Augustans want their Mayor to have an ambitious agenda to do the hard work and make an impact on Augusta that is lasting and transformative. They aren’t expecting it to happen overnight, but they are expecting me to make decisions to invest in Augusta’s future, in their future, in their children’s future.
I’ve used this first year to make some strategic investments, to help me carry out the vision of OneAugusta that our residents charged me to fulfill at the start of this administration.
I often encourage young people to begin with the end in mind, and as such it was important to assemble a team equipped to continue the most basic functions of the Mayor’s office, and to expand the capacity and our ability to reach the end.
Talent acquisition and management is part of our vision for OneAugusta and to attract the best we have to be willing to make the investment in Augusta and in them.
In that vein, I recruited the best and brightest public servant in our city, Lynthia Owens, to lead the Mayor’s Office. She is quite capable and is known throughout this state and in our nation’s capital for being a leader in constituent services and public service. Lynthia was most recently recognized as one of Georgia’s Top 40 Under 40 Professionals statewide.
I also recruited Tonia Gibbons, who served in Sheriff Strength’s Administration prior to leaving the City to begin a career in manufacturing. She had a successful 10 year career in that industry and progressed quickly into leadership roles. Tonia was instrumental in facilitating community outreach, community service and community investments for one of Augusta’s leading manufacturers, Procter and Gamble, and I knew she was the right person to serve as Director of Community Outreach in the Mayor’s Office.
I have also utilized the services of a temporary staffer, external relationships and federal programs to have an executive assistant and a program manager.
The Mayor’s Office is different. Augusta will be different.
I requested funding last year for additional staff – a Communications Director, a Policy/ Grants Manager and an Executive Assistant as well as funding for other operational expenditures to have an honest conversation about the Mayor’s Office budget. After the request was denied, I proceeded with what we were given knowing that in the days ahead we’d have this conversation. It would not be about a request for an additional $200,000 – $300,000, instead a story about how we’ve been successful and accomplished much with less- like many Augustans do every day.
Instead of $200,000 the Mayor’s office will need $27,000 to balance the budget for this fiscal year.
The decision to pay people a reasonable salary for the work they are doing is not a decision that I take lightly, but that is not the reason we are having this conversation today. This is a conversation about the future of Augusta.
I made the decision to join the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) and the African American Mayors Association (AAMA) because it is important for the betterment of Augusta that our leaders are exposed to what other communities are doing – to learn what works -and what can be adapted and contribute to the success of our residents and businesses.
The benefits of membership in these organizations are great, we will know when funding opportunities exist that can help us better leverage taxpayer resources, we have access to research and technical assistance to help us expand services and reduce the cost of government.
These memberships provide value to all of us by raising the profile of our city and reinforcing to others that Augusta is strong and that Augusta is serious about economic growth and complete quality of life for all of our residents. Prior administrations have made that decision and leveraged it fully to benefit the city.
Education and training is an investment in continuous improvement.
My staff and I have travelled to conferences this year and have implemented several programs that we’ve been proud to bring back to Augusta to benefit our residents. The Mayor’s Summer Learning and Earning Experience and the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative are examples of some of the things we’ve done. Next year we’re planning to launch a BOOST Program for Augusta’s Small Businesses and have been working with a local bank to bring that to fruition. BOOST is another idea that came from attending a conference. Look for those details soon.
We also committed to the parents that we’d be partners with the school board and through our MBK Project Manager, an AmeriCorps Vista funded position, we’ve been successful with partnering with business and community to launch the Power Lunch Program where 90 volunteer reading mentors are consistently going into two schools. These volunteers read with the same student each week.
The principals and teachers in those schools tell me that their schools have improved, they have fewer behavior problems, increased interest in reading and increased self-confidence because there’s someone taking an interest in their students’ success.
Our first year has been a learning experience and that’s what happens in times of transitions. The REAL news, the good news, the truth is that the Mayor’s Office is working to make Augusta better for our residents today and in the future of our city.
We’ve been working hard for you and will continue to work and serve you.
This year we’ve:
· Hosted a Small Business Roundtable with SBA leaders
· Hosted Downtown Business Meeting
· Launched a new Mayor’s Office Hours in the District Program and will be done with all districts by mid December
· Hosted a Telephone Town Hall Meeting
On Cyber Monday, I’m hoping many of our residents will join me in a #HeyHardie Twitter Town Hall.
We held the:
· First Annual Easter Egg Drop at the Augusta Commons
· First Annual Mayor’s Christmas Card Contest
· First Lady’s Fitness Challenge
· Power Lunch – an MBK Initiative – Book Drive and Reading Mentoring Program
· Summer Learning and Earning Experience – also an MBK Initiative where we put about 80 young people to work during the summer and got them valuable work experience and exposure to a variety of careers…AND they made $10 an hour for their work.
· Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day at the Augusta Municipal Building
· Brought Back the Mayor’s Masters Reception
· Partnered in a School Supply Drive
· Accepted invitation to participate in the Mayor’s Institute for City Design
· Accepted the invitation to participate in CityLab 2015
· Accepted invitation to participate in the DOT Summit in Birmingham with Commissioner Lockett
· Joined 4 leading Mayors from Georgia cities in the Inaugural Statewide Civic Conversations Series at Atlanta Press Club
· Served as a Panelist for the National Urban League Education Conference
Presently I’m representing our city as:
· Co-Chair: Vacant and Abandoned Properties Task Force U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM)
· An appointee to Local Government Advisory Council (LGAC) for U.S. EPA (representing the State of Georgia)
· Board of Trustees for AAMA
· At Large Board Member and Legislative Policy Council for Georgia Municipal Association (GMA)
It’s been almost twelve months that we’ve been on the job. This is just the beginning. I know we can do even more to reach OneAugusta, and I also know that we must continue towork together to get there. And we will, every day with your support and with your help to transform our community with our singular focus on OneAugusta.
—> Hardie Davis, Jr. serves as the 84th Mayor of the consolidated governemnt for Augusta-Richmond County. He may be reached by phone at 706.821.1831 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.