The head of the Buckhead cityhood movement is being attacked as a “shady” and “fast-talking New Yorker” out to “destroy Atlanta” in an anonymous mailer that cites fundraising scandals of his past to throw doubt on the current effort’s claims.

The Buckhead City Committee is calling the attack on its chairman and CEO Bill White “lies” from a “cowardly author” and says none of the mailer is true. However, the fundraising scandals did exist, though the mailer reports them briefly and selectively.

Two major cityhood opposition groups — the Committee for a United Atlanta and Neighbors for a United Atlanta — say they did not send the mailers. Also denying involvement are the Buckhead Coalition and Buckhead Community Improvement District, two major community organizations that are cityhood opponents and are both headed by Jim Durrett. After asking to see a copy of the mailer, Durrett commented, “Wow. That is brutal.”

One resident who posted photos of the mailer on Twitter said it was delivered in the mail on Jan. 13.

Photos of the mailer attacking Buckhead City Committee leader Bill White as posted on Twitter by @williamcaseatl

“Can we really trust Bill White? Say no to Buckhead City,” reads the headline on the mailer. It brands as “false” the BCC’s disputed claims that a Buckhead City would be less expensive to run, not financially harm Atlanta, and leave Atlanta Public Schools intact, among others.

As support, the mailer cites White’s involvement in a New York pension fund scandal and questionable fundraising for New York City’s Veterans Day parade. It includes a quote from a 2010 press release from then New York Attorney General (and now recently disgraced former New York Governor) Andrew Cuomo about “fund-raisers like Bill White, who used his access to fill his pockets.”

“As usual, shady Bill White is looking out for his best interests — not yours,” the mailer claims, calling him someone who “will say or do anything for power, access, and money.”

Asked for comment, the BCC pointed to two responses it posted on Twitter. Those comments dismissed the mailer as “an ANONYMOUS flyer filled with LIES,” and said,

“If anything in that flyer was true, the cowardly author would have signed it. DON’T FALL FOR IT.” Also included were links to various videos on the BCC website addressing cityhood topics.

White, a native of New York state, has lived in Atlanta for over three years but says he has much older ties here through his husband, Bryan Eure. In New York, White became a prominent fundraiser for the likes of Presidents Obama and Trump and former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton. He parlayed that work into the position of president of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, a famous institution based on a decommissioned aircraft carrier.

However, as has been widely reported, White left that position in 2010 after involvement in the public pension fund scandal, a criminal investigation headed by the New York Attorney General’s office. In a press release at the time, the AG’s office said White brokered deals without a securities license, secretly received fees from brokering investments, and bundled campaign contributions.

According to the press release, White and the AG’s office made an agreement where he would pay $1 million to the state and would comply with regulations banning the type of work he did and the collecting of campaign contributions related to public pension fund business. White also agreed to “cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation.”

White did not acknowledge any wrongdoing.

The press release that at that time, the investigation had resulted in similar agreements with 15 firms and two individuals, as well as six guilty pleas.

White went on to become the lead fundraiser for the United Veterans War Council, a nonprofit that stages the Veterans Day Parade. A 2014 investigative article by the New York Observer questioned the organization’s budgeting, fundraising and spending. That included White garnering an unusually large 44% cut of the money he raised while the organization ended up reporting a financial loss, according to the article. However, there was no claim of White committing any crimes and no official investigation. In the article, White defending the value of his work, including his ties in the television world to Fox News founders Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.

Last year, White made a controversial attack of his own in a mailer, where he incorrectly labeled cityhood opponents as “taxpayer-funded.”

The Hyatt Centric Buckhead hotel may be a new building, but the design team took inspiration from local traditions you may not be aware of. The exterior of the hotel, designed by Cooper Carry, fits in with the other modern glass buildings that comprise the Buckhead skyline, but the 15 story hotel stands alone on the side of GA400 by Lenox Mall. The hotel’s location would certainly be an interesting home-base for exploring the Buckhead area. PATH400 runs alongside the hotel, allowing easy access to MARTA and Buckhead’s tech corridor. A walk across the Gordon C. Bynum pedestrian bridge offers easy connection to Peachtree Park and the beautiful section of PATH400 near Lindbergh.

