This is part of an occasional series on the many consulates based in Buckhead and Sandy Springs.

By Martha Nodar

While commemorating its 20th anniversary in Atlanta this month, the Buckhead-based French Consulate to the Southeast also prepares to bid farewell to Consul General Philippe Ardanaz, whose successor, Pascal Le Deunff, is due to take over Sept. 1.

In addition to processing visas and passports, assisting French citizens living in the Southeast, and promoting cultural and academic exchanges between France and the United States, the French Consulate acts as a trade commission, encouraging commerce between the countries.

“For four years, I have had the honor and privilege of working in favor of the promotion of my country and the French-American friendship in the Southeast of the United States,” Ardanaz said. “A lot has yet to be accomplished, given the possibilities in domains such as economic, culture, university affairs, etc. I am sure that my successor will approach the development of the French presence in this region with as much enthusiasm as I have.”

Michèle Olivères, the president of the Buckhead-based French-American Chamber of Commerce, said that working with Ardanaz the past four years has been “wonderful.”

The Chamber was one of several sponsors of the consulate’s 20th anniversary celebration on July 14, Bastille Day, at the Atrium City Hall in downtown Atlanta.

Jay Lutz, a French professor at Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven, said he remembers when the consulate arrived in Atlanta in 1989.

“Oglethorpe exhibited posters in celebration of the French Revolution’s bicentennial, and we held a reception, which was attended by Monsieur Jackie Musnier, the first consul general to the Southeast,” he said. “Over the years the consulate has invited my advanced French classes to visit, and it has been an honor to come to know each of the consuls general and their staff.”

The consulate moved in 2000 from downtown Atlanta to its current location near the intersection of Piedmont and Lenox roads in the heart of Buckhead. The consul’s residence is on West Paces Ferry Road by Pace Academy.

Paul Saint Elie, the consular visa agent, who has been with the consulate since 1989, said he “had the opportunity to witness the exponential growth of the city of Atlanta, especially Buckhead, within the last few years.”

“I have also witnessed the increasing visibility of the French presence in the city through the growing number of its constituencies and projects, such as Louvre Atlanta,” he said.

Claire Collobert, the consulate’s press attaché, said her office was involved with the Louvre Atlanta project at the High Museum of Art, including the training of more than 200 teachers from the Southeast on the Louvre pieces to facilitate classroom discussions.

Henri Loyrette, the president/director of the Musée du Louvre in Paris, and Michael Shapiro, the director of the High, expressed their appreciation for the collaborations that made Louvre Atlanta possible.

Le Deunff said he is eager to follow in Ardanaz’s path to “promote the French-American cooperation in the economic, cultural and scientific areas.”

“I am looking forward to continue developing the multiple links of friendship between our two people and serving the community in this important, Southeastern part of the United States,” he said.

With just a few weeks until his return to France, Ardanaz reflected upon his time in Buckhead with a touch of nostalgia. “From all of the assets of this region, the most valuable, without a doubt, is the human qualities of its people,” he said of the Southeast. “This is definitely what I will miss the most.”