City Manager of 25 years announces retirement

When Merriss joined Decatur government in 1983, she promised to only stay two years. Since then, she’s extended her promise 17 times. Photo obtained via

Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss announced her retirement from the City of Decatur effective Dec. 31.

Merriss began working for the city in 1983 as Personnel Director, became Assistant City Manager in 1989 and finally, City Manager in 1993. On July 16, only a month before her 35th anniversary serving the city, Merriss announced the end of her tenure at the City Commission meeting.

Merriss praised and thanked fellow city staff who have been with the city throughout her time in office.

“I have been very fortunate that the community has elected outstanding City Commissioners who have supported innovation, risk-taking and outcomes that further the mission and vision of the City of Decatur,” she said on July 16. “I have also worked with the most enthusiastic, dedicated and experienced public employees in the world.”

Though Merriss may be stepping down from her city government position, she said she plans  to continue to exercise her “passion” for local government in part by staying involved in local government professional organizations.

In response to Merriss’ departure, Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett spoke highly of Merriss’ legacy.

“All of us have reaped the benefits of Ms. Merriss’ visionary leadership, her ability to think creatively, and her passion for developing a strong management team,” Garrett said. “She is an innovative thought leader, a model of integrity, and has a unique ability to help the city pursue vibrant community engagement and healthy infrastructure while maintaining strong, conservative fiscal management for the city.”

Under Merriss’ leadership, the city has renovated or rebuilt all city facilities, including city parks. In 2005, the city redesigned the Decatur MARTA Station plaza to make it more pedestrian-friendly. Most notably, the city purchased the 77-acre plot of the United Methodist Children’s home last year.

Merriss reflected on her impact on the city by speaking of her first day as a member of Decatur government. She remembered her oath, which she views as her “personal mission” in local government.

“[The Athenian Oath] in part states, ‘we will transmit this City not only, not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us,’” Merriss said. “As I approach the end of my career here, I hope that I have accomplished that goal.”

Merriss’ exit has left a gap in Decatur government that the City Commission is proactively trying to fill. At the Aug. 6 City Commission meeting, the Commission approved a $22,000 contract with hiring firm GovHR USA in search of a new City Manager. According to Garrett, the City created a job description using input from the community and other stakeholders about desired characteristics in a future City Manager. The nationwide search will end with GovHR USA providing finalists for the position and the city selecting a new City Manager before the year ends.

Garrett described Merriss’ leadership as “transformative” but acknowledged that a change in leadership will go smoothly in part due to Merriss’ profound effect on the city.

“I think we will continue to see the fruits of Peggy Merriss’ impact on both the short term management and the development of long term visions for the city,” she stated. “At the same time, we are looking forward to the opportunities and insights of a new manager at the helm; we have a superb staff that is set to embrace and continue the excellence, innovative practices and new approaches that the City is known for.”

Even so, Merriss’ dedication to Decatur will continue to have an impact both on the city and herself.

“I am, and will always be, proud of what all of us together have achieved for the City of Decatur.”


Contact the writer, Nayeli Shad, at