GMA inducted McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland, Gainesville Councilmember Myrtle Figueras and Rome City Manager John Bennett into the Municipal Government Hall of Fame at the association’s annual convention in Savannah Monday, June 25.
The Hall of Fame honors municipal officials who exemplify the best in public service, and who, throughout their careers, have made extraordinary contributions to their communities and Georgia's cities.
Copeland has served his city as an elected official in McDonough for 32 years, six as a councilmember and 26 as mayor. Among his notable accomplishments are leading a project to convert a 26-acre landfill into a multi-purpose park; providing leadership to build a 105-acre reservoir; helping to establish the city’s first full-time fire department; leading a project to establish free wireless internet in the downtown area; and initiating a partnership with several other organizations to establish a Workforce Center.
Copeland has been an active supporter of GMA throughout this public service career, working diligently to advocate policies to strengthen cities throughout the state. Most notably, he has served on the Board of Directors as a district president on two different occasions. He has also served as vice chair of the Metro Atlanta Mayors Association.
“Throughout his tenure, Mayor Copeland’s visionary leadership and tenacity has improved the quality of life for the citizens of his city,” said GMA Executive Director Lamar Norton.
Figueras, a retired educator, has served 16 years on the Gainesville City Council. She has represented her city on the city-county redevelopment authority, the local chamber of commerce, the economic development council, the commission on children and families and the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District.
Her commitment to improving the quality of life in her city ranges from her support for the construction of an aquatics and community center, which now welcomes 165,000 visitors a year, to the creation of a Neighborhood Planning Unit in her ward. She has also been active in the revitalization of a 300-plus acre tract of mostly commercial and industrial property that now features a 12-foot wide one-mile trail, the police and fire departments and several businesses.
She also works to improve the quality of life for many young people, as evidenced by the creation of Generation Inspiration, a group of high school students who meet on Saturdays in the fall to learn about city government. She also hosts a monthly Citizen’s Advisory Roundtable discussion at a neighborhood center she helped build in her ward.
“Her record of service to GMA is also extensive and far-reaching ,” said GMA Executive Director Lamar Norton. “She has served on the Board of Directors as a district president and at-large member; she is a member of the Municipal Training Board and the Georgia Municipal Employee Benefits System and Workers Compensation Self-Insurance Fund Board of Trustees and she has also served on the Legislative Policy Council. Those who know her all agree that her passion is public service."
Bennett has worked for the city of Rome for 36 years, including 28 as city manager. An engineer by training, he has served as a member of the Governor’s Advisory Committee for Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa Water Allocation, a member of the Coosa/Alabama River Improvement Association and a member and chairman of the Coosa-North Georgia Water Planning Council.
His city has been named a Georgia City of Excellence by Georgia Trend magazine and GMA, and in 2005 he was named Georgia Trend’s Outstanding Municipal Appointed Official for the entire state.
He has served several stints on the GMA Board of Directors, and is a past chair and current member of the Georgia Municipal Employees Benefit Board of Trustees. He is also a past chairman of the Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee.
“John’s tremendous knowledge of municipal operations, combined with his remarkable ability to bring diverse groups and interests together for the common good, has enabled his city to excel in many categories, including infrastructure, public works, comprehensive planning, economic development and public safety to name a few,” said GMA Executive Director Lamar Norton. “He has earned the reputation in his community and the city management profession as a problem-solver and a person of unquestioned integrity.”