions, not a subordinate. Why would you use a voice mail system to diseminate something like this. I caught this imcompetant women is several other bold face lies, that I plan on telling the Supt. and the board. Not only is she incopetant but a liar.
Brian April 16, 2012 at 09:27 AM
Branch properties purchased it, made a proposal, but because of apartments in the proposal it wasn't very popular. They withdrew it for now and are working on a new proposal.
Brian April 16, 2012 at 09:30 AM
Maggie: Not really sure - I think it's middle schools and high schools. For elementary schools, East Cobb is actually on avg crowded compared to Smyrna.
Brian April 16, 2012 at 09:32 AM
I just drove down Lee Street the other day near Concord road and MY GOSH it has a lot of new (or renovated) beautiful homes with a ton of character. It looks more like Virginia Highlands or Ansley Park than Smyrna.There are a lot of hidden gems in Smyrna that a lot of people don't realize.
Brian April 16, 2012 at 09:36 AM
I'm not sure what to say about this, but it does sound like an awful lot of inaccurate information.
Brian April 16, 2012 at 09:38 AM
Maggie: Names are a perceptional thing. With better marketing, suddenly "Smyrna" becomes a household name for an affluent part of the metro area.
Duncan April 16, 2012 at 11:14 AM
I don't know where you were in '83, Brian, but I was living in one of the old Robinson houses behind that open field where all the stray dogs I mentioned earlier lived. No exaggeration or untruth to what I said at all.
Duncan April 16, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Many years ago, some developer (..who's name escapes me at the moment..) started throwing up these "craftsman" style homes and doing 'some' renovation on existing properties as well. I agree, the overall effect on Smyrna has been very, very positive and has remained very 'human' scale......, as opposed to the Vinings high rise monstrosity that has completely destroyed what was once (..in my not too long ago memory..) a placid, bucolic village.
Pam J April 16, 2012 at 07:53 PM
I've lived in Cobb County my entire life (58 years). Most of those years have been spent in the southern part of the county. The only city I have not lived in is Kennesaw. Smyrna used to be a place where nobody wanted to live. I always thought that was stupid considering it's location. There was a time when I could afford to live in Smyrna. Then, a few years ago, a little two-bedroom, one-bath, wood frame house would sell for way over $200,000. What Smyrna became was a Buckhead wannabe. They started building all these big expensive homes, but only in the southern part of Smyrna. The northern part of Smyrna got no attention and still doesn't get any. Except for a few little "pockets", Smyrna hasn't changed that much. But it does have a mixed-up image.
Brian April 17, 2012 at 06:09 AM
Pam: I'd argue that South of Windy Hill, Smyrna has improved quite a bit. It's still seedy between Concord and Windy Hill but definately has the scale tipped towards established. It's also pretty nice north of Spring Rd except East of little five points, and it's nice, albiet slightly seedy, South of Church Rd just North of Concord, aside from the beat up apartments on Hurt Rd. Have you gone down Lee Rd lately, or looked at a lot of new development just West of market village and around the schools and Church Rd? All these areas just popped in the last few years, after the real estate market crash (though obviously the investment probably started pre-crash)
Faye October 11, 2012 at 01:55 PM
I feel the same way, Donna. I liked Smyrna and my neighborhood til it was time for me to send my daughters to Campbell High. The campus is in need of a makeover. The paint is peeling and fading, there are dead roaches in the halls, old bathrooms, etc. My sister from Fayetteville was at Campbell with her son for basketball and sent a text to me saying " I can't believe you let your children come to this school." I hate that outsiders make the negative comments about this school and are right about them. I would love it here if the high school was in better condition and faculty had more control in the halls and classroom.
Faye October 11, 2012 at 01:59 PM
I want to do something about the campus at Campbell High School here in Smyrna. Any ideas on how we can make a difference there?
Duncan October 11, 2012 at 02:54 PM
I don't have any kids in the Smyrna schools so I don't have any "dogs in this fight", but from what I've read and heard about the shape the schools are in and my experience with one elementary school nearby, I would say it's time for parents and teachers of good intent to join together and take the schools back from the students and incompetent faculty/administrators. Nothing's going to happen until parents become more involved and work with teachers instead of allowing their "precious little darlings" to run the system.

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