Recap: DeKalb Roundtable with Brookhaven’s Mayor John Ernst

DeKalb Advisory Roundtable

Speaker: John Ernst, Mayor, City of Brookhaven

December 7th, 2023

On Thursday, December 7th, 2023, the Council for Quality Growth welcomed Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst to December’s DeKalb Roundtable. The meeting celebrated the eight-year tenure of Ernst, who was term-limited, and congratulated Mayor-Elect John Park, who won Tuesday’s election runoff. Thank you Mayor Ernst for your time, Brookhaven City Council for hosting us, and Turner & Townsend Heery for sponsoring the event.

John Ernst became mayor in year two of Brookhaven’s official cityhood. Having been a part of unincorporated DeKalb County, Brookhaven had limited resources, said Mayor Ernst, and needed to improve its public safety, zoning, and road maintenance. He established a vision for the City and ran with it for two terms, all while never increasing the millage rate for Brookhaven residents. Ernst said that the average household pays $30 less in taxes than in 2019 and, according to City Manager Christian Sigman, Brookhaven has the lowest net property taxes in all of DeKalb County.

Public safety has been a priority for Brookhaven during Ernst’s time as mayor. Mayor Ernst highlighted the installation of license-plate readers on every major road; the “Live 911” initiative, with which police hear actual 911 calls in their cars and can react to emergencies faster; and using drones as first responders, which disincentives attempts to evade police. He also discussed efforts to improve ambulance times. Looking to the future, Brookhaven continues to prioritize public safety, dedicating over 50% of the 2024 budget to these efforts.

Another major focus for Ernst has been community connectivity. Brookhaven has invested a lot into its parks, and Ernst was proud to discuss initiatives like the Peachtree Street Greenway and Top-End 285 transit. Then, pointing to an architect’s model in the meeting room, he gave us a preview of the $78mm City Center that is under construction. This new city hall will be a mass timber construction with a large atrium, a rooftop park, and 60% of square footage dedicated to meeting room spaces. Ribbon cutting is slated for May 2025.

Colleagues from Brookhaven’s City Council joined the meeting to celebrate Mayor Ernst and offer a few updates. Mayor-Elect John Park clarified the theme of his upcoming term: fulfilling the vision that Mayor Ernst began. In other words, Park aims to address the ‘non-sexy’ fundamental challenges like stormwater infrastructure and traffic congestion, ensuring that “we are building a solid foundation for future generations.” Councilmember-Elect Michael Diaz re-emphasized this theme and acknowledged that since growth is inevitable, establishing the right guardrails for infrastructure will be critical. Councilmember John Funny then provided a specific example – Brookhaven’s Buford Highway – that will need to support the City’s workforce with appropriate transit and housing options.

The Council for Quality Growth extends a well-deserved congratulations to John Ernst for two successful terms as Brookhaven’s Mayor.