Meet City of East Point Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham, whose mantra is “I was born to serve and called to lead.”
East Point is home to nearly 35,000 residents and touches elbows with the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
As mayor, Ingraham’s top priorities are clear: inclusion and equity.
At the beginning of her tenure, East Point was designated a “Welcoming City” through the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities which emphasizes making communities — including its resources and infrastructure — accessible for all abilities.
“I know that our diversity is our strength,” Ingraham said. “We really strive to have a thriving, bright, vibrant, safe city where everyone feels valued and included and where equity and inclusion are really a part of the fabric of our city.”
However, East Point wasn’t always welcoming. The city’s history is told through extensive research in 2008 by Georgia State graduate student Lisa Shannon-Flagg.
In 1912, East Point City Council passed an ordinance forcing Black residents to leave their homes and move to a 45-acre plot, creating a segregated community called East Washington.
The area was surrounded by multiple surrounding factories, which led to a new name, “Stinktown.”
“To call it substandard housing is speaking too highly of it,” Ingraham said. “Unfortunately, that [zoning practice] spread out to the city, to other areas where industrial uses are close in proximity to residential zoning districts. Having inherited those decisions, it’s critically important that we look at more equitable industrial land use.”
Needless to say, environmental justice is on the top of Ingraham’s list.
In February 2020, Ingraham placed a moratorium on industrial use in the city. The moratorium was lifted in December of the same year after the city adopted eight ordinances, including a stipulation that bars any new industrial use within one mile of residential zoning.
With all new development, Ingraham’s top priority is its benefit to the community.
“Are they going to be having jobs that provide livable wages? Are they going to hire East Point residents?” she said. “I’m interested in responsible developers, people who not only want to build buildings but want to build communities. Because whatever you build, it is centered around people.”
Another key piece of a prosperous community is healthy residents.
“It is really important for me that regardless of a person’s size or weight, that they feel like health is attainable,” she said. “A lot of times, it’s not just about the physical, it’s about making up your mind and really deciding that health is important. It’s critically important that we ensure that people understand that health is attainable and it can be fun.”
When asked to choose a word to describe her time as mayor, Ingraham chose “people-focused.”
“It’s important to put people over politics, party and profit,” she said. “We have to lead with people in mind. That is my commitment, and that has been my commitment to the people of East Point.”