Roswell honors former councilman described as ‘true public servant’ for residents

A former Roswell councilman who left office due to serious health issues was honored by officials Monday, and was described by the mayor as a “change agent.”

Marcelo Zapata was given a key to the city and recognized during a reception and special-called City Council meeting. Councilmembers Mike Palermo and Christine Hall read a Roswell proclamation and a resolution from the Georgia House of Representatives commending Zapata for his public service.

Zapata did not attend the event. His wife, Selina, and daughter received the documents and key to the city, with other family members alongside them.

Zapata resigned from City Council in June after a six-month medical leave of absence and last appeared at a City Council meeting Nov. 8. The resignation was submitted through Selina Zapata. Roswell has not disclosed the nature of his health issues due to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Mayor Kurt Wilson said Marcelo Zapata helped to bring about a new era in Roswell. Zapata had frequent heated disagreements with former Mayor Lori Henry during City Council meetings.

“He was the beginning of the change agent in Roswell,” Wilson said. “He had the courage and audacity to stay on that path. Roswell is a better city because of Marcelo Zapata.”

The former councilman held such a commitment to his council position that he kept a copy of his oath of office in the side pocket of his car, Selina Zapata said.

“In all the various activities that Marcelo was involved in over the years: the wine business, starting a semi-pro soccer team, it was always evident to us that his work as a councilmember not only meant the most to him, but it was also what he was most passionate about,” she said.

Credit: Courtesy Faceboo

Credit: Courtesy Faceboo

Zapata and his wife moved to Roswell from Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2000. He was elected to City Council in 2015 and re-elected in 2019. His work on council included efforts to make funding available to replace aging waterlines, the city proclamation states. And he was a catalyst for the city’s decision to transition to a fulltime fire department.

His accomplishments also include helping to establish the city’s first Hispanic Citizens Police Academy.

“People would say, ‘He always votes no …,’ resident Janet Russell said during public comment. “I would say, ‘actually he may be voting no but what he is (doing) is voting yes for all the residents of Roswell.’”

Russell said she and Zapata frequently met to discuss different initiatives, including those that would help students and residents.

She was one of seven residents who spoke in honor of Zapata.

Palermo and Hall said they are better councilmembers after serving with Zapata, describing him as “true public servant.”

“He is the councilman that we all aspired to be,” Hall said. “He’d walked the walk. He talked about accountability, about transparency. Those were the guidelines that he lived by.”