Georgia’s Pottery Tradition

Director of Sales and Marketing, Yajaira Torres gave me a tour of the new Hyatt Centric, and explained the origins of the hotel’s interior design. New York-based Sawer & Company designed the hotel interiors, guest rooms, and meeting spaces. Sawyer took inspiration from Georgia’s pottery tradition for the interior spaces. The Buckhead area was home to one of Georgia’s “Jug towns” in the 1800’s. Artisans used the local clay to create stoneware for personal use and for sale. Ms Torres explained, “There were lots of pottery artists, and they like to be considered artisans just like blacksmiths. They felt that their work was just as essential as [a blacksmith’s].”

You can see the pottery influence in the shapes, colors, and textures throughout the hotel. The unique front dest looks like a glazed clay pot, and it’s backed by a wall of decorative terra cotta bricks. The design cues are not always so obvious. The designers also employ subtle patterns and earth tones throughout the hotel that invoke pottery motifs and clay.

Top Chef Times Two

The Hyatt Centric Buckhead’s restaurants were both conceived by Chef Hugh Acheson. Chef Acheson is a James Beard award winner who is well known for Georgia favorite restaurants like 5&10 in Athens and Empire State South in Atlanta. The Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry designed the interiors for both restaurants, and they share a similar Eastern Asian aesthetic.

Mount Royal

You will find Mount Royal next to the lobby on the ground floor. The rich colors and layered textures of wood, tile, and fabric bring to mind a Moroccan bizarre, but with a decidedly high-end vibe. The outdoor terrace seating expands the restaurant’s seating during warmer months. Ms. Torres described Mount Royal as a Montreal Steakhouse, where guests are encouraged to share a great meal. “Chef Hugh is not about the showmanship of “Chef”. He wants it to all be in the food. That tells the story, and also the vibe. So when people are happy, their tummies are happy, they’re having a good time.”


Spaceman is the name of Chef Hough’s rooftop restaurant. The 360º views from 15 stories up are breathtaking. Guests can enjoy two outdoor terraces, with seating, TV’s to watch sports, and lawn games. The menu at Spaceman is smaller plates and tapas to share. Ms. Torres told me that Chef Hugh intends Spaceman to be the beginning of your evening. “The idea is for everyone to start here with cocktails and close a day of business. Wind down here, followed by a very good meal [downstairs at Mount Royal]”.

The Hyatt Centric Buckhead may be designed for visitors, but there is a lot for locals to love. Ms. Torres told me that Peachtree Park residents are starting to come to the hotel to let their dog’s play on the hotel’s lawn, and the hotel is delighted about it. The ethos of a Hyatt Centric hotel is that it is centrally located and part of the community. I believe the Hyatt Centric Buckhead is off to a good start!

New Mayor Andre Dickens made two Buckhead appearances Jan. 13 — one at a publicity event touting a future West Village police precinct, and one a surprise virtual visit to the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods.

The appearances were part of Dickens’ campaign promise to pay more attention to Buckhead, both to counter the local cityhood movement and to improve Atlanta government services in general. Dickens spoke to BCN from City Hall, where he and other officials said they were meeting late with nonprofits addressing services to young people, including so-called water boys.

Meanwhile, the pro-cityhood Buckhead City Committee has dismissed Dickens as dishonest and unreliable on the crime issues driving the movement’s politics. In that vein, the BCC revealed the politically damaging arrest of Dickens’ former chief of staff, Ali Carter, days before the mayor’s Jan. 3 inauguration. Carter, who reportedly is no longer on the mayoral staff, was arrested on an airplane at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Dec. 29 because he was wanted on a warrant for a charge of terroristic threats related to a domestic incident. But the BCC lost political momentum with that revelation by coupling it with an unsubstantiated claim that the Atlanta Police Department is lowering its hiring standards to meet Dickens’ recruitment goals. That led APD to publicly bash the BCC for a “misinformation campaign.”

The BCC’s attacks on Dickens also have been politically blunted by racially themed social media posts from Bill White, its chairman and CEO, including one calling Dickens a “racist” and another reposting a white-nationalist-affiliated website’s comments linking urban murder rates to Black populations. Swift public backlash led White to apologize for the latter post.

