Lori Henry, Mayor of Roswell
First Elected as Mayor:
Current Term Ends:
December 31, 2021
Mayor Lori Henry began serving the City of Roswell as a Design Review Board and Community Development Advisory Committee member. She was elected to the Roswell City Council in 2001 and served two consecutive terms and was elected again to Council in 2017. She decided to run for mayor in 2017 to bring strong leadership and a forward thinking vision for the City of Roswell. She is the first woman to be elected Mayor of Roswell.
The Mayor of Roswell is:
- The Chief Executive Officer of the City
- The presiding officer at City Council meetings
- The Mayor votes only in the case of a tie between City Council members
- Responsible for the efficient and orderly administration of City affairs
Welcome to Roswell
COVID-19 and Our Community
As Mayor, Lori has led the City of Roswell through one of the greatest crisis's it has ever faced in its 167-year history. The COVID-19 pandemic swept across the United States in 2020, changing the way Americans lived, learned, worked, worshipped, and socialized. Roswell was no exception. Halfway through Lori's first term as Mayor, COVID-19 changed everything.
Lori issued a state of emergency in line with the governor's and immediately formed an internal COVID-19 advisory committee to ensure the City continued to operate, providing essential services such as Police, Fire, Water, Transportation, and Sanitation. As we learned more about the virus and how it was spread, she safely expanded the City's other services such as park amenities and programs, Roswell Municipal Court, permitting, inspections, the recycling center, and other important services.
She also ensured that the City government remained transparent during the unprecedented time by: holding all of the City's official meetings on Zoom for public participation and streaming them on Facebook, You Tube and the City's website; continuing communications with the public through the City's website and social media channels; and continued to respond to all public record requests.
While ensuring that the City of Roswell government continued to function for residents, the Mayor turned her attention to helping local businesses survive the pandemic. Lori formed the Mayor's Business Recovery Task force to get input and suggestions from small and large businesses in our community on how to help businesses survive the pandemic.
One of the first things she did was to allow restaurants with alcohol licenses to sell unopened spirits, beer, and wine with to go orders. This small change helped many Roswell restaurants, struggling through the pandemic, keep their businesses afloat. The City also passed occupation tax relief. This has generated more than $700,000 in credits to Roswell businesses…and the City awarded $600,000 in Community Development Block Grants for COVID relief to local nonprofit organizations.
Lori also proposed, and Council approved $800,000 in COVID relief grants to our community. $400,000 dollars in grant money went to residents in need and $400,000 to Roswell brick and mortar businesses that lost revenues during the pandemic.
The Mayor's Business Recovery Task Force also spearheaded Roswell's Come Back Safely campaign. The Come Back Safely pledge is a promise from businesses, residents and visitors to assure our community that they will take necessary precautions like washing or sanitizing hands, following physical-distancing guidelines, wearing face coverings, and staying home when feeling ill. So far hundreds of people and businesses have taken the pledge.
City Budget and Financial Outlook
The pandemic also wreaked havoc with the City's budget. Lori and city staff were in the beginning stages of preparing the budget when the COVID-19 crisis began. She and staff immediately adapted and adjusted the budget. It was estimated at the time that revenues would be down $9.2 million dollars over the previous year, and she immediately cut spending and postponed some high-dollar projects until the City could get a better handle on what the actual revenue collections would be.
Some popular programs like road resurfacing and the opening of Mimosa Hall grounds were postponed. Employee raises were taken out of the budget and a temporary hiring freeze for open positions was instituted. Discretionary spending halted as well. Under her leadership, the City did not have to dip into our reserves or lay off employees.
FY 2021 revenues were budgeted very conservatively due to the unknown impact of COVID -19. During the first few months of the pandemic the revenues dropped significantly and then the economy started to improve. Revenue numbers are still not at the pre-pandemic levels but have been higher than what had originally been anticipated in the FY 2021 budget.
During the budgeting process, Lori decided the City would review its budget every quarter during the pandemic, so that it could be adjust it up or down, depending on actual revenue collections. Luckily, the City was able to adjust the budget up each quarter and move forward with some large ticket projects, and add other needs back into the budget. The budget shortfall due to COVID-19 ended up at $2.4 million, thanks to the cost-cutting measures taken and the $3.9 million in Cares Act funding the City received.
Some of the items added back into the budget at midyear included:
- 2 additional positions for the Police Department, and an Economic Development Director position
- Maintenance of City facilities, parks, and trails
- $8 million loan for road resurfacing, $800K in intersection improvements along Hwy 92 at King Road and Woodstock Road, and funding to begin a study of the Grimes Bridge Road Corridor
The City's financial outlook moving forward is very good. The City's budget is back on solid footing. Roswell budgeting staff conservatively estimates that general fund revenues will be $80.9 million for the 2023 fiscal year.
