For Tracy Rathbone, it’s all about connections.
Whether it’s connecting bikers along the Noonday Creek Trail to Kennesaw Mountain, connecting business owners in the Town Center district or connecting local nonprofits to needed funding and help, Rathbone knows how to make it happen.
Rathbone, the executive director of the Town Center Community Improvement District, oversees dozens of projects, studies, plans and a $3 million annual budget, which is generated by a voluntary tax paid by business owners within the district. The entire district is about 6.25 square miles and encompasses major developments and hubs, including Kennesaw State University, Town Center at Cobb Mall, Cobb County International Airport as well as thousands of restaurants, shops and business headquarters.
“When you think about where Town Center sits in the Northwest Corridor with the Braves and The Battery to the south and Emerson and LakePoint to the north, Town Center is in a sweet spot along that corridor,” Rathbone said. “We create a sense of community in our corridor through beautification of the infrastructure. So, for example, the CID spends half a million dollars a year on trees and shrubs and keeping the roads clean — all of the things that you don’t notice until they’re not done. If you go to other areas where there isn’t five-day-a-week maintenance and you see weeds and butts and other things in the area, it makes a difference. What we do makes people feel like the corridor is safer, more walkable, a place they want to be. And property owners feel they have more value and can garner better rates. Outside of that, it’s making sure the roadways work and traffic is moving freely.”
The TCCID also uses its funding to pay for engineering studies and help the counties and cities within and affected by the corridor with road, trail, park and bridge projects.
But Rathbone said that, while the Town Center district is her focus, the TCCID is only affective if it works collaboratively with consultants, politicians and engineers and thinks regionally as well as locally.
“Having the opportunity to make a difference in an area that has a ripple effect is really important to me,” Rathbone said of her position. “I’m focused on Cobb but I’m also involved in groups like Leadership Atlanta, the Council for Quality Growth, several organizations that are outside of Cobb because TCCID is a broader piece of the entire region. We’re in important piece in that broader plan.”
The Smyrna native came to her current position in January 2015 after serving as Director of Business Development for Coxe Curry & Associates, metro Atlanta’s largest nonprofit consulting firm. In this role, Rathbone was responsible for leading and overseeing the development of new business and marketing efforts for the firm as well as directing client engagements, primarily in the Cobb region.
Prior to Coxe Curry, Rathbone served as development director for St. Luke’s Community House in Nashville, Tenn. and she was a founding member of the Eating Disorders Coalition of Tennessee, where she served as the organization’s first executive director.
Nonprofit work is in her blood and she continues to give back to the community by serving on dozens of boards, committees and volunteer projects, most notably as the incoming chair of liveSAFE Resources. Formerly the YWCA of Northwest Georgia, liveSAFE is based in Marietta and is the only domestic violence shelter in Cobb. The group also treats and helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
When asked how she balances all of her volunteer work, Rathbone said: “To me, saying no is just as important as saying yes. I think as leader and with people who are passionate about making a difference in our community, sometimes it’s hard to choose. In saying no to an organization, it doesn’t mean you don’t care about the mission but we all have limited time and resources and you have to focus on the things that matter the most to you and where you feel like you’ll have the greatest impact. If we all do that, I think more needs will be met.”
Rathbone was most recently recognized for her leadership and giving spirit by being awarded the 2017 Woman of Distinction Award in April by Cobb Executive Women. Rathbone said her friends surprised her by secretly inviting her daughter, Lila, and mother, Mary Jo Franchini, to the ceremony.
“I was shocked,” the Pebblebrook High School and Vanderbilt University graduate said. “My mom raised me until I was 7 with my grandmother and went to KSU when I was middle school to get her get her degree in marketing. She graduated top of her class, went into the field of real estate as a broker and I got to see her take a trajectory that showed me anything was possible. After the (Woman of Distinction) ceremony, Lila said, ‘I used to wonder what all these meetings were and then I heard them talk about all the things you do and how you’re great at so many things, but you’re the best at being my Mom.’ The award is a huge honor and I’m incredibly grateful, but showing her what it means to be strong and have goals and roll your sleeves up when it’s hard and commit to something that matters, like my mom did, those are the things I want to show.”