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Decatur School Board celebrates Tasha White; City Commission honors Linda Harris

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Decatur School Board celebrates Tasha White; City Commission honors Linda Harris

(left to right) Decatur School Board Members Hans Utz and James Herndon, Superintendent Dr. Gyimah Whitaker and Board Members Carmen Sulton and Jana Johnson-Davis presented Tasha White (center) with an award and gifts on Dec. 12, 2023, as White's tenure on the school board comes to an end. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — Celebrations were in order this past week for a Decatur School Board member who’s rolling off the board and a longtime city employee who’s retiring.

Tasha White has represented District 2, Post B on the Decatur School Board since 2015. She did not run for reelection this year and will roll off the board at the end of the year. The school board recognized White at its last meeting of 2023 on Dec. 12.

“It’s very bittersweet,” White said. “I call myself blessed to be part of this team. I thank Mayor Elizabeth Wilson for tapping me on my shoulder in 2015.”

She also served as board chair in 2021 and as vice chair in 2019-2020. She said it was tough, but was happy that’s not her lasting memory of serving on the school board.

“This year has been incredible. Bringing on Dr. Whitaker is going to be the legacy I leave on this board, for sure,” White said. “As I know my board members up here will attest, it’s a surreal to go into a voting booth and see your name…I’m so grateful my community each time chose my name to represent your children.”

“I consider it an honor that I was able to sit in this seat for eight years, and I never took it lightly,” she added.

School Board Chair James Herndon said that White inspired him to run for the board.

“I was a former teacher who thought I wanted to run for school board and decided to meet with people. It was I don’t know, I don’t know and then I had coffee with Tasha White,” Herndon said. “Tasha brings an energy and a love to this community as a mother and a friend.”

He was recently reelected but was unsure about if he would run, but White told Herndon he had too, he said. Herndon also attended a recent bicentennial event where city officials shared memories that were powerful to them about Decatur.

“So when I’m attending the next bicentennial and someone asks my memory of Decatur and why I give back and do it, it will be coffee with [Tasha],” Herndon said.

When School Board Members Hans Utz and Carmen Sulton joined the board, they were determined to make changes from the get-go.

“I think we were frustrated a little bit with where the schools were. I think I incorrectly, in hindsight, assigned some of that to Tasha,” Utz said. “I have come to deeply respect [her] insights on students, [her] passion for the work, and I wanted to make it clear publicly, I was not right. It’s been an absolute, fantastic honor working with [her].”

White also inspired Sulton and Jana Johnson-Davis to run for the school board as well. Sulton has learned from White’s stories of her successes, wins and losses. She added that it’s hard to let White go.

“It always brings me joy, brings me passion to see women of color in positions of leadership and [Tasha’s] been such an inspiration to me personally,” Sulton said.

White’s campaign was Jana Johnson-Davis’ introduction to the role of a school board member.

“You have served during some very difficult time and exhibited grace under fire, and I so appreciate that. I want to thank you for your service,” Johnson-Davis told White during the Dec. 12 school board meeting.

Decatur City Commissioners Tony Powers, Kelly Walsh, Mayor Patti Garrett and Commissioner George Dusenbury presented Linda Harris (second from left) with a proclamation on Dec. 18, 2023, to celebrate her retirement after 35 years with the city. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

In other news, the Decatur City Commission expressed their well-wishes to Assistant City Manager Linda Harris on Dec. 18. Harris will be retiring effective Dec. 29. Mayor Patti Garrett presented Harris with a proclamation on Monday night.

“Whereas, we wish to express special recognition to Linda Harris upon her retirement as assistant city manager and to honor her distinguished 35-year career with the city of Decatur,” Garrett said. “Whereas, Linda’s creativity, passion, and innovation has made long-lasting impacts on the Decatur community.”

Throughout her career, she has focused on establishing communications in Decatur. She launched the city’s website in 1995, established the tourism bureau, created the Decatur Focus magazine and co-created Decatur 101.

Commissioner Kelly Walsh took Decatur 101 in 2012 and that class opened up opportunities for her to experience Decatur in a new way, gain civic pride, learn how cities run, and learn about Decatur’s history.

“[Linda’s] impact across all the people who’ve done that since its inception is one of the most powerful things [she’s] done and are giving to the city. It’s empowering each person to know how their city works, where they are situated, what its history can be and how they can impact the future of the city too,” Walsh said.

She added that she’ll miss Harris at the city commission’s annual retreat and that her vulnerability made it possible for others to let their guard down.

“It truly is that icebreaker that is always there of when you feel it, you show it and I think we know we can be vulnerable, and we are safe to make ourselves so,” Walsh said.

Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers said that without Harris’ work, he’s not sure his family would still be in Decatur. Both Powers and Harris grew up in the city.

“You made it cool to talk about Decatur and you made it cool to make sure that we had those hard conversations but did it in a way that it’s very respectful,” he told Harris during the city commission meeting. “You brought us all sorts of things that we never knew we needed. It will never be the same. You’ll never be replaced. You’ll always be loved.”

Garrett added that she took Decatur 101 in the early 2000s, and the class piqued her interest in getting involved in the city as well. She described Harris as a giver.

“She’s a giver of her time, her talents, her abilities, her encouragement, and we will all miss that, but I think about how fortunate we are to have experienced that with [her],” Garrett said. “As I said earlier, she started out answering the phone for the city of Decatur and I said, ‘I’m sure we can find that job for you now.’ She is going to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.”

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