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Does Smyrna Need an Image Makeover?

Some members of the Smyrna Rotary Club discussed what they feel are misconceptions about the city and offered suggestions for how to correct them.

Does Smyrna need an image makeover? Some members think so. At their meeting Tuesday the conversation turned toward outsiders’ perceptions of the city and what its residents can do to make it better.

A Mistaken Identity

Suzanne Pruitt, the Smyrna Rotary Club program chair, moved to Smyrna several years ago from Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood. She said her friends were shocked when she told them she was moving to Smyrna and some didn’t know where it was.

“People don’t know about Smyrna,” she said. “Smyrna is the closest suburb to the city. I think it suffers from a huge perception problem and I don’t know where that’s come from over the years, but people have this preconceived notion about Smyrna that’s not true. It’s a lovely place.”

Smyrna’s Ward 4 City Councilman Charles “Corkey” Welch was the meeting’s guest speaker. While he said he’s an advocate of Cobb County schools—both his children graduated from —he said he thinks schools in Smyrna are judged prematurely.

“A lot of it is, and I believe this, it’s the perception of the schools,” he said. “It’s not the actual schools, it’s the parent perception of ‘Oh I don’t want my children going here for one reason or another.’ But we still have a good school system in this county. If we can’t just get that around, I think we can make a lot of headway.”

Dr. Denise Magee, Campbell High School principal and a Rotarian, agreed with Welch saying she’s battled misconceptions about Smyrna schools since she became a principal five years ago.

What’s Being Done Now

Welch said that education was one of the five areas the new Council agreed deserved attention over the next four years. The Council came up with the list at its annual retreat in January. Other items for consideration were business retention, especially in .

Welch said city staff created a list of Smyrna’s vacant properties and has presented it to the  for suggestions to increase development. He said Council representatives are also asking local business owners what the city can do to help stimulate growth. City officials will take suggestions from South Cobb Drive business owners at a town hall meeting Tuesday, April 17 at 7 p.m. at the .

Citizens can also bring suggestions to Welch at his Ward 4 town hall meeting Thursday, April 12 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

What Can Be Done in the Future

Like Pruitt, Laren Odom, Smyrna Rotary Club president, agreed that “there’s a lot Smyrna has to offer” and suggested a media campaign showing Smyrna in a positive light might help attract new businesses and residents to the community.

“Sometimes you have to spend money to make money,” he said “But we have a lot to offer (…) I think if we present the city in a commercial or a magazine I think that would go a long way for changing the perception. I don’t think it’s the reality.”

For Welch, Smyrna’s residents are the best PR campaign. He said he speaks highly of Cobb County public schools everyday and encourages other Smyrna residents to advocate for them as well. However, he added that parent involvement is the key to Smyrna school’s continued success.

“There’s one other issue and I think that’s parent participation,” he said. “Both of my children went through school and made it look easy. My wife and I neither one of us were ‘A’ students, but both my children were. They just studied and I think it was because we had the drive to at least sit them down in the evenings and say, ‘OK, this is what you’ve got to do now.’”

What are your suggestions for improving Smyrna’s image? Tell us in the comments.

Pam J April 16, 2012 at 07:53 PM
I've lived in Cobb County my entire life (58 years). Most of those years have been spent in the southern part of the county. The only city I have not lived in is Kennesaw. Smyrna used to be a place where nobody wanted to live. I always thought that was stupid considering it's location. There was a time when I could afford to live in Smyrna. Then, a few years ago, a little two-bedroom, one-bath, wood frame house would sell for way over $200,000. What Smyrna became was a Buckhead wannabe. They started building all these big expensive homes, but only in the southern part of Smyrna. The northern part of Smyrna got no attention and still doesn't get any. Except for a few little "pockets", Smyrna hasn't changed that much. But it does have a mixed-up image.
Brian April 17, 2012 at 06:09 AM
Pam: I'd argue that South of Windy Hill, Smyrna has improved quite a bit. It's still seedy between Concord and Windy Hill but definately has the scale tipped towards established. It's also pretty nice north of Spring Rd except East of little five points, and it's nice, albiet slightly seedy, South of Church Rd just North of Concord, aside from the beat up apartments on Hurt Rd. Have you gone down Lee Rd lately, or looked at a lot of new development just West of market village and around the schools and Church Rd? All these areas just popped in the last few years, after the real estate market crash (though obviously the investment probably started pre-crash)
Faye October 11, 2012 at 01:55 PM
I feel the same way, Donna. I liked Smyrna and my neighborhood til it was time for me to send my daughters to Campbell High. The campus is in need of a makeover. The paint is peeling and fading, there are dead roaches in the halls, old bathrooms, etc. My sister from Fayetteville was at Campbell with her son for basketball and sent a text to me saying " I can't believe you let your children come to this school." I hate that outsiders make the negative comments about this school and are right about them. I would love it here if the high school was in better condition and faculty had more control in the halls and classroom.
Faye October 11, 2012 at 01:59 PM
I want to do something about the campus at Campbell High School here in Smyrna. Any ideas on how we can make a difference there?
Duncan October 11, 2012 at 02:54 PM
I don't have any kids in the Smyrna schools so I don't have any "dogs in this fight", but from what I've read and heard about the shape the schools are in and my experience with one elementary school nearby, I would say it's time for parents and teachers of good intent to join together and take the schools back from the students and incompetent faculty/administrators. Nothing's going to happen until parents become more involved and work with teachers instead of allowing their "precious little darlings" to run the system.

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