JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The Johns Creek Vitality Committee has been tasked with efforts to cement a health and wellness brand for the city, but its path forward is still up in the air.
Formerly called the iHeart Johns Creek Advisory Committee, Johns Creek created the group in 2020 to promote the city’s image as a healthcare, wellness and innovation destination.
Since August 2022, the Vitality Committee has participated in special events like the International Festival, Trunk or Treat, the Diwali Festival and the Arts Festival where members surveyed visitors, distributing fliers and branded merchandise. A more recent development, led by the committee, is the inaugural 5K run at Cauley Creek Park.
But there was consensus among the City Council at both the March 14 work session, and at the January strategic planning retreat, that the group needs more structure and pointed direction.
City Councilman Bob Erramilli noted that committee attendance has been sparse. Only four of its 11 members showed up in February, he said.
“It seems to me that if there is some great purpose for that organization, they will be motivated to show up there,” Erramilli said.
Finding staff support
Since the retreat, the committee has received more support from city staff through Economic Development Manager Randall Toussaint. While Johns Creek Mayor John Bradberry suggested the committee continue working with Toussaint, others said his existing responsibilities are a greater priority.
Councilman Chris Coughlin offered a potential avenue, once mentioned at the retreat, like working with Olivia Ammons, assistant to the city manager. Ammons leads Green Communities initiatives.
Councilwoman Erin Elwood proposed the City Council charge the Vitality Committee with a specific research project, like Town Center.
“What does a healthy Town Center look like? And what have other cities done when they leaned into creating … a culture of wellness in their city?” Elwood asked. “Why are they known for that? Maybe it's the infrastructure, maybe it's the policies or programs …”
Elwood said the Vitality Committee is perceived as a “branding committee,” but it doesn’t make the brand. Branding falls under the scope of the city’s Communications Department, she said.
Some councilmembers wanted to cancel the committee’s April meeting to regroup but ultimately decided to move forward as scheduled.
“Obviously, we've got work to do,” Bradberry said.
Mayor opines on media
At the following City Council meeting, former Johns Creek City Councilman Brian Weaver shared concerns with the council about the city’s role in the Juneteenth celebration, which was approved last month. Weaver was asked to join the Juneteenth Planning Committee.
Weaver said he was informed that all decisions would have to go through city staff first. Concerned that the city might become a “dictator” in Juneteenth planning, Weaver reminded councilmembers that the Arts, Entertainment and Culture (ACE) Committee recommended a partnership with Impact Johns Creek.
He questioned the city’s process and noted that the event was once headed in a different direction.
“It was, I guess, the combination of the Fourth of July and Juneteenth,” he said.
While public comment does not typically entail back-and-forth, Mayor Bradberry interjected and said, “Yeah, that's a … that's a misnomer that's been put out there. And I was disappointed that the media was led to believe that because there was no basis in fact.”
In early February, Appen Media reported that the idea of a freedom festival, which would wrap Fourth of July and Juneteenth together in a weeks-long celebration, had been floated at a previous ACE Committee meeting.
The comments can be found around the 47-minute mark in the Dec. 8 ACE Committee meeting video recording, available on the city’s website.
The committee’s idea of a freedom fest was also mentioned by Bradberry, himself, at the strategic planning retreat Jan. 29 in Greenville, South Carolina.
While no city video of the retreat is available, Appen Media was in attendance and taped workshop discussions.
Speaking at the Jan. 29 retreat, the mayor commented on the concept.
“One thing that the [ACE] Committee is talking about is — just like we have July 4, Juneteenth is very significant to, you know, our Black residents,” Bradberry said Jan. 29. “And the possibility of maybe combining those in some way as like a … almost like a two-week freedom festival, when they celebrate freedom for everyone in our country …”
To Bradberry’s comment, Councilman Erramilli asked for clarification.
“Juneteenth to July 4?” Erramilli asked.
Bradberry said, “Yeah.”