Leadership and Civic Pride: Inspiring Hope in Cities

April 15, 2019

Deke Copenhaver

Leadership Focus is written by Deke Copenhaver, Principal with Copenhaver Consulting LLC. The former mayor of Augusta, a triathlete, writer and runner, Deke is focused on transforming great ideas into great actions.
In 1992, as a twenty-four year old, I moved to Atlanta because, like so many other young people, I wanted to live in a big city where I perceived the action to be. For those who remember, that year the Atlanta Braves went from worst to first in their division and went to their first World Series. Ultimately, the Braves lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, but I vividly remember the electricity of that fall with everyone throughout the city rallying around the team. It is a feeling I’ll never forget and it forever impressed on me the positive energy of being caught up in something bigger than myself as well as the sense of civic pride it engendered in me for my new hometown.

In 2005 I first ran for office at the age of 37. I was inspired by being a part of that experience years earlier as the campaign focused on providing citizens with a sense of hope and excitement by running a positive campaign that the entire city could rally around. To this day I firmly believe that a major part of our team’s success that year was that it was basically a bunch of twenty and thirty something year olds working together who knew very little about running a political campaign, but whose energy and enthusiasm were contagious. I also believe a great deal of the success was that the campaign was fun and was open to anyone who wanted to be a part of it.

During nine years serving as mayor, I made it a point to always keep to the high ground and to continually provide hope for the citizens I served by taking every opportunity I could to remind them of the amazing city Augusta truly is. Since leaving office and forming a consulting firm that has helped with our local economic development efforts through working with the Augusta Economic Development Authority as well as the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, I’ve tried continue to be the best ambassador possible for the city I love and am blessed to call home.

In a time when our politics have become more toxic than ever before, I believe that it is of the utmost importance that leaders at the local level heighten their efforts to engender a sense of civic pride in current and future generations. I’ve always found that people want to find causes to rally around that provide them hope and inspiration. I know that there is no shortage of great causes in cities throughout our state which can help bring our citizens together on common ground.

This year here in Augusta we witnessed history with the greatest comeback ever in the world of professional golf with Tiger Woods winning his fifth green jacket at the Masters Tournament. The way the crowd and the city came together to support a man whose life has had its fair share of ups and downs was amazing to be a part of. The energy reminded me of the experience I had many years ago in Atlanta. Ultimately witnessing this historic event and seeing the way our city handled it made me feel proud and me once again why I’m glad to call Augusta home.

Thanks for taking the time to read this column and here’s to your leadership inspiring citizens in cities throughout our great state!

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