The City is estimated to receive over $12 million funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. Depending upon federal guidelines that are still being developed, some of these funds could potentially be invested in priority maintenance and one-time capital projects.
Lori has promised our residents that the City will continue to provide them with high-quality services. Lori said the City will get through this difficult time together, and will continue to work hard every day to make sure Roswell continues to be the best place to live, work, and play in Georgia.
In the spring of 2020, a grass-roots movement for racial equity swept across the United States. The Roswell community gathered together throughout the spring to march and hold rallies against systemic racism. Lori attended several of these events because she loves Roswell. During the events, she acknowledged the historical role of government in creating and maintaining racial inequity. The inequity has been a part of our culture for 400 years. And although many explicitly racist laws and practices have been overturned over the years, the vestiges of racism still taint our system.
Lori believes it will take our entire community coming together to work on solutions and that It will not happen overnight. She believes local governments can lead the way toward dismantling institutional and structural racism and set our cities on an accelerated path toward a vibrant future for everyone.
To help attain that goal in Roswell, Lori established the Mayor's Racial Equity Advisory Committee. This diverse cross section of people from our community meets every couple of weeks when our schedules allow. The committee is determining its own goals and is committed to examining areas where improvements can be made to advance racial equity within our community. Lori is looking forward to continuing the conversation and identifying areas where racial inequities need to be addressed and where there are opportunities to drive change.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, "We are not makers of history, we are made by history." Roswell is special because of its diverse and remarkable story. While attending an event at Barrington Hall, Pastor Strickland told Mayor Henry the history of the little house at 20 Oxbo. Called Doc's Café, it was the first restaurant African Americans could eat in here in Roswell. Doc's Café was a Groveway Community gathering place, where you could order a Coke and a Split (a grilled hot dog split on a hamburger bun) and listen to music while visiting with neighbors. The City will be relocating this important piece of our history to 726 Pleasant Hill Street and eventually opening it to the public.
Transparency in Government
Transparency in government has always been a priority for Lori going back to when she served as a City of Roswell councilmember. Once being elected Mayor, Lori directed staff to live stream Mayor and Council regular meetings, work sessions and committee meetings on Facebook, You Tube and the City's official website. It was important to Lori to make the Mayor and Council meetings more convenient for people so that they could keep up with decisions their elected officials were making.
Lori directly communicates with Roswell residents in a number of ways. One of her most popular programs is Coffee with the Mayor. Residents are invited to meet the Lori at a local coffee shop and talk with her about City business in a relaxed and informal setting. She also communicates with residents through her quarterly newsletter which is mailed out in the utility bills, an electronic newsletter, and regular email updates. In addition, she has an open door policy and will meet with any resident who would like to talk with her.
Lori believes that when we all work together toward a common goal, we can achieve anything for the City of Roswell. Since becoming Mayor, Lori has strengthened partnerships throughout Roswell and Fulton County. Working with all of the Mayors of Fulton County cities and Fulton County government, Lori was able to increase the City of Roswell's portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Municipal Reimbursement Program from $396,000 to almost $4 million. These negotiations strengthened the relationships with all of the Mayors in Fulton County and County Commissioners serving North Fulton County.
During Lori's first term as mayor, she has also strengthened relationships with the City's partners at Roswell, Inc and the Convention and Visitors Bureau through regular productive, update meetings.
Being a small business owner, Lori was interested in forging new relationships with the City's business community. She has an open door policy for business owners that would like to meet with her and she also hosts quarterly luncheons for business owners for an open discussion of business concerns in the community.
The Mayor has also strengthened relationships with Roswell's non-profit community during her tenure. She worked with North Fulton Charities to administer and oversee the $400,000 in COVID Relief grants to residents from the City.
From Hollywood to Roswell
The film industry is a major player in Georgia and the state has established incentives to bring more productions to the peach state. Lori saw an opportunity here for Roswell and grabbed it. She formed the Mayor's Movie Task Force to help bring more film production to Roswell. The task force brings together the City, our Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce to bring this industry to Roswell, and the City has been very successful in bringing all types of productions to Roswell.
Since Mayor's Movie Task Force inception, Roswell has hosted 25 different productions in two years! These productions brought more than $171,000 dollars into our community when we most needed it. City Hall, our Courtroom and Jail have all temporarily become sets for the television shows like Step Up and Ozark. Other productions shot in Roswell include Netflix's Stranger Things and Cobra Kai 4. There have also been a number of commercials shot here in Roswell. Graco Stollers, Leatherman Clothing Line, T-Mobile, Hidden Valley Ranch, Job Creation Network and AFLAC just to name a few.
While here, these film companies book rooms in our hotels, hire catering companies from Roswell, shop in our community, and eat in our restaurants. Roswell happily welcomes them and will continue to do so.
