Lu proud of relationships built

November 24, 2014

Dalton Daily Citizen

By Charles Oliver

Posted: Saturday, November 22, 2014 10:34 pm

A native of Claxton, Melissa Lu had never been to Dalton before being offered the post of Archway professional for the Whitfield County Archway Partnership.

“I was an attorney, but I knew I wanted to do something different. I had done some pro bono work for some organizations and families in Atlanta and saw clearly that a lot of times there wasn’t good communications between different organizations,” she said.

She’d heard about the University of Georgia’s Archway program, which connects local officials with experts from the university and the University System of Georgia to help them address local problems.

She spoke to officials in Athens about the program and was quickly offered the position in Dalton. She says she was interested in the position but first had to talk to her husband Theo, who was also an attorney.

“He was working for a firm in College Park. I truly expected when I drove back from Athens that he would say no. But he seemed interested, so we prayed about it and came up to visit Dalton. We decided that if he could get a job (in Dalton) as well, we’d do it, and within two weeks he got a job offer and we decided to do it,” she said.

Lu will step down as Archway professional on Dec. 5, but she and her husband plan to remain in Dalton, which they now call home.

The Archway program has helped local officials develop a number of initiatives ranging from the Readers to Leaders program, which aims to get all children reading on at least grade level by third grade, to the Whitfield County Miracle Field, a baseball and softball field for youngsters with physical disabilities.

“There were a lot of people who helped create that Miracle Field, but (Lu) deserves credit for helping us develop a vision for the field and show others what it could mean for the community,” said Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb.

But Lu says Archway’s greatest accomplishment is bringing together educators, business leaders and elected officials from across the city of Dalton and Whitfield County.

“One of the things I am most proud of is watching those relationships grow and watching them arrive at common goals,” she said.

Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson agrees that Archway has provided a venue for discussion that the community did not have before. He says it also gave the community access to students who did consulting work and research it could not have afforded if it had to hire private firms.

Lu says that after five years, and with two small children now, it is time for her to step down.

“I’m a person of faith, and I prayed about this and think it is the right thing to do. My husband’s job has picked up some steam. He has always been so supportive of me, and I thought that this was the right step to take,” she said.

Anderson said the Archway agreement with the University of Georgia ends next June and community leaders had been in talks about its future even before Lu decided to step down.

“The basic question for us is whether we wish to ask the university for an extension for another couple of years or do we believe we are ready to continue on our own and let some other community experience this wonderful partnership,” he said.

 

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