Photos Andy Calvert
Q1: What motivates you as a city commissioner?
What’s important to me with the city commission, and I think that this has been greatly refined over the last three years, is what our local government offers this community’s citizens. It is very important for anyone that holds an office serving the public to listen to the public. I think that’s one of the things that we have done over my last three years, and I think the city commission has a reputation for doing that. It realizes that we serve all of the population of the city of Rome.
One of the things that I became aware of that I don’t think many people ever honestly think about is when you have strictly a local election, we rarely have the turnout that we have when we have a presidential election. So you’ve got a smaller percentage of the voting population that actually votes in a city election.
Therefore, when the average win on a city election is somewhere around 2,000 votes, you have to realize that leaves over 36,000 people in this community that didn’t vote for you, but you represent them. You can’t come into a city commission position with a personal agenda. You represent the total population of this city.
We’ve tried to listen to critically important things: the corridors of this city as people come in, the first impression that we give as a city when people come in, both in new residents and in new possible industry and new businesses coming into this area. We want to make sure that we make a good first impression in all things we do. 2020 has been a very challenging year.
Anything we’ve tried to do in this time has been experimental, to say the least, because we didn’t have a playbook to go back and look at what we did before when we had to deal with this. We’re very fortunate in this community to have such a very dynamic medical community.
We’ve made some very tough decisions this year, and it has given us more information, more knowledge, and more wisdom in what we’re going to do in 2021. We need to rebound and try to get more assistance for the businesses that have struggled through this, survived, and are looking to 2021 for more opportunities.
Q2: What are your current projects and goals in this role?
I think, truthfully, creating employment opportunities will be the number-one thing that I would have to say is my main objective: creating jobs for the citizens of this area to help people live, work, and play in Rome, Georgia. Now, the components of creating jobs are an ever-moving target. I think we have an excellent economic development process in place right now for the recruitment of industry. We also have to make sure that we put in play every element necessary for recruiting people.
You’ve got a situation now where many things changed in 2020. You’re going to have more and more people that have a home-based opportunity, and these are people that can work remotely from almost anywhere. One of the things that we did through a SPLOST referendum, and we opened it earlier this year, was the Mount Berry Trail as part of our trail system. In northwest Georgia, we have become very well known for our trail system as part of our quality of life. As we move forward, part of the goal here is to continue to work to enhance those qualities of life issues so people will choose Rome as the place they want to live.
We want to get those young families through educational opportunities for children through the quality of life issues for families and all people in this area. We’re giving them everything they need to live, work, and play in Rome, Georgia.One of the things I have learned over the three years that I’ve served is the departments within Rome’s city are some pretty incredible people. Our public works stay on top of things. We’re working on a new process and a new overall plan for public transportation.
We’re working to make sure we’ve got the riverways and keep them clean; our water treatment is exemplary in the state of Georgia. We’re trying to keep all of the elements that come into play for recruitment. So, first impression, lifetime impression, last impression; we want them all to be great.
One of the things that we take great pride in is the accelerated development of an incredible new shopping and dining opportunity known as East Bend. That was done through a tax allocation district to enable the developers to demolish the old building, which became one of the most significant recycling projects in this area’s history. All the materials used in the destruction of that property went into the foundation of the parking lot.
One of the things that is part of our vision is looking at what we refer to as the River District. We’re looking at a lot of enhancement there and density of population and retail in that area. We have done zoning to enable more significant business opportunities with fewer restrictions on what they have to do. We’re looking at more greenery and a beautification aspect that will connect to the trails.
Q3: What are you looking forward to in 2021 and the future of Rome?
We have always worked in a building process. When I did this, I looked in my grandchildren’s faces, and I want to create a community that they will be enjoying long after I’m gone. That’s done through creating educational opportunities and career pathways. We have in this area what once upon a time was a technical high school that grew into the number-one college and career academy in the state of Georgia. Through education SPLOST, we have now almost reached the point of the opening of a brand-new college and career academy on the campus of Rome High School.
This will offer a number of career pathways for young people where, even in middle school, you can start helping a child develop where their interests lie. Everything they do in the high school arena can be focused on where their education continues beyond that, whether it be technical or academic. We’ve got so many opportunities right here in this community where children can do a dual enrollment and earn an associate degree while they’re in high school, so they’re ahead of the game when they graduate, and they’ve got a jumpstart on life.
We are especially blessed in Rome and Floyd County to have such an incredible medical community. There are many communities across the state of Georgia that would give anything to have the level of medical care we provide right here. You’ve got education, you’ve got medical, you’ve got natural resources and you’ve got quality of life. We’re utilizing the rivers more for kayaking and canoeing and people actually enjoying the rivers; we’ve cleaned them up.
We’ve got a water department working so diligently to keep our water well below the minimum acceptable standards of the federal government. There are many, many reasons for people to be here. Now, we have to be careful. We have to look forward to what we’re offering future people, what we’re offering our children.
Looking into 2021 and beyond, people are, in many aspects, wanting to return to some level of normal, but I think that new level of normal is not going to be one we’ve experienced before. I think we’ll take what we learned in 2020, put that into the best parts of our past, and create what our future will be. I believe we need to plan forward knowing that we’re building a new horizon… 2021 is the beginning of what I consider a great future.
Closing Thoughts: What would you like to see Rome, Georgia be?
That’s important. I’ll open that question to any citizen of this community. Local government allows you to have that conversation. Local government gives you an opportunity to express what you want to see in your community. It takes a village to raise a community. Everyone has a part. Regardless of who you are, regardless of where you live in this area, you’re part of this community. Your voice is essential. Look for those opportunities to be a part of the solution.