by: Mike Petchenik Updated:
ALPHARETTA, Ga. - An Alpharetta city councilman is defending his decision to appear on a reality television show.
Donald Mitchell, an interior decorator by trade, has had a recurring role on the Style Network’s “Big Rich Atlanta.” In one episode, he’s drinking and ducking under a woman’s skirt. In another, he comments on female genitalia.
“I feel it was way inappropriate,” said Chelsea Mitchell, who works in Alpharetta but isn’t related to the councilman. “He shouldn’t have been doing anything like that.”
On a local blog, rootsinalpharetta.com, some posted comments about Mitchell’s behavior, calling it “outrageous” and “embarrassing.” A city employee emailed Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik to say that if the employee had done the same thing, it would have resulted in termination.
But not everyone is questioning Mitchell’s decision.
“It doesn’t bother me whatsoever,” said Buddy Gash, owner of Cotton House Antiques on Milton Avenue. “As long as he represents the businesses of Alpharetta and does a good job on that, that’s the only thing I’m concerned about.”
Christine Tamisin is co-owner of Sis and Moon’s, an art gallery at which producers shot a scene from the show. She told Petchenik she believes Mitchell’s behavior was appropriate for the show and didn’t reflect negatively on the city.
“It was fun. It was light-hearted, and I think he did great,” she said. “If anyone glimpses into your life and gets one shot of you doing something and you’re judged for that completely on that one thing, a lot of people would be in trouble.”
Mitchell declined to do an interview with Petchenik but sent the following statement about his role on the show:
“As you may know, though the show is not scripted, I have been asked to play a defined character. I first agreed to appear on the show at the request of a couple of clients of mine. The television network wanted my clients’ designer to appear and talk about my design work. As things evolved, the directors liked my role and asked that I return repeatedly.
“Although I’m not provided with a specific script for this docu-drama, I’m provided direction and prompting from the directors as I act my role. Thus far, I’ve had a lot of positive responses to my role on the show, and those who know me understand the character I play on the show is merely a character and is different than how I conduct myself elsewhere, as is evident from my actions during City Council meetings, Alpharetta Business Association meetings, and throughout my life.
“I do plan to run for re-election, and I know I’m not the first person to work both as a politician and an actor. Whatever role or job I take, I do so with the utmost diligence and dedication to achieving success. I have a passion for historic preservation, an increased presence of the arts, revitalizing our downtown, the City Center project, and business development. These issues require the continued creativity that I have shown in my work on council. I’m excited by the prospect of continuing to provide this perspective and leadership for our city, and those who know me are aware of the hours I devote to our city.
“As this is my first attempt at acting on television, I understand there are many who believe my portrayal of the character on the show is so believable, especially since those who know me clearly understand this is not how I conduct myself on council or in public. Incidentally, in taking on this acting role, I made certain the network and my fellow cast members knew my commitment to my work on council, and each agreed not to make any mention of the city or my role on council during this work.”