Executive Director's Corner

Dave Wills

Dave Wills

Elected and appointed leaders of counties know from experience that communication is critically important for county governments.

I WILL STATE a word. You envision an image. Key.

What did you envision? An old-fashioned key ring holding dozens of keys to door locks? A single key to your automobile or home? A modern key fob that allows you to crank your vehicle with the push of a button? A button on your computer keyboard? Even harder—what does the key to your heart look like?

The word key can be used as a noun, adjective or verb. All three uses come into play concerning county governments.

The theme of this issue of Georgia County Government magazine is "Communication is Key."

Communication means to impart or exchange information or news. We engage in this ongoing exercise using many different forms. Elected and appointed leaders of counties know from experience that communication is critically important for county governments. From local government television stations and issuance of press releases, to the use of social media platforms, counties communicate a lot. But perhaps there are aspects of communication as the key that we’ve not focused on enough.

Georgia’s counties are highly diverse, with each having a unique story which should be told. From Fulton County, with more than 1 million residents and a budget of more than $1 billion, to Taliaferro County, with fewer than 2,000 residents and a budget of $3.5 million, each county’s story is different, but important. And who better to tell the story than those elected and appointed to serve the residents of each county.

Commissioners from Burke, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Richmond and Wilkes can delve into history dated to 1777 when their counties were the first ones created in the fledgling state of Georgia (Wilkes was the first one