Transportation and East West Connectivity
For years one of the largest transportation challenges facing the City of Roswell has been connectivity between east and west Roswell and the interchange at GA 400/Holcomb Bridge Road (HBR). GA 400 runs through the City and with more than 70,000 vehicles per day, GA 400/HBR, the city's only interchange on GA 400, is the most heavily traveled east-west interchange north of Interstate 285, making traveling east or west on HBR a major challenge.
Under Lori's leadership, an opportunity arose to solve this decades-long problem for our city. Lori negotiated including the rebuild of the GA 400/HBR interchange as part of the Georgia Department of Transportation's (GDOT) GA 400 express lane project. The City and GDOT signed a MOA in Sept. 2019 to rebuild the busy and outdated HBR/GA 400 interchange.
With the Big Creek Parkway Bridge over GA 400 approved by voters in TSPLOST 1, the rebuilt HBR/GA 400 Interchange, and new express lane bridge over GA 400 south of HBR, mobility moving east and west over GA 400 will drastically improve for residents and visitors to our city.
These three projects together are an estimated $125 million investment in Roswell by the City of Roswell and GDOT.
Also under Lori's leadership the City of Roswell updated its Transportation Master Plan in July 2019. The plan provides Roswell with a well thought out, financially feasible, constructible vision for future of transportation that has the support of Roswell's citizens and policy makers.
The City also adopted its first ever Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan in 2020. After a robust public input effort, the City adopted policies and practices, identified and prioritize bicycle and pedestrian investments, and developed a fiscally realistic implementation strategy.
Other Transportation projects that have been completed since Lori was sworn in as Mayor include:
- The Hardscrabble Green Loop Complete Street. This project constructed a multi-use trail along Hardscrabble Road, connecting Roswell High School with Sweet Apple Elementary School. It includes several intersection improvements as well as a multi-use path and bicycle lanes.
- Saddle Creek Sidewalks/Pedestrian Crossing. This project created a new safe pedestrian crossing for Saddle Creek Subdivision at Houze Road. The crossing utilizes the Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFB), which is a pedestrian-activated warning device located on each side of a pedestrian crossing. This will offer safer crossing on a highway that generally carries approximately 16,000 vehicles per day.
- The annual Citywide street resurfacing projects. This year the City will resurface 83 roads within the city limits.
Development and Redevelopment
To Lori, quality redevelopment and development is essential to Roswell's future. Under Lori's leadership a number of development and redevelopment projects were approved, are in the development, or have come to completion. Many of these developments are transformational to the City of Roswell.
The Southern Post development on Alpharetta Highway, which is situated on the former Southern Skillet property, will break ground late summer/early fall of 2021. The good news is that this $95 million redevelopment project will bring 40,000 square feet of retail, and 90,000 square feet of office to downtown Roswell. The developer, Amanda Hoffler, says construction of downtown Roswell's first mixed use development will take 22 to 28 months. In addition to the Southern Post mixed used development, a new boutique hotel will be built at the same time adjacent to the Southern Post on Frasier Street. The hotel is slated to have 125 rooms and will complement the aesthetics of the Southern Post. The Mayor and Council are also working with the Roswell Downtown Development Authority to bring a new mixed use/boutique hotel project on Magnolia Street where the Wells Fargo branch bank used to sit. These redevelopments will be transformational to Roswell's downtown area.
Another redevelopment project that has transformed an older, almost empty, rundown strip center is the new Roswell Village Shopping Center, located at the southeast corner of Highway 9 and Holcomb Bridge Road. This redevelopment now features Marshall's, Ross, Crunch Fitness, a new Starbucks, and Chase bank.
Over on Westside Parkway, two new hotels have opened their doors to Roswell visitors. Home 2 Suites and Springhill Suites opened in June of 2020, and you will soon see construction in the same area of a new Residence Inn. These three new hotels will fill a need for visitors who in the past had to find accommodations in our neighboring cities, and bring hotel tax dollars to Roswell that otherwise would have gone to our neighbors.
Roswell is always looking to bring new quality grocery stores into our community, and Lidl Grocery is building a brand new store on the northeast corner of Holcomb Bridge Road and Old Roswell Road. The new store replaces a largely empty small strip center. The 29,000-square-foot store will add another quality grocery choice for Roswell residents and provide more than 50 jobs in our community.
Lori also worked with the PGA Superstore in East Roswell and Roswell Inc in the redevelopment of the store and the retention of its corporate office on the site. PGA Superstore in East Roswell and its corporate offices employ more than 180 people.
To help spur development and redevelopment in the eastern area of Roswell, Lori formed the East Roswell Economic Action Committee (EREAC) to study the area east of Warsaw Road and provide the Mayor and Council with recommendations on how to better promote economic development in the area. The Committee embarked on eight months of extensive work in regular meetings along with small subcommittees. They presented Mayor and Council with the EREAC Final Report
in February 2020.
Message from the Mayor Newsletter