Beth English is the executive director for Easter Seals Southern Georgia and has been on the Vienna city council for 11 years. She was a founding member of the Vienna Historic Preservation Society and currently is a member of its board. She is president of the Vienna Woman's Club and is a member of both the Vienna Better Hometown Board and the Keep Vienna Beautiful Board.
"I learned that it didn’t always take a lot of money to make things happen in our small town; sometimes just a spark of creativity could fire an event or project that would later become a trademark."
August 4, 2008 The Spirit of Possibility Beth English, Council Member, City of Vienna
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There is something unique about living in a city. Whether large or small, each has a distinct personality shaped by its history and traditions, its architecture and festivals, and through the lives of the people … the spirit of possibility.
When I moved to Vienna some 30 years ago I fell in love with the quaint downtown, the Victorian courthouse, the varied and beautiful historic homes and the warmth of her citizens. Many Sunday afternoons were spent riding through neighborhoods and immersing myself in the city’s history and learning about the colorful characters that shaped its past.
I learned that it didn’t always take a lot of money to make things happen in our small town; sometimes just a spark of creativity could fire an event or project that would later become a trademark. What began as a boast and a bet by a past city manager, Stanley Gambrell, has become “the Big Pig Jig” - Vienna’s signature barbeque event that draws hundreds of cook team and thousands of volunteers to our small city each year.
In a similar fashion, twenty-five years ago a small band of residents, passionate about historic preservation and outraged at the “demolition by neglect” that was occurring, formed the Vienna Historic Preservation Society. Commonly known as the “hysterical society” this stubborn group of citizens converted the abandoned law office of U.S. Senator Walter F. George into a museum honoring his service that houses an amazing collection of donated items that have been instrumental in research by scholars.
A rickety one-room school house was transformed into the Georgia State Cotton Museum and Dooly County Welcome Center. And the former Prince of Peace Episcopal Church was saved and has found new life as the Vienna Cultural Center.
The spirit of possibility is what made these projects a success and has given Vienna its share of great Georgians: Jody Powell, Press Secretary to President Jimmy Carter; former Senator Walter F. George; former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Hardy Gregory; tennis star Ruth Ryner Lay; renowned artist Ulysses Marshall; Olympian Roger Kingdom; Emily Woodward, the first woman president of the Georgia Press Association; and Eugene Methvin, retired senior editor of Readers’ Digest.
There are others, less noted, but equally fascinating: Mrs. Lewis who hit a cow with her new car and sold the meat door to door at the instruction of her husband; Miss Ethel, a national register family who read tea leaves and told fortunes to the local teenage girls; and Miss Ruth who taught elocution to the late Hollywood director, Vincent Sherman.
To me, Vienna is a place where nothing is ever impossible.
In 1989, the real Vienna Boys Choir gave a remarkable performance in our high school gym. The city was celebrating 150 years and to the planning committee it was a dream come true.
That spirit of possibility continues to this day … a new multi-million dollar sidewalk project, façade enhancements, new businesses opening on the square, and people moving in from all over the country all because of the spirit of the city, its leaders and its people.