DeKalb: Doraville rides economy’s boom, bust

It seems like every time I visit a small community, I relate my experience to when I came to Atlanta in 1962. My office was located downtown, and I found a great apartment on Buford Highway east of Druid Hills. It was convenient, new, had three bedrooms and rented for $225. Cecil Day had not yet built Days Inn headquarters on Buford Highway. Except for Northeast Plaza, and major intersections, commercial development had not really begun. Single-family homes still lined the road.

After an absence of several years I decided to visit Doraville. Because of the diversity of our population today I’m learning to say “thank you” in every language in the world. I am up to 20 so far. When I turned from Jimmy Carter Boulevard onto Buford Highway I realized that I would need to study faster. Many of the English-language signs on businesses had been replaced by signs I couldn’t read. For a while I had difficulty finding City Hall.

I was ushered into the mayor’s office. He looked at me and asked what I wanted, and in the same breath, told me he was busy. I got an impression he thought I was going to try to sell him something. I said I was doing a column on small towns and wanted to ask some questions. Feeling like I was imposing, I said I’d come back some other time. He said he had time for a couple of questions.

I said when I am permitted too few questions my observations sometimes seem negative, and when I have an informative meeting the article comes out more positive. He handed me his business card. The mayor’s name is Ray Jenkins. He is in his sixth year and second term, stating proudly that he’d been involved with Doraville’s government since 1974. He handed me a history book on Doraville. After determining I was a good guy, the mayor and I had an informative exchange.

The man has had experiences. He had to be devastated by the loss of GM, when 10 percent of the city’s tax revenue disappeared when the factory closed, plus the collateral damage suffered by peripheral businesses. I noticed vacant buildings along Buford Highway. That emptiness seems like a sign of the times. I remember when every store was busy.

Having attended the Gwinnett County Civilian Police Academy, I have been impressed with police people. With Doraville Police Chief John King out of the office, I met Capt. Jamey S. Brown, S.W.A.T. commander for the Doraville police department. Trim, muscled, I instantly felt safer.

He seemed like someone with whom I’d like to go fishing. Finding that I was from the era in history that he most admires, we talked for over an hour, covering topics of mutual concern. The captain is especially interested in senior citizens in Doraville. The Doraville Civilian Police Academy provides an education in raw reality.

He showed me impressive firepower, indicating that the police are not out-gunned, which is good with burgeoning crime. Some regions of the world provide migratory predators, some regions provide victims. Doraville has both, and it is Capt. Brown’s responsibility to stand between them. I’m glad he is on the side of the good guys.

Bill York of Stone Mountain is a novelist, freelance writer and retired furrier.

About the Author

Editors' Picks