Making a city work

The temperature reached an even hundred degrees and with the humidity factored in the heat index was 107.  Savannah was like a steam bath this past weekend as hundreds of city officials and staff gathered for the Georgia Municipal Association’s annual meeting.

Dozens of classes were offered over a four day period.  The subjects covered almost every conceivable subject related to municipal government.  Some discussions were lively and spirited; interesting to all that participate.   Others covered necessary evils such as public policy development and implementation.  Six hours of talking about the fine details of Wastewater treatment can challenge even the most enthusiastic attendee.

The City of Donalsonville did two things which made me very proud.  As usual, the Mayor and the entire city council attended the meetings and all took classes to help them understand and do their jobs better.

The City Clerk attended, as did the City Manager and the City Attorney.  Anyone who has ever attended these sessions understands this is hard work and not a vacation.

I was also pleased that the Council and staff attended a four-hour facilitated retreat to discuss the affairs of the city and to prioritize our work for the coming years.   We reviewed the goals we had made at the last such retreat in December of 2015 and were very pleased that many, if not most of the goals had been achieved.

On two different instances last week, I heard a state official say that the single most important thing a community can do to foster growth and facilitate economic development is to have a cohesive government.   It is not only important that the city officials get along but that they have a good working relationship with the county, other municipalities and the Board of Education.

In the five years I have been Mayor, we have seen a 50% turnover in the membership of the Council.  That is why planning is important.   That is why collective goal setting is crucial.  That is why honest and open dialogue is necessary.  We always need to put the needs and best interest of the city first.  That is hard to do when everyone is not on the same page.

I would be remiss if I did not say that we follow the lead of some of our fellow cities here in Southwest Georgia.  I never have been to one of these meetings when I did not have the chance to interact and exchange ideas with our counterparts in Bainbridge and Cairo, along with many other locations.

Politicians love to talk.  Some even hinted that part of the reason the temperature was so high in Savannah was because of all the hot air from so many politicians.   Networking is key to our success.   We want to shamelessly steal the good ideas of our friends, and learn from anyone with a better or different way of doing things.

There is a lot of griping and grumbling about politics these days and rightfully so.    However, I have been proud to work with three different sets of members of our city council.  They have all been dedicated, love our city and work thanklessly for the betterment of our hometown.

The challenges of a small, rural town in southwest Georgia are many.  Without leadership working together the odds of success are overwhelming.   I would like to publically thank the six members of our council and great staff for their work this past week in attending classes, participating in a retreat, and networking around the state.  Thank you for doing your part to help make our city work.

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Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

 

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