Following are bios for the 2016-17 VHCA Board of Directors:
Eleanor moved to her current home in Virginia-Highland in 1983 with her husband Stephen Cohen and raised two children here. She retired last year from her career with the Social Security Administration and has enjoyed having more time to devote to her interests and her volunteer work, including her work for our neighborhood. She is in her 6th year as volunteer coordinator for the Tour of Homes and was one of the original Street Captains for our safety program. She has served for many years as the Street Captain coordinator. She loves meeting and working with the great neighbors we have in Virginia-Highland.
If elected to the board, she would like to include safety and the Tour of Homes in her areas of focus, to look for new ways to engage the community, and overall to work with other board members and Va-Hi residents to maintain and improve our great quality of life here in Virginia-Highland.
David Brandenberger (I)
I have been a homeowner in Virginia-Highland on Rosedale Road since 1999. I have been on the VHCA Board for the past three years, serving both on the Planning Committee and – for the last two years – as Chair of the Parks Committee.
In that role, I lead a group of volunteers and professionals who sustain and improve both city-owned spaces – John Howell, Orme, and the Triangle at N Highland and Virginia – and one that belongs to the Civic Association, North Highland Park at St. Charles and N Highland. They each present different challenges and opportunities.
VHCA owns North Highland Park and we are responsible for its upkeep, an often challenging task given the diverse usage it gets. The effort I led – with Atlanta Celebrates Photography – to create a display of local photographers’ photos at that site (still on display) was part of an ongoing strategy to promote both the Park and the Atkins Park business district. It’s been successful; more projects like that are important, both for the park space and to work with Councilmember Wan on Renew Atlanta improvements for the street.
John Howell Park is a very diverse and successful park, really several parks in one. The Park Pride matching grant we wrote, won and are now administering is heavily focused on improving functionality of the park – installing a new sitting granite wall along Virginia to control erosion, completion of the brick walkways for safety, planting of new perennial foliage and installation of several rain gardens to reduce stormwater runoff. (A related outcome of this work will be new knee-high fencing to mitigate pedestrian intrusion into the Triangle at Virginia and N Highland.) I was happy to lead the application process that wrote and won this most recent grant to further improve John Howell, and I look forward to completing its’ implementation this fall and winter.
Our plans are then to move to our next target: which will be addressing some challenges in Orme Park, especially on the hillsides under Brookridge Drive, which are full of extraordinary trees and spaces that are hard to access yet easy to under-appreciate. The 2009-10 playground project at Orme (started and funded by neighbors, VHCA, and Park Pride) has been extraordinarily successful, and several neighbors (two of them go to Inman Middle) have now proposed a cool additional usage on the playground side of Orme Park that we are now working with our landscape architect and the Parks Department to make happen.
Our neighborhood public parks depend on elements of public support (the city’s increasingly productive Parks Department) and private enhancement whose efforts the City Parks Department has approved. Coordinating these requires a lot of communication and attention. Our strategy has been to leverage our effectiveness by partnering with Park Pride and Trees Atlanta whenever possible and not missing the unglamorous longer-range challenges – erosion, stormwater runoff and functionality – that are hard for the city to keep up with. Public spaces whose design preserves their resources are both more enjoyable and easier to sustain in the long run and that is ultimately our goal with the Parks Committee.
Like all board members, I work very hard on fundraising efforts to create the funding that we need for all of the work we do, both in and outside of our parks and public spaces. To that point, and like all VHCA Board members this year, I supported the decision to challenge the destruction of the Todd Historic Monument and believe it is in the public interest to keep this important part of our neighborhood intact and accessible to all.
I’d appreciate your vote for the Board.
I am a mom, wife, lawyer, and community activist who has lived in Virginia-Highland for over thirteen years. I take great pride in our neighborhood and have been an active neighborhood advocate on the BeltLine and important neighborhood issues.
I served as the Secretary of NPU-F for 7 years and was a member of the VHCA Board for several years. My service as NPU Secretary and on the VHCA Board allowed me to develop a deep understanding of the issues facing our neighborhoods and the most effective ways to deal with those challenges. My neighbors, friends, work colleagues and fellow board members would all describe me as a “go-getter” – when I see something that needs to be improved or changed, I work hard to make it happen!
