Our Town: Alpharetta

Few individuals can be said to incorporate the entire spirit of a city. But when Alpharetta City Clerk Sue Rainwater retired earlier this month after just shy of 50 years of public service, local newspapers reported that “The First Lady of Alpharetta” was leaving her post.

Approximately 200 people turned out for her farewell luncheon, including city officials past and present, police officers, parks and recreation staff and more to say farewell to a woman who played a large role in escorting Alpharetta from a small town to one of Atlanta’s biggest business hubs.

Rainwater began her public career in 1962, volunteering to record the minutes of the newly formed planning commission. In 1979, she was appointed to the full-time job of city clerk by then-mayor George Wills who was only in office for two weeks before Mayor Jimmy Phillips took over for the next 17 years. He was followed by Chuck Martin and current Mayor Arthur Letchas.

Job responsibilities included keeping city council meeting minutes, working on various boards as liaison between elected officials and citizens, issuing all alcoholic beverage licenses for restaurants, and being the mayor’s right (and left) hand, as Mayor Letchas described her work at her farewell, according to an article in the Alpharetta Neighbor.

In the 1980s, when the area’s major development projects were starting up, Rainwater was the one answering the phones when developers and attorneys called the city.

“When they wanted to contact the mayor, they talked to me” she said. “I can’t tell you how important it’s been to me to see all the development: [North Point] mall, the Windward project. I had an opportunity to fly over it at the ground-breaking. It was amazing to see all the trees. Now that it’s nearly complete, I’d love to fly over it again.”

With multi-generational roots in Alpharetta, many of the streets bear Rainwater’s family surnames. She grew up in the now-special-events facility downtown, the DeVore House, and she said her husband often joked that she has to within sight of the water tower. She still lives downtown.

With much rooted in the past, Rainwater made it her mission to ensure development didn’t march over the spirit of her hometown. “I didn’t mind telling the developers what the people expected,” she said.

“You don’t want to lose your identity with the center of town and the old buildings. There was going to be a parking lot across from city hall in the late ’80s, and some citizens got together and said, ‘please don’t make it a parking lot.’ So we got donations for everything that’s in that park. I love Alpharetta and am so proud that our elected officials never went overboard with hiring in the boom years. We never had to do any layoffs or furloughs."