Imagining our Future

The year was 1977.  Mary Lou and I were a year out of college and a year before marriage.  We imagined our future together, though in hindsight we were a bit clueless about what that future would actually bring.
That same year the movie “Star Wars” hit the theaters for the first time.  She and I both left the movie completely blown away.  We had never dreamed that a movie like that could even be made.
Almost two generations later, people are flocking to the theaters once again to see another Star Wars movie.  The creative genius behind the entire Star Wars franchise was George Lucas who became a billionaire based on these films.   Lucas once said that “dreams are extremely important.  You can’t do it unless you can imagine it”.   
As I pass the halfway mark of my term as Mayor of Donalsonville, I look back on what we have accomplished and at the same time dream about what we may be able to achieve.  In some ways, the biggest obstacle for a small town is that it looks in the rearview mirror more than it looks forward down the road.
I am proud of these first two years.  We have established a culture of cooperation where the goals of the community are more important than the wishes of any given group.  This doesn’t happen easily and a smooth running operation can derail quickly.   Kudos to all the members of the city council and its staff for putting the interests of the city ahead of their own.
I am proud of two balanced and detailed budgets that have addressed the city’s challenges in a meaningful and forward thinking way.  Maintaining such a budget with a tax base that isn’t growing significantly is a challenge, but it is absolutely critical that a city have its finances in order to have any chance of achieving its potential.
I am proud of the two retreats that brought the leadership together in a way that allowed us to focus on the goals and needs of the city.  Planning for the future is always better than reacting to the present.  For the most part, we have stuck to our plan.
I am proud of the council’s work in bringing in consultants to revamp our policies and procedures, to provide for updated job descriptions, and to establish best practices for our financial operations.  The drafts of all of these documents are ready for review and will help establish a framework for the city for years to come.
I am proud of the council’s work on the latest SPLOST program.  Every item on the list for this Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax addresses specific capital needs that either improve services, enhance our quality of life, or generate additional revenue for the city.  I am even more proud that the voters of our city overwhelmingly approved the items proposed by the council.
You will soon see some of the tangible results of our dreams for the future.  By this time next year, we hope to have new, modern fire and police stations, designed to make the city safer no matter where you live.  
Sewer lines are being rehabilitated and water lines are being extended.  Roads are slowly being repaved.  Over 400 streetlights will soon be converted to LED throughout the city, providing more lighting at a lower cost.  The list could go on and on about good things that are happening in our city.
However, as Mayor and a longtime resident of the city, I am most proud of the dreams that we are establishing.  The next year will bring projects to fruition that weren’t even being discussed just a few years ago.  The opening of Bainbridge State College.  A downtown that is beginning to reinvent itself. Friendship House.   High speed internet.  Significant growth in building permits.
I am especially grateful to that small group of people who have given their time, effort and talents to imagine a future for the city of Donalsonville.  In the end, it is our collective belief that we can control our destiny that will make us different from the slowly dying little towns that dot rural America.
In the remaining two years of my term, I am asking you to join the dream team and do your part to make the future more than we could have ever imagined.  We can’t do it without you.
o0o
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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