At various points over the past four years, I have served on VHCA’s Planning, Safety, Summerfest and Tour of Homes committees, and was the co-chair of the VHCA Master Plan subcommittee. In my role as the Co-Chair of the VHCA Safety Committee in 2016, I helped spearhead the effort to get funding for additional police video surveillance cameras and coordinated with the City on street and sidewalk safety issues in our neighborhood.
I would like to make VHCA a more inclusive and transparent organization. In particular, I would like to increase community input on projects that are funded by VHCA. Virginia-Highland is a wonderful neighborhood. If elected to the VHCA board in 2016-2017, I will work hard to help make it an even better place to live, work, and play.
Steve Messner moved to Virginia-Highland in the summer of 2007 with his partner of 19 years, Chris. He has been involved in cleanup efforts on the Beltline and with graffiti removal and takes pride in his home’s and the neighborhood’s appearance. When he’s not tending to the needs of his young patients as a pediatrician, Steve is often out biking and running on the Beltline and catching up with neighbors. If elected to the VHCA board, Steve will work to make Virginia-Highland an even more vibrant, safe and beautiful neighborhood through thoughtful planning and use of resources.
Troy Murray is a 19-year resident of Atlanta and a 13-year loft owner at Greenwood Lofts in Virginia-Highland. Originally from Nashville, Troy moved to Atlanta after earning a bachelor’s degree in Logistics and Transportation with a minor in Geography from the University of Tennessee. Troy is a project manager for United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS), and has a passion for transportation and a strong interest in infrastructure growth and sustainability. With a balcony view overlooking the Beltline and Ponce City Market, Troy has seen many changes in the neighborhood.
Troy has been involved with several organizations in Atlanta including: UPS LGBTA Business Resource Group (2014 – current); AIDS Walk Atlanta (Team UPS captain, 2015 & 2016); Out & Equal Atlanta (board member, 2008 – 2013); United Way (UPS team leader, 2006 – 2008); Greenwood Lofts HOA (secretary 2005 – 2008); and Open Hand volunteer (1998 – 2005).
As an avid runner and dog owner, Troy can be seen daily either walking Jesse along Greenwood Avenue or running on the beltline. When not out an about with Jesse, he will bring his extensive non-profit and transportation expertise to our transportation and safety issues.
Robin Ragland (I)
After joining my husband in retirement in 2006, we relocated to Virginia-Highland from Gwinnett County. We arrived just in time to enjoy our first Dogwood Festival as locals, relax with our new Elmwood neighbors at the annual street party, and volunteer for, as well as have a blast at our first Summerfest! It quickly became apparent that a key component to keeping our neighborhood so vibrant is the continued contributions of volunteers organized and focused through the VHCA.
I’ve continued to volunteer for Summerfest each year in various capacities. In 2012, I began participating in fundraising for the neighborhood by creating items to sell from recycled Summerfest t-shirts. I organized a tree lighting event last December in N Highland Park, which was jointly hosted by VHCA and VHBA to raise money for Fire Station 19, and the APD Zone 6 Toy Drive. We had a wonderful evening, and raffled off over $2,000 in donated gifts from our local businesses.
I joined the Tour of Homes committee in 2013 and 2014, chairing the sponsorship sub-committee; we raised over $30,000 each year. I co-chaired the 2015 tour committee–we had record gross proceeds of $75,000 ($40,000 in sponsorships). We also had fun adding a docent-led history tour of VaHi, and providing a shuttle service. I am chair of the 2016 tour committee, and we’re in the midst of preparing for a great tour. Pledged sponsorships currently exceed $46,000. I’ve been successful over the last several years raising money for the neighborhood, and look forward continuing such efforts in 2017.
