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Collaboration Can Bring About Lasting and Powerful Impacts

June 28, 2015
Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker speaks to city officials after being sworn in as GMA President on Sunday, June 28, during the association's 2015 Annual Convention in Savannah.

The following is Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker's prepared remarks after being sworn in as GMA President during GMA's 2015 Annual Convention.

Thank you very much.

I am truly honored to be before you today as president of GMA.

It’s been a fast ride these past few years …

     … from the efforts to incorporate

     … to being elected as our city’s first mayor and starting a city from scratch

      … to now being president of GMA.

I’m humbled by and appreciate the trust that you have placed in me.

Again, thank you.
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There’s someone else who I need recognize this afternoon, and that is the “Founding Mother” of our new cities and the City of Sandy Springs, Eva Galambos.

Mayor of Sandy Springs from its incorporation in December 2005 to January 2014, Eva passed away this past April.

Without her multi-decade effort to create Sandy Springs, it is doubtful that Johns Creek and the other new cities in metro-Atlanta would have ever been created.

Without her vision and tenacity, I know that I would not be here today as mayor of Johns Creek, much less as president of GMA.

Thank you, Eva, for all that you did for the cause of home rule and responsive local government.

On Friday, the GMA Board of Directors passed a resolution honoring Eva for her service to Sandy Springs and her role in the establishment of new cities in Georgia.

I’d like to ask Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul to come up and accept this resolution.

I want to thank you for allowing me and our sister city in Sandy Springs to pay tribute to Eva, the ultimate example of what a public servant should be. 

She was truly a mentor to me and I’ve taken her wise and eloquent advice of “don’t screw it up” to heart.

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I’m excited about the theme of this year’s convention, Creative Impact.
 
More than just a theme for our convention, it has served as an inspiration to those that put this meeting together for our benefit.
 
From yesterday’s opening session to the pop-up market to our concurrent sessions … and everything else in between … GMA staff has ensured that this year’s convention is saturated with creativity and energy.
 
There’s more to this year’s theme, however, than simply highlighting the impact of the arts and culture on our cities, as worthy as that is.
 
And it’s more than just celebrating creativity or creative people, which is worthy as well.
 
It’s really about understanding what it takes to be successful.
 
If we take a hard look at the cities that are sharing their stories with us this year, we’ll find that they share the common thread of collaboration, allowing each to creatively impact its community in positive ways.
 
The ideas and actions we pursue that have the most impact on the life of our communities are those that are based in a spirit of collaboration.
 
Grounded in both respect and a belief in the power of diversity …
 
     … a diversity of ideas and of talent, desires and dreams …
 
... this collaborative spirit must be embraced and championed in order for our cities, and our state, to proposer and succeed.
 
It is up to us here in this room today to understand this … and I believe we do.
 
If you attended the panel discussion earlier this afternoon, you learned how communities as diverse as Blue Ridge, Thomasville and Athens are discovering success by collaborating with artists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, schools and community-based organizations.
 
Tomorrow you’ll see how the cities of Cedartown, Douglasville and Statesboro are working with technical colleges, universities and local businesses to create innovative opportunities for small business development.
 
In Macon, the partnership between government, business, civic and educational leaders is transforming that city’s downtown.
 
Milledgeville has gained national prominence with its revitalization efforts that have involved the energy and passion of any number of groups and individuals in addition to the city.
 
My predecessor’s hometown of Newnan recently celebrated the completion of a collaborative effort between the city, the University of West Georgia and the Board of Regents.
 
In Johns Creek, the city is actively working with its business and economic development organizations alongside its residents to develop our own vibrant mixed-use downtown we call The District.
 
As envisioned, The District will become an economic engine, cultural and entertainment center that will sustain our city for future generations.
 
As we make final decisions on the way ahead, we do so knowing the outcome reflects the best of Johns Creek.
 
From the north Georgia mountains, to the Piedmont, to the coastal plains, cities and their officials have taken the lead on nurturing cooperative efforts that foster the best in people and their communities.
 
And it is important that we don’t keep those efforts at home.
 
We must be willing to share that energy, spirit and drive with each other through this partnership we call GMA.
 
As the great author and political activist Hellen Keller is quoted as saying, “alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
 
Earlier this month you may recall seeing news reports about the heroin crisis in our nation and state. These reports are just a microcosm of a much broader issue we all face with drug use in general.
 
Just last week, my own Johns Creek Police Department, in coordination with the DEA, arrested two people who were renting a house within our community and using it as an alleged meth lab.
 
Approximately 20 pounds of crystal meth were found during a combined law enforcement raid.
 
And Johns Creek is not only one of the safest cities in Georgia but it is consistently one of the top 10 safest cities in the U.S.  Yet, despite our best efforts, we recognize that even we are not immune to this threat.
 
I think all of us in this room understand that there are no insular communities. Drug use has permeated every level of society and it hides among us.
 
Our communities have tragically lost lives, both young and old, to drug related overdoses and we must leverage our collective experience to aggressively attack this growing problem.
 
Standing here today I can’t tell you what can be done about this problem, but I do know that we as city officials need to be involved.
 
As such, I’ve reached out to ACCG President and Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash to explore how our two organizations can harness the power, energy and creative forces of our respective memberships to help stem the tide of this epidemic.
 
Other challenges face us as well.
 
We must work collaboratively with each other, our county officials, and our friends under the Gold Dome on creating a better balance between cities and counties on service delivery and local option sales tax issues.
 
And it will take the collective energy and efforts of our GMA staff and those of us in this room today to ensure that GMA continues to offer the types of services that:
 
  1. help cities be efficient, effective, and innovative, and
  2. provides GMA with diversified revenue that, in turn, allows it to continue to serve all of us.

As we begin to tackle these and other challenges together, let’s remember what Eric Wahl told us yesterday … to innovate, we must see what everyone else sees, but we must be willing to think like no one has ever thought before.

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There is a phrase from my faith tradition ... tikkun olam … that means "the world needs fixing, and it's our job to fix it."
 
My friend and mentor Eva Galambos embodied that philosophy in all that she did for her community, and I suspect that each of you here today do as well.
 
It is our job to fix and nurture the world, or at least our small part of it.
 
I can think of no better way for us to do that … to create those lasting and powerful impacts in our cities and state … than by working together in a spirit of collaboration that respects our differences, uplifts our common purpose and cares more about results than being in control.
 
Again, thank you for this opportunity to serve you as your 83rd GMA president. It is indeed a great honor.
 
Thank you and God bless.
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