An interview with a neighbor: Jim King

Community organizer Jim King reflects on his 27 years in Buckhead

Jim King, 50, has lived in or around Buckhead for 27 years. A resident of Chastain Park since 1996, King works as chairman and president of the Chastain Park Athletic Club, a nonprofit established in 2002 to save Chastain Park's public swimming pool, develop new facilities, and to promote aquatics, health, recreation, and safety. King also serves as chairman of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, a volunteer organization formed in 2008 that unites and advocates on behalf of Buckhead's 43 separate neighborhoods.

When I think of Buckhead I think of a community of faith. There are churches and temples and synagogues on every corner, and great leaders in each of the religious institutions. It's a core part of the fabric of the community.

There are a lot of people in Buckhead with more means that most, but there are a lot of people in Buckhead who don't have that much in the way of means. There's a lot more diversity in Buckhead than people realize and a huge international population. If you look at the enrollment at North Atlanta High School, you'll see one of the most diverse high schools around. All the neighborhoods within Buckhead have a unique character because of the people that live there, and I think that's neat. But it is one community.

My favorite thing about Buckhead is that fabric: the faith community, the neighborhoods, the people, parks, and the generosity of the people. Some people have the means to give money and others give time.

The Buckhead Coalition of Neighborhoods, which I chair, is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit and that advocates on behalf of the neighborhoods in Buckhead. It's a place where people can come and express concerns especially when there's an issue that goes across NPUs - I think we have at least five NPUs and I think four city council members technically in Buckhead.

We initially advocated for the GA-400 and the I-85 connection and I like to think we were catalysts. Now that project is on its way to completion and it's going to help our community. We advocated for a community-wide prosecutor with the District Attorney's office and the Fulton County Commission. And that benefits the community by making sure that offenders go to jail.

We're really involved in a lot of transportation issues. It's very impactful when people are stuck in traffic. I mean we've all been there.

There's a lot of interest in education issues. Over 50 percent of our tax dollars go to the City of Atlanta School Board and that's a real problem. We have good schools in Buckhead, they could and should be better, and I'm hopeful that in the near future they will be.

People in Buckhead, I guess you'd say, pay a lot of taxes, and they expect quality services. So I think every now and then people get a little frustrated, and I think that's reasonable. Buckhead pulls more than its own weight in the City of Atlanta. And it's glad to do it - it's very generous, very philanthropic, very civic-minded.

When I first moved to Chastain Park, on any given day, you would see horses riding around the golf course right next to the street. It wasn't as congested, there weren't as many people. The whole region is getting denser.

I used to play rugby, and after practice we'd go get a few beers at Five Paces Inn and we'd go to the Texas State Line, which is now the One Star Ranch over on Irby Avenue. And then on Saturday mornings I'd go to Goldberg's, and talk to Mr. Goldberg when it was a very small bagel shop on Roswell Road. And then for lunch sometimes, we'd get a po' boy at Henri's.

But there are people in Buckhead who lived here even before it was annexed by the city. I've met some old-timers who grew up here and they'll say things like, "Well, in the ol' days we'd go over to Brookwood Hills, you know, they had a private pool over there, and if we were feelin' a little advent'rous, we might go over to Garden Hills. But when we wanted to go out to the country, we went to North Fulton Park and swam up there."

So it's kind of funny in the sense that now when we talk about "North Fulton" we're talking about Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Roswell, all that. But before you and I were here, this part of town was North Fulton.

We do have some growing pains where the neighborhoods meet the business districts because the size of buildings that are going in. Trying to make what they call the "height plane" gradual from the neighborhood, stair step it up to the business community so that nobody feels overwhelmed by their new neighbor.

And this is just a personal issue, but I guess the only thing that really did bother me years ago was when they redeveloped some areas that needed to be redeveloped. It seems that whenever that happens and we have a large minority population ... for instance, we had a large Latino population down in the Miami Circle area, which was basically for all intents and purposes, moved, you know, taken away, and those people had nowhere to live. I guess that's part of the price of progress, but it doesn't feel right when a population gets moved. They might as well have been my Irish relatives in New York City, you know, being moved out. My mom's family was moved out from one part of Brooklyn to another just because they built a highway through their home and things like that. So it's part of progress, but I think there should be a little more sensitivity to it.

We're really blessed in this community, but you know, the economy impacts everybody. A lot of people have been just hanging on until we come out of the recession. It's been particularly difficult for small businesses and nonprofits. But you just have to have faith that eventually there'll be an upturn. I believe that if you keep doing the right things, good things will happen.

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