I have been a resident on Rupley Drive with my husband, Tom Budlong, and my 3 furry kids since 1991. For more years that I can remember, I have volunteered for Summerfest and the Tour of Homes and have actively participated, advocated or opposed many zoning, variance and tree preservation issues. Currently, I am completing my second term as chair of NPU-F and represent the NPU on the Atlanta Planning and Advisory Board (APAB) and the Outdoor Events Quality of Life Working Group initiated by Council members Alex Wan and Kwanza Hall. Previously, I served as a member of the VaHi Board in the early 90’s, NPU F Zoning Chair (2010 to 2014), NPU Chair (1996-97), and the BZA (1997-2000). Now retired, I have worked in the HR departments of The Coca-Cola Company and BellSouth/Cingular/AT&T, specializing in workforce compensation and salary analysis.
Virginia-Highland is a terrific place to live, work and play, much due to the efforts of previous VaHi boards, neighbors and business owners. Next year, I plan to focus on sustaining what makes us great by leveraging my associations in City Hall and throughout the city on planning and development issues (especially along the Beltline), as well as tackle the proliferation of outdoor events which are always fun, but sometimes sacrifice quality of life. In addition, I’d like to harness the tremendous amount of hidden talent available to take on VaHi projects and committees so that we have a steady stream of leaders ready to take on the future challenges of the neighborhood.
Kay Stephenson moved to Virginia-Highland in 1996 with her husband Mark Gilliland. After more than 25 years in sales, product management and marketing for tech companies, she now devotes her time to quilt design, writing, and many volunteer causes focused on parks, trees, the Beltline, pet rescue, and public safety.
Since 2009 Kay has served as a street captain for our neighborhood watch program and handles communication for both neighborhood watch and FBAC (Virginia-Highland Security Patrol). She has a close relationship with law enforcement and the criminal justice system and was named the 2016 CourtWatcher of the Year for Fulton County.
In addition to public safety I will focus on increasing resident and business engagement with VHCA so that we know we are investing in the projects that are most important to residents, and that yield the greatest benefit.
Virginia-Highland is a great neighborhood. With a strong and transparent board, and with the full support of the community, we can make it even better.
Micah Stringer and his family have been Virginia Highland residents for almost two years. Micah is originally from Syracuse, New York and his wife Kara is an Atlanta native. They live in Atkins Park and both daughters attend SPARK elementary. Micah is currently President of Atkins Park Neighborhood Association, a Division Vice President for a regional bank and graduate of the College of Charleston, SC. Since moving to the neighborhood, the Stringer family has been very involved in local volunteer initiatives, VH Tour of Homes, SPARK and youth sports. Micah has a strong interest in parks, planning and helping to revitalize the VaHi business district.
George moved to Atlanta from New York in 2009 and lives on Rosedale Drive with his husband JD Garcia. Prior to recently joining Transaction Network Services (TNS) as Senior Vice President and Head of Global Payment Strategy, he worked at TabbedOut, a start-up advancing hospitality mobile payments. When he’s not exploring one of the many new restaurants or attractions in Atlanta or tending his garden, he enjoys collecting Tibetan and Himalayan art and has amassed an enviable treasure trove of unique, historic pieces. George shared these additional comments about why he’s running for the VHCA board:
A Neighborhood Association is founded on transparency, empathy and a solid representation of the broad variety of views and voices in a community. The Association exists to listen to and serve the neighborhood in advancing the many important causes of the community.
My goals, if elected to the VHCA Board, are to continue to work to make it a more progressive, inclusive and transparent organization. We can do so much to build on the wonderful neighborhood we have created and the VHCA is a great vehicle from which to do that.
First and foremost, we should solicit feedback from the community to confirm what residents view as the right priorities for the VHCA. We can strive to improve public safety by working with and assisting the neighborhood watch system and our off-duty patrol group. We can modernize our community and communication within Virginia-Highland using technology and social platforms that fit more easily into the busy lives our residents lead. We can create strategies to increase community input on projects that are funded by VHCA. We can help revitalize and strengthen the Commercial Districts and the community’s relationships with local business owners. And while we do all of this hard work, we can make sure we have fun and create new memories with our neighbors.
We live in Virginia-Highland because we know what a special place it is and so I would like to join the VHCA Board to help our special piece of Atlanta be the place everyone wants to live, work and play.