Community Voices: Why do I live in DeKalb County?

I’ve lived in DeKalb County for nearly five years and like just about every other resident, I feel the sting of phrases like “… at least I don’t live in DeKalb.”

In the short time I’ve been here we’ve been ordered by the feds to fix the sewer system, seen nearly a dozen government officials face criminal charges, been through four school superintendents and seen several factions push to distance themselves from county government through the cityhood movement.

So why do I live here when there are at least a dozen other counties in metro Atlanta where I could reside?

I’d like to say I did extensive research, but that wouldn’t be entirely true.

My family and I moved here from Savannah when I accepted a position at the AJC.

Since my younger son was attending a public school Montessori, we sought something similar here and I couldn’t find a public school system with that structure other than DeKalb.

With house-hunting we found several in DeKalb that fit our budget and could accommodate two adults and two boys and wouldn’t mind a dog that shed a lot.

Once entrenched in our new surroundings, we took advantages of the county recreation department’s low-cost programs for after-school, summer and sports teams.

My boys learned to swim, play basketball and a host of other skills at Midway Rec Center.

We eventually found that the Montessori setup was more Monte-sorta and the littlest Broady ended up at a different school every year as we sought the right fit.

This is the first year, however, that he’ll return to the same school. Through word-of-mouth, we found out about Wadsworth Magnet for High Achievers, a school with a rigorous curriculum in line with what we want for our son.

Through school, I made friends with Dr. Lisa Flowers, an OB/GYN and professor at Emory. She heads a women’s clinic as well as the school PTA. As if that’s not enough, she also runs the Spirit Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at educating women about health issues.

But those aren’t the only bright spots I found in DeKalb.

Last year, we bought a house in The Southland, a subdivision in unincorporated DeKalb near Stone Mountain.

The initial drive through The Southland revealed manicured lawns, neighbors who waved hello and community pride. The home owner’s association, lead by Tom Joiner, a caterer and retired Army colonel, regularly seeks input from residents as well as community activities. Acknowledgment of high school graduates, events to bring home owners together and regular updates on what’s happening cemented our choice.

And other organizations are just as adamant about moving DeKalb forward. I met Kathryn Rice, the head of South DeKalb Improvement Association, who’s working to revitalize the south DeKalb corridor. Her group meets regularly to pick up trash, remove illegal roadside signs and urge the county to keep up with street repairs and other maintenance issues.

It would be easy to pick apart the problems in DeKalb, but it’s much more difficult to do something about them. I choose to work toward making a difference and try to align myself with like-minded individuals. And that’s why I live in DeKalb — for the people who want to keep the bar high and vow to reach it.

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