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Former mayors discuss changes in Decatur at the Mayor’s Mile

Decatur

Former mayors discuss changes in Decatur at the Mayor’s Mile

From left to right on the front: Jim Baskett 2013 - 2015, Elizabeth Wilson 1994 - 1998, Bill Breen 1969 - 1972, Wiley Ansley 1971 - 1974, Patti Garrett 2015 - present, From left to right on the back: Bill Floyd 1998 - 2013, Walt Drake 1975 - 1976. By Duo-Wei Yang
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From left to right: Jim Baskett 2013 – 2015, Patti Garrett 2015 – present, Elizabeth Wilson 1994 – 1998, Walt Drake 1975 – 1976, Bill Floyd 1998 – 2013 pose with three young runners. Photo by Duo-Wei Yang

This story has been updated. 

By Duo-Wei Yang, contributor

Despite the chilly weather this morning, six former mayors and current mayor Patti Garrett were up and ready for the Mayor’s Mile.

Former mayor Jim Baskett attends both the earlier Decatur 5K race and the Mayor’s Mile each time he participates.

“I run the 5K and I walk the Mayor’s Mile. I’m the only one of the mayors that ran, so [out] of the mayors, I won,” he said.

On the other hand, former mayor Bill Floyd just wanted to take it easy. When asked if he had any ambitions to win, he answered with a decisive, “lord, no.”

“I’m just trying to get through it,” he said. “Just come out and make it all the way.”

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This was Wiley Ansley’s first Mayor’s Mile and first time back in Decatur since he was mayor in the early 70s. Decatur’s changes have been unbelievable since then, he says.

“I grew up over there in Winnona Park. I was the last graduating class and my wife was the last graduating class of Decatur Boys’ High and Decatur Girls’ High,” he said. “We also just had an 11-year system, so I was barely 17 when I graduated.”

Ansley remembers the city undergoing many changes while he was mayor.

“A big thing was MARTA. The whole downtown area was dug up and people were upset. It was a mess,” he said. “And then we had all the planning we see downtown. All the condominiums and all of the buildings. Took a lot of people over the years to make it happen. It’s amazing to see what’s happened in the city and how vibrant it is now.”

As a resident since 1949, former mayor Elizabeth Wilson has “seen every change that can be made in this city.”

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“I’ve lived here in Oakhurst since the 60s and it has changed — racially, physically,” she said. “When I first moved [here], we had very few things. Very few sidewalks.”

Floyd also believes that Decatur has changed dramatically from how it was in the 70s.

“They lost a lot of people because of white flight. They were moving out of town into the suburbs,” he said. “Wasn’t very much going on in downtown at all — maybe one restaurant down there. It’s become a very popular place. People like what they get here.”

As the current mayor, Garrett sees that people want to come to Decatur and stay.

“A lot of new residences have been built and I think the downtown has gotten a sense of vibrancy,” she said.

Garrett also thinks that events like this morning’s races are “really important.”

“It’s nice to get together to support your children, your school and your community,” she said.

The Mayor’s Mile is part of a fundraiser for Decatur schools.

From left to right on the front: Jim Baskett 2013 – 2015, Elizabeth Wilson 1994 – 1998, Bill Breen 1969 – 1972, Wiley Ansley 1971 – 1974, Patti Garrett 2015 – present, From left to right on the back: Bill Floyd 1998 – 2013, Walt Drake 1975 – 1976. By Duo-Wei Yang

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