Mark Burkhalter is serving his ninth term in the Georgia House of Representatives and has served as Speaker Pro Tempore since 2005. He worked as a Legislative Director for a member of Congress and currently operates his own real estate management and development company, Burkhalter Realty. He is chairman of the Johns Creek Foundation and is a member of the Optimist Club as well as the North Fulton Arts Council and the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce Board. He has received numerous awards for his service and dedication, including the prestigious “Friend of Public Education Award.”
“... cityhood is not just land use, planning and public safety, it’s about a sense of community. When “Welcome to the City of Johns Creek” signs were placed at our city limits, it actually was quite a thrill.”
January 7, 2009 A Catalyst for Progress Rep. Mark Burkhalter, Speaker Pro-Tem, Georgia House of Representatives
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I’m proud to say that I helped create one of Georgia’s newest cities, Johns Creek, Georgia. And while it wasn’t easy, it has been well worth the effort.
I knew cities gave people a government closer to them and more responsive to their needs; however, I probably never fully appreciated the full significance of cities until we created Johns Creek.
For years, those of us in the unincorporated area that is now the City of Johns Creek did not get the services we felt we deserved. We had to depend on a bloated and unresponsive county government which wasn’t structured to efficiently serve the remaining unincorporated pockets. Most importantly, we had become tired of having commissioners who didn’t live anywhere near our community making decisions about land use and other issues.
So we mobilized and became the City of Johns Creek. And the benefits of cityhood are readily apparent.
Once the city was established, we were able to spend our tax dollars locally. While we inherited a land use plan, we adopted our own with input from our own community. And we now enjoy more responsive public safety.
Once we became a city, local businesses suddenly began to feel like there was some marketing benefit identifying with the new city and its name.
We were able to do some beautification projects with volunteers, from our roadsides to our medians.
The school system is working with the city on some cooperative projects, including our arts center and our nature preserve.
Before cityhood, there were county park projects languishing with no real energy. Our new city, with all of its new found enthusiasm, is giving those parks an identity and a private organization, the Johns Creek Foundation, is raising money to buy land for parks. This foundation would have never existed if we had remained an unincorporated area.
We have our own public safety system. There’s nothing like having actual police cars coming through your neighborhood. Before, if you called 911, you couldn’t get a response in 30 minutes. Now it seems we get a response before we hang up the phone.
But cityhood is not just land use, planning and public safety, it’s about a sense of community. When “Welcome to the City of Johns Creek” signs were placed at our city limits, it actually was quite a thrill. It’s like giving somebody a name when before we were just a number.
I have dedicated the better part of my political career to bring more self governance to North Fulton County. Helping create a city has allowed me to more clearly see and appreciate the needs that all cities meet, the functions they carry out and the powers they have. And while I’ve grown to appreciate cities in the context of their legal identity, their functions and their relationship to the state, it is in their ability to serve as a catalyst for progress and change that has impressed me the most.