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Mayor Patti Garrett and Linda Harris

Featured Article

Linda Harris

Lifelong City Employee and Community Advocate

Linda Harris, a native of Decatur, has spent her professional career building up the voices of Decatur. Born, raised and a current resident of this vibrant community, she embodies dedication, gumption and is a fierce believer in the power of information to drive change. As Harris has spent thirty-five years pouring energy into her profession, it's a challenge to highlight all of her accomplishments. Luckily, she sat down with our magazine to share the two projects she considers her proudest achievements: the Decatur Focus Newsletter and Decatur 101. Both of these projects are alive and well today. They serve as vital sources of city news that divulge important updates about its growth, development, and future. 

With a degree in Creative Writing and English Literature from Agnes Scott College, she went to answer the phones at the City Commission and never left! In those first years working for the City, she met Lyn Meene, then Executive Director of the Downtown Development, and both forged a close relationship where Lyn focused on economic development and Linda on community development. Armed with her communications prowess, Linda began to envision how, through different media efforts, she could begin to cultivate community through civic engagement. From creating the first city website in 1996 to helping Downtown Decatur become the community living room it is today, she’s seen and has played a pivotal role in how outreach efforts shape a sense of place.   

“Start Where You Are”

For over twenty years, the Decatur Focus newsletter has been regarded as an essential guide to what is happening in the city. More than just a list of things to do and see, it is a space where the City communicates with its residents, highlighting fundamental civic and community news. This could be an interview with a person or important deadlines that residents should keep on their calendars. Because community was and is paramount to Linda's work she regards this as one of her greatest contributions in her career. She shared that it came from a simple motive,  "why don't we tell people things?”. It is evident how her DNA exudes communication and how it brings people together. It's a publication that has grown with Decatur and boasts many contributing writers from all walks of life representing the diverse landscape that we have all come to love about Decatur.

With other City colleagues, Linda co-created Decatur 101.  It is an eight-week program whose goal is to create involved and informed citizens. Participants learn that the local government has a face and they witness the hard work that it takes to manage the city of Decatur. Individuals who enroll learn about the city’s history, and the background of its public works, meet its department heads, and essentially become Decatur Ambassadors. After participating in Decatur 101, some have run for office, served on volunteer boards and commissions, and created neighborhood organizations and other activities that allow residents to engage and make an impact. There are even alumni programs that bring back past cohorts so people stay current on what is happening since their group's graduation.

She's worked on other initiatives like the 2014 Better Together community conversation, focusing on equity, inclusion, diversity, and affordable housing.  Most recently, the Bicentennial Celebration has been her focus, and together with Renae Jackson, Decatur's first Equity and Engagement Director, they are collecting 200 Stories to celebrate the beautiful kaleidoscope of lives that showcase Decatur's multicultural and diverse population.

Linda's generosity and heart will be missed by many. We know 2024 will bring a close to her City chapter but her legacy and impact are timeless. 

Outreach is a fundamental part of the fabric of Decatur and is engrained in the City's culture.

  • Mayor Patti Garrett and Linda Harris