West Village precinct

A Jan. 13 press conference touting the new West Village APD mini-precinct was pure political theater coinciding with the start of Dickens’ administration and the General Assembly session where cityhood legislation is being considered. The precinct was already announced back in September under the administration of former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and it is not scheduled to open until sometime in the summer.

The event was a chance for Dickens to be seen in the neighborhood backing public safety along local organizations who are helping to fund it and who also oppose cityhood.

Jim Durrett, left, who leads the Buckhead Coalition and the Buckhead Community Improvement District, shakes hands with Atlanta Police Maj. Andrew Senzer, commander of Buckhead’s Zone 2 precinct, at the Jan. 13 press conference for the new West Village mini-precinct. Credit: Rob Knight

Buckhead is covered by APD’s Zone 2 precinct, which is based on Maple Drive and also has a mini-precinct within the Lenox Square mall as a base for officers. The new West Village precinct is within One Buckhead Plaza, a recently renovated mixed-use center at West Paces Ferry and Peachtree roads. The office will be along West Paces Ferry, below the King + Duke restaurant.

“It is important that everyone in our city feels a sense of security as our police continue to combat crime wherever it exists,” said Dickens, who spoke outside of the building to attendees, such as City Council President Doug Shipman and several City councilmembers, including Mary Norwood of Buckhead’s District 8.

He was joined by several APD officials, including Chief Rodney Bryant and Zone 2 commander Maj. Andrew Senzer. Bryant said at least 12 officers will be assigned to the mini-precinct. Senzer said the facility will be “a tremendous asset in Zone 2” and that responding to traffic incidents will be a focus.

Mayor Andre Dickens, left, speaks while joined by Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant at the West Village mini-precinct site. Credit: Rob Knight

Cousins Properties, the owner of One Buckhead Plaza, is leasing the space for what a press release called a “nominal fee.” The Buckhead Coalition and the Buckhead Community Improvement District are contributing $150,000 for the build-out. (The CID’s board chair, Thad Ellis, is a Cousins vice president.) Both organizations also oppose cityhood. Their mutual leader, Jim Durrett, appeared at the press conference.

The Coalition and the CID were among the organizations that in late 2020 launched a “Buckhead Security Plan” aimed at tackling rising crime before the cityhood effort gained political momentum.

A tremendous amount of work to enhance safety has been done over the past year and we are beginning to see a return on that investment,” Durrett said in a press release. “There’s still a long way to go, but it’s clear that city leaders have heard Buckhead’s concerns and are working to address them.”

Buckhead Council visit

That evening, Dickens made an unscheduled but warmly welcomed visit to the BCN. City officials frequently speak at the meetings of the coalition of neighborhood associations, but a mayor has not appeared in years.

“I greet you and say hello on this very first BCN meeting of the year. I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Dickens. He promised his administration will “show up early and often” in the neighborhood and said he will remain available to the community “and solve our city’s problems together.”

Mayor Andre Dickens speaks to the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods at its Jan. 13 virtual meeting. Among the more than 115 attendees were, seen above, BCN Chair Debra Wathen, Post 3 At-Large City Councilmember Keisha Sean Waites and City Council President Doug Shipman.

He noted that the BCN has been a big responder to his call for suggestions for quick fixes his administration can make. He said the administration is logging and categorizing suggestions “so we can begin to take action on them.”

“And thank you for asking,” said BCN Chair Debra Wathen. “We look forward to being in partnership with the Mayor’s Office.”

Dickens said that he and some other elected officials on the call — including at-large City Councilmembers Keisha Sean Waites and Matt Westmoreland — were speaking from City Hall, where they were meeting with representatives from around 75 nonprofits that work with young men on “solutions to keep them active and progressing toward career and life goals and to keep them out of trouble.” Waites later specified that includes the “water boys,” or young people who illegally sell bottled water on the streets. The practice drew significant City and policing attention in the past two years and was among the sources of crime complaints driving the cityhood movement.

Norwood, who also was in attendance, praised Dickens for that effort, saying that “our young people deserve it, our city deserves it.”

Wathen had invited Dickens to speak to the BCN but had not expected a visit so soon in his administration.

“I really appreciate the mayor speaking to us,” she said. “I think it really shows he is listening to us…. I feel honored he took the time to show he really does care about us.”