Speakeast with - Dunwoody Mayor Ken Wright puts his money where plays are

Ken Wright is literally putting his money where his mouth is, both as the first mayor of Dunwoody and as a supporter of the arts. President of health care software company eHealthcareIT, Wright has pledged to donate his first year's mayoral salary of $16,000 to Stage Door Players, a small, 24-year-old professional playhouse. Artistic director Robert Egizio says, "It will go into a general operating fund to be used as needed. His backing has jump-started a new and profound interest in Stage Door."

How long have you known the work of Stage Door Players?

I've known of them for quite a long time, but have been a regular patron for four years or so. My wife and I have season tickets, and it's a rare date night for us. Robert is an extremely talented director, and I think it's important to keep the group whole and give them as much of a future as possible.

How did you decide to give them your first year's salary?

I was – how shall I put this – convinced to run for mayor, because I've never been interested in public office. I'm a businessman and an entrepreneur. But I think community involvement is important. I've never done anything for the community and gotten paid for it. I thought a nice way to kick the city off would be for Dunwoody to pick a cause and donate to it. These are guys who could certainly utilize the funding, and it would let folks know they're out there. The marketing aspect is always a struggle for a performing arts group. They're certainly an important aspect of our community.

It sounds like those auto industry CEOs being paid $1 a year.

They're not as innocent, though. (Laughs.) It's the right thing to do.

How did you tell them, and how will they get the money?

I told one of their board members. I didn't make a big production of it: "Get a picture of Ken with a giant check!" I told them I'm donating my salary after Uncle Sam takes his bite. For a year, it'll flow right to them.

How important do you think the arts are in a community?

I've always been a believer that you have to have a healthy arts aspect to be a well-rounded community. If you don't, you're missing something important. If you have a community of all industrial sites, you're missing a hell of a lot. You have the industrial sites, but no residences, no arts. We've got various groups in Dunwoody. We're fortunate that we have the Spruill Arts Center, which offers classes from A to Z.

Has anyone hit you up for your next year's salary?

My term is for three years, and we'll have to see. I'm not Daddy Warbucks. I've got a 529 college fund to build up for my children.

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