PORTERDALE, Ga. — Porterdale is a small town where the streets intersect and the heartbeat of the community resonates. Heading up the city is Porterdale’s mayor Arline Chapman.
From her humble beginnings to her current role, Chapman’s journey and accomplishments have shaped her into the person she is today.
In her lifetime, Chapman has worn many hats. Under the pressure of her parents, she attended an exclusive women’s college that trained her to work as an administrative assistant.
“I wanted to go to art school when I graduated from high school, and my parents did not think that was such a good idea,” Chapman said. “Back then, you did what your parents told you to.”
So, she spent a short time working as a secretary but quickly grew tired of that role.
“I was ready to fly the coop, and the family had known a woman that was a flight attendant,” Chapman said. “I decided that is what I wanted to do.”
Eastern Airlines hired Chapman as a flight attendant, which eventually landed her in the Atlanta area. Chapman worked in that position until she married, at which point she focused on raising her two sons.
Chapman rejoined the workforce after raising her family. This time, relying on the skills she gained from college, Chapman found a temporary clerical position with the Georgia House of Representatives during a legislative session.
That position led to others.
Chapman worked with legislators like DuBose Porter, who served as the Administration Floor Leader for Governor Zell Miller, and also Thurbert Baker, the first African American Attorney General of the U.S. state of Georgia. Years later, it was Baker who swore Chapman into office during her first term.
Chapman moved to Porterdale with the suggestion of a friend and Walter Davis, the developer who purchased and revamped the mill at Yellow River.
“They had the perfect place already picked out for me; they had it all planned,” Chapman said.
Once here, Davis insisted Chapman run for office.
“[Davis told me] you need to run for city council here,” Chapman said. “The place is a mess.”
Chapman’s sons also thought it was a good idea.
Over the years, she’s helped countless children learn to read by volunteering her time and resources. She thinks of herself as a grandmother to Porterdale’s youth.
“I have a handful of them [they’ve] rotated over time,” Chapman said.
She partnered with officials to rid the city of blight properties and shared her knowledge and talent gained from the art classes she took weekly at the former Atlanta College of Art.
According to Chapman, this is her last term in office, but that won’t stop her service. She plans to continue teaching art classes on Wednesday nights, along with spreading love, joy, and the occasional snack to the young children who stop by her home frequently.
“I’m very attached to the people of Porterdale,” Chapman said.