President Sam Massell is guided by a clear mission.
Massell seeks “to nurture the quality of life for those who live here, visit here, work here and play here” in Buckhead, he says, seated in his Tower Place office packed with memorabilia from his 24 years at the coalition. He laughs and says he has boxes of more mementoes at his home from his years as Atlanta’s mayor.
Under Massell’s leadership, the coalition carries out projects big and small that make Buckhead a better place. For his wealth of contributions, Massell is Buckhead Patch’s monthly “Greatest Person,” part of an AOL national project to recognize those who strive to improve their communities.
From his office, Massell can see central Buckhead’s soaring skyline, much of which didn’t exist when he joined the Buckhead Coaltion in 1988 as its founding president. “I feel that’s the sign of success,” Massell says about the towering buildings. “We’ve helped give this place an atmosphere that’s pleasant, that’s comfortable, that’s an address of choice.”
From the beginning, he says, he’s sought to make Buckhead a welcoming place. “I believe that we should have a place for everybody and make Buckhead a place for everybody,” he says.
While the community is known for high-end shopping places like Tiffany’s and Saks, he’s also happy about the community's more affordable stores. Buckhead has seven luxury hotels, along with a selection of economical, limited service places to stay.
He sees the Buckhead Coalition’s successful lobbying for the Ga. 400 extension through Buckhead from I-285 to I-85 as the organization’s most important accomplishment.
The Ga. 400 addition, he said, “gave us direct access to the rest of the city, the rest of the region, the airport, the rest of the world,” he said. “It cemented the economic wellbeing of Buckhead and brought abut the skyline you see outside this window."
Along with spearheading that defining project for Buckhead, Massell also takes pride in a myriad of other undertakings.
Through the colaition, he says, Buckhead was the first place in the United States to offer portable heart defibrillators in hotels, office buildings, churches and other places. “”We were very pleased to do that; we actually saved some lives,” he says. Now, access to the lifesaving equipment is widespread.
A recent step was working with neighborhood associations to install dog waste stations. And, the coalition entered a partnership with the city to have 300 potholes filled within two weeks.
He rarely rests from his efforts to make Buckhead better. At age 84, he still works seven days a week, and would work eight, if thecould find away to add an extra one.
“”I don’t have any thoughts about when I’ll retire,” he said. “I’m a workaholic, that’s my great sin. I just enjoy working; I really do.”
After successful careers in commercial real estate, in Atlanta politics, and as the founder of a travel agency, he was selected to lead the Buckhead Coaltion, an organization that was tghe idea of Aaron’s founder and entrepreneur and some of his friends.
“They had a glove that fit my hand perfectly,” Massell said. The position allowed him to use the widespread knowledge, from law to marketing to public relations, that he had gained in his different careers.
He recalls that Loudmilk’s group wanted him to sign a one year contract, and he wanted to make it three years, but they settled on two.
With a smile, he says, “24 years later, we haven’t drawn it yet. There was work to be done and I hit the ground running. There’s still a challenge around every corner.”
He's always eager to keep striving to make Buckhead bettr. "We never seem to lack for something challenging. Our formula is that we create, we execute and we report. That's what we do day in and day out."