Peppers starts his new job Dec. 3 as special assistant for the Community Development and Finance Division of the Department of Community Affairs in Atlanta.
Just hours after the news was delivered to the Woodstock Main Street Board and Downtown Development Authority, Peppers released a three-page open letter to the residents of the city thanking them for the opportunity he had at what he called the best city in the state.
“I have had the experience of getting to know the kindest people, including some of the strongest and most innovative entrepreneurs imaginable. It is with mixed emotions of sadness and excitement that I let you know that beginning in December, I will be leaving the city of Woodstock to take on a new role and a new opportunity with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs,” Peppers said in the letter.
Peppers said the opportunity will offer him a chance to promote good development in cities all across the state.
“This wasn’t something I was expecting, it was just one of those things that presented itself,” Peppers told the Tribune on Wednesday. “When your state wants you, you want to answer that call. I am excited about the opportunity.”
Woodstock Mayor Donnie Henriques said Peppers informed the city council of his plans Monday night.
“We’re losing not only a good man, a good staff member, and a good guy, but a really terrific addition to the staff and city. It will be hard to replace him,” Henriques said.
City Manager Jeff Moon will be in charge of finding a replacement for Peppers.
“I’m happy for Billy. He now gets to do on a statewide level what he’s been doing here,” Moon said. “Billy, being president of the Georgia Downtown Association, is recognized statewide as someone who is an expert on downtowns and he acquired that at a very young age.”
Peppers was 23 years old when he started his career with the city in 2005.
Moon said the city is not in a rush to fill Peppers’ role.
“We’ll spend a couple weeks trying to figure out what we want to do,” Moon said.
Moon said he will talk with the members of the Main Street board as well as the Downtown Development Authority to determine what board members want to do moving forward.
“You won’t be able to replace Billy,” Moon said. “There’s only one Billy.”
Moon said Peppers’ last day is the last day of the month.
“The good thing is, we’ll still have access to Billy,” Moon said. “He’s still going to be a Cherokee County resident and he’ll still be around.”
Peppers said that while his last official day for the city is Nov. 30, he will be involved with that weekend’s holiday activities on Saturday, Dec. 1, and the wedding the city is giving away on Dec. 2.
“In my time here in Woodstock, I have seen the revitalization of a community starting with its heart and soul, the downtown district. Like our American economy, our community rides along the shoulders of small businesses,” Peppers said in his letter. “I have seen the downtown Woodstock of today grow out of foreclosures, vacant retail spaces, and business closings.
He called today’s downtown Woodstock a shining example across the state of how investing in the central business district can pay off in great dividends to the rest of the community.
“The housing market in Woodstock has rebounded off the recent success of downtown. A drive through downtown Woodstock on a Friday night reveals that our neighbors in Cobb and Fulton counties are enjoying our restaurants enough to spend their money in Cherokee,” Peppers said. “With the success of downtown Woodstock and the coming Outlet Mall, Cherokee County residents can now choose to keep their money local and we can expect our neighbors in other counties to come here and help contribute through their sales taxes to our roads, schools, parks, and public safety … a distinct contrast from a decade ago.
Peppers said he plans to take what he learned on the job and put it to work across the state.
“We will be working to take best practices in small business development and downtown development as a model to other communities in Georgia. It will be both challenging and rewarding,” he wrote. “At the same time, it is bittersweet, as I say goodbye to a community that took a chance on me. It has not been a perfect time … I have made mistakes and have sometimes had to nibble at my own foot, but it has been a joy.”
Peppers thanked the Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors, Main Street Woodstock, the staff, mayor and council as well as local residents for their support and friendship over the years.