Ken Curry puts out pro-cityhood signs at the corner of Shallowford and Chamblee-Dunwoody roads before the community voted to incorporate as a city in July 2008.
Photo: Phil Skinner/AJC
Photo: Phil Skinner/AJC

The city of Dunwoody, a decade later: 10 important moments

Dunwoody made history in 2008 when it became the first city formed in DeKalb County since tiny Pine Lake incorporated in 1937.

Just over a decade later, Dunwoody celebrated its cityhood Thursday as Mayor Denis Shortal gave the 10th annual State of the City address to city officials, residents and other stakeholders.

Dunwoody residents voted in November 2008 to incorporate as a city at the northern tip of DeKalb County. Since then the city has seen a growth in development and population, but has sometimes struggled to see eye-to-eye with DeKalb County.

At Thursday evening’s address, also attended by several county and state leaders, Shortal heralded the city’s progress since incorporating and highlighted work that still needs to be done. The 75-year-old former Marine general also announced he will not seek reelection later this year.

‘Tonight is about 10 years,” Shortal said. “Ten years of promises made, 10 years of promises kept and a promising future.”

In recognition of Dunwoody’s 10th anniversary, here are 10 important moments — both the good and the bad — in its short history. 

Bev Wingate, the unofficial "mother" of the City of Dunwoody, was presented flowers and gets a hug from Bob Dallas, a Planning Commission member, after it was clear the Dunwoody cityhood referendum would pass in July 2008. (Photo: Bob Andres /
Photo: Bob Andres/AJC

1. An vote for cityhood: Voters in July 2008 overwhelmingly approved Dunwoody becoming a city — with  81 percent of voters choosing to incorporate — but it wasn’t an easy road to get there. The cityhood movement faced stiff opposition from groups including the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and other critics who argued DeKalb County, which is majority black, would miss out on crucial tax dollars if the majority-white Dunwoody broke off. But it was a “yes” for Dunwoody after proponents pushed for more localized control over zoning, police and infrastructure.

2. A new police force: At midnight on April 1, 2009, the newly formed Dunwoody Police Department rolled out and began patrolling the streets. It was seen as a milestone since pro-cityhood groups had campaigned largely on public safety issues. According to Atlanta Journal-Constitution archives, it took just 15 minutes on April 1 for an officer to make a traffic stop. Police made four arrests during the first six hours.

Dunwoody police on the scene of a recent homicide. (Photo: JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM)

3. Newly paved roads: When Dunwoody became a city, just three roads had been properly paved, Shortal said Thursday. Starting in 2010, the city set out on a mission to change that, and have since repaved 60 percent of Dunwoody’s roads. Shortal said he plans to ask City Council for a 10 percent increase in the paving budget to accelerate the road work in 2020.

4. A struggle over parks: After Dunwoody became a city, residents complained the area’s parks were still under county control. That changed in 2010, when the Georgia General Assembly approved a bill allowing Dunwoody to take over the parks by paying DeKalb $100 per acre. Dunwoody has since put an emphasis on adding more paths and revamping its parks, including a multimillion-dollar overhaul of Brook Run Park. The city has also done construction at Pernoshal Park.

5. An alarming double homicide: The city was shocked in 2010 when it was discovered that an elderly couple, Roger and Dorothy Abbott, 82 and 78, respectively, had been killed before their house was set on fire. The double homicide has not yet been solved. It puzzled Dunwoody detectives, who were investigating four homicides at one time by December 2010. Some residents were critical of the new police department’s crime-fighting abilities, while many appreciated the increased patrols.

Roger and Dorothy Abbott (Photo: Channel 2 Action News)

6. A boom in development: This item is not linked to one set moment in Dunwoody history. But it’s important to note the growth and economic development that has occurred around Perimeter Center in recent years. For example, a Boston-based developer has been eyeing the creation of a mini-city near Perimeter Mall since 2007. The project was shelved in 2009, but has once again gained steam as the developer released renderings of what “High Street” could look like. State Farm also opened a massive office adjacent to the Dunwoody MARTA station. 

7. A third mayor: Shortal, a two-term councilmember, was elected mayor in 2015 after defeating incumbent Mike Davis. He became the city’s third mayor in as many terms. 

In this photo from 2008, Denis Shortal (left) celebrates his election to the first Dunwoody City Council. He would go on to serve as Dunwoody’s mayor. (Photo: HYOSUB SHIN /
Photo: AJC

8. Ambulance woes: For years, Dunwoody residents complained about long ambulance wait times on calls involving emergencies, the AJC has reported. It got to the point where the city wanted to withdraw from its ambulance service agreement with DeKalb and run its own service. But last year, the city signed a memorandum of understanding with DeKalb in which the county committed to nine-minute response times for ambulance services on critical calls.

9. Mourning a shooting victim: Maura Binkley, a 21-year-old graduate of Dunwoody High School, was  shot and killed by a man at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Fla. last November. The outburst of gunfire killed another woman and injured four other people. In the months after her death, Binkley’s Dunwoody family created a nonprofit dedicated to understanding the causes of gun violence and funding research to inform gun control policy.

She was shot to death in November 2018.

10. A two-digit anniversary: Dec. 1, 2018, technically marked the 10-year anniversary of Dunwoody incorporating as a city. The celebrations have continued in recent months, culminating with Thursday’s State of the City address.

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