Economic development and a focus on South Fulton’s image as a quality, safe place to live were among the topics political leaders, including Mayor Bill Edwards, addressed at Community Forum at Westlake High School.

The March 2 event—hosted by the Atlanta Suburban and East Point/College Park alumnae chapters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the South Fulton chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.—brought together more than 150 citizens from the various cities that comprise South Fulton.

Councilwomen Catherine Foster-Rowell (District 1), Carmalitha Gumbs (District 2), Helen Z. Willis (District 3) and Councilman Mark Baker (District 7) joined Edwards in answering poignant questions from an audience that wants a better South Fulton.

Edwards noted a $109-million budget that will help produce park improvements, a small business incubator, 38 new police officers and 15 new firefighters, among other usages. An economic development director has been hired as well. He warned that the growth of South Fulton depends on the perception of it from those on the outside looking in.

“Economic development works hand-in-hand with public safety,” Edwards said. “If you don’t feel safe in your heart, you’re not going to invest there. It’s not just about crime being down (3%). It’s about how you feel. No one wants to come where they do not feel safe or where their child cannot get a quality education.”

Gumbs warned that citizens posting incidents on social media about South Fulton “do a disservice to the community. . . We need to control the perception of our identity, and posting (negative) stuff only hurts and lumps us in with violent cities.”

The organizations plan to host another community forum in the coming months.