It was great to see many local officials in Savannah for the Annual Convention in August. It was good to spend time with others in public service. During my acceptance speech, I reflected upon the question as to why we as elected officials run for office.
As we know, it’s not for the pay; it’s not because the adoring public thinks we can do no wrong, and it’s not because we get a lot of power or always get to have our way. Rather, it’s because we love our cities and are passionate about their future.
While serving as mayor or as a city councilmember is mostly a thankless job, it does have an upside. As we ride around or walk through our cities, we can point to things that are good, and things that are getting better, and projects that are happening, at least in part because of our work. I find that very rewarding, and I suspect you do, too.
What drives this work is our love and passion for a specific place. It’s good to be passionate about your city. In fact, it’s necessary. Knowing and loving the place you call home are the prerequisites to making a difference in it. And over the past year, I believe that this concept of place has become even more important in our thinking and actions.
The conventional wisdom of the past decade focused on globalism. Most of us read books and heard speakers talk about the interconnectedness of the world. Because of modern technology and the modern economy, it was claimed that “the world was flat.”
Over time, and particularly over the past 18 months as COVID-19 has impacted our communities, we have been reminded that the place we find ourselves in really does matter. Our city, our community, and our neighbors are the things that shape our lives and our future. These places and the people in them are what we feel most passionately about, and these places, and the institutions and people in them, in turn care for us.
The trend of globalization will certainly continue, but I also perceive a renewed emphasis on these places we call home. While this hyper-local focus doesn’t need to limit our worldview or imagination, it does inspire us to continue to work to improve and enhance our cities.
“Place” is also what inspires and drives GMA, our association. Through its programs, services and advocacy, it assists local leaders creating communities where people want to live, work and play. While GMA is a statewide organization with statewide impact, its goal has been, and will remain, to inspire and to equip us to make our cities better than they are today.
As we embark on the next year, I look forward to seeing the great things that you will each accomplish in the place that matters most to you, and I look forward to the role that GMA will play in helping you along that journey.
This article was originally featured in the September/October 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities Magazine.