Deke Copenhaver has been mayor of Augusta since 2005. He previously served as Executive Director of the Central Savannah River Land Trust and has worked in banking and real estate. Currently a member of board of the Department of Community Affairs, he also also serves on the boards of the Georgia Municipal Association, Community Foundation for the Central Savannah River Area, the Augusta State University Foundation, the Georgia Conservancy, the Augusta Museum of History, the CSRA Regional Development Center and the Richmond-Burke County Job Training Authority. He has also been recognized by Georgia Trend magazine as a "Notable Georgian," "Top Forty Under Forty" and as one of the "100 Most Influential Georgians."
“City elected officials, despite what their political differences may be, are put in the position of having to work together across any perceived lines that may divide them in order to best serve the people they are elected to represent. ”
December 5, 2008 Moving Beyond Partisan Politics Deke Copenhaver, Mayor, City of Augusta
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As we move through this year’s election cycle, I sense from people I talk to a need for our national leadership to focus more on solutions and less on divisive political rhetoric. I believe that the manner in which Georgia’s cities are able to address the needs of the citizens they serve on a daily basis can be a model for our state and federal officials.
City elected officials, despite what their political differences may be, are put in the position of having to work together across any perceived lines that may divide them in order to best serve the people they are elected to represent.
One strength of Georgia’s cities, I believe, is the fact that city elected officials, except in just a few instances, are elected in non-partisan elections. More often than not, our individual politics just don’t matter.
In dealing with the ongoing reality of addressing an ever-changing plate of issues, as well as the accountability of living in the midst of the constituents we serve, city elected officials are not allowed the luxury of becoming too rigid in our mindsets. While the needs of one district may take precedence at any given point in time due to certain circumstances, those of us serving in cities fully understand that the needs of another district will come to the forefront at another time.
Although city government may not be pretty at times, when partisanship is put aside it can produce a level of détente and reflect an overall commitment to the greater good … all too rare in today’s world of polarizing party politics.
As Mayor since 2005, I have seen firsthand how a genuine effort by elected officials to put aside past differences and to work together for the common good can have a dramatic impact on public trust towards a governing body.
In Augusta, we have committed a great deal of time and effort towards consensus building while focusing on the common ground uniting us as opposed to the divisive issues of the past. We have become more effective in serving those who have elected us and have been able to attract new industry and create more than 3,000 new jobs, while at the same time committing $37.5 million to redeveloping our historic inner city neighborhoods, representing some of the most impoverished areas of our city.
Cities represent an ongoing effort to serve a uniquely diverse constituency whose needs range from dealing with infrastructure issues brought on by the pressures of growth to the development of stronger affordable housing initiatives to combat poverty and all points in between.
I have sought to keep at the forefront of my mind this essential fact; that I was elected to serve nearly two-hundred thousand people, some not having voted for me and some not having voted at all, whose needs should be valued equally. And that is the beauty of the city … the issues are in my own backyard, they can’t be ignored and partisanship, in order to be effective, must be set aside.