This article appeared in the September 2017 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
If the past is any indication, between 400-500 new city officials will be elected to office in this year’s municipal elections. The city officials elected for the first time this year will be entering office in interesting times. While the effects of the Great Recession have mostly receded, we are grappling with either increasing populations in our more urban areas or decreasing populations in rural areas, the opioid epidemic, hospital closings outside our metro areas, as well as education and workforce challenges regardless of where we call home.
Very few of us, even those who have been in public service for many years, have the background and knowledge to tackle every issue facing our communities on our own. This is particularly true for those that are coming into public service for the first time. The breadth of issues we face at the local level is simply too vast, and can be overwhelming.
The Newly Elected Officials Institute and ongoing training program are great tools to help not just newly elected city officials, but all of us, to be better and more informed leaders. But in my time as GMA President, I plan for our association to take a deeper look at the leadership development and mentoring opportunities we provide to our younger elected officials and to those that are newly elected.
I believe that through specific leadership development and mentoring opportunities, we as an association can provide ongoing encouragement to younger and newly elected city officials that will enable to them tackle the extraordinary issues their communities will face in the future.
Leadership development and mentoring are important to me. I began my 29-year tenure at Albany State University (ASU) as a secretary, moved up into numerous positions, including Registrar and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, and retired as Assistant to the President. I certainly worked hard during my time at ASU, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the leadership training and mentoring I received. It allowed me to gain the confidence and knowledge to tackle the challenges I and the university faced.
Any initiatives GMA develops aren’t limited solely to newly elected officials or our younger colleagues. It has as much to do with those of us who have been in the trenches for a while to be willing to share our time and expertise. So, when the time comes, I hope you will offer your time and your city’s resources to further the development of Georgia’s city leaders.
We talk a lot at GMA about the fact that Georgia’s cities are a key factor in our state’s economic success and its future economic prosperity. We make needed capital investments to secure a high quality-of-life. We strive each day to keep our residents safe, and increasingly, we invest in technology to make sure our cities are “smart.” These actions play a foundational role in our state’s future.
I believe it’s to our own benefit that the individuals who are entrusted to make these decisions for their communities have the knowledge, confidence, and network of peers to rely on to make their time in office successful. Don’t you?