As I write my final column to you, I’m reminded of this quote from James Allen, “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” And so I offer my heartfelt thanks to Georgia’s city officials for allowing me to serve as GMA President. It has been an honor.
The greatest joy I’ve had over the last year has been the opportunity to meet and work with city elected and appointed officials from across the state. I’ve been impressed by the simple desire found in you to make your communities better. Georgia has a wealth of city leaders working hard to make their hometowns vibrant and prosperous. I thank you for your efforts.
I’ve also been impressed by the GMA staff. Starting at the top with our new Executive Director, Lamar Norton, on down to each and every person that works for GMA, we should be proud of their creativity, innovation and hard work. Our cities, and the state for that matter, are better off because of what they do on our behalf.
Our improved relationship with ACCG is something I'm proud of. It has given both organizations greater strength, both locally and statewide. This is an important relationship and I look forward to a future of common victories as we make our communities a better place to visit, work or raise our families.
There is one other observation I’d like to make and that is the uniqueness that can be found in each of our cities is what will make our state strong and prosperous.
Urban Land Institute (ULI) Senior Resident Fellow Edward T. McMahon, in a recent commentary, writes about the “distinctive city.” He believes that it is the distinctiveness, or uniqueness, of our cities that will be the building block of our future economic success.
“When it comes to 21st century economic development, a key concept is community differentiation. If you can’t differentiate your community from any other, you have no competitive advantage.
“Natural resources, highway access, locations along a river or rail line have all become less important. Education, technology, connectivity and distinctiveness have all become more important.”
Creating a place that is distinct and competitive in the 21st century, with all of its changes and unknowns, is not an insignificant challenge. But, who better than local officials to make it happen? A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows that 61 percent of Americans have a favorable view of their local government. Fifty-two percent view their state favorably while only 33 percent view the federal government in a favorable light. It really is up to us to make our local communities better and fortunately, the numbers are on our side.
There is another side of the coin and that is our need to watch each other’s back and to work together. This is where GMA comes into the picture. You see, there is something special, an emotional bond, I believe, that makes what we do together meaningful and invigorating. That bond is based on the one thing we have in common, our shared mission of making our cities places we are proud to call home.
While it’s up to us to make our individual communities safe and strong, working together through GMA allows us to preserve and enhance our ability to do that. I encourage you to invest your time and talents with GMA; you will be better for it, your city will be better for it, and the state will be better for it.
The cities we represent are the places we call “home.” I know of no better way to say “thank you” to our hometowns than to continue to work for their betterment.
Like I said 12 months ago, “it’s time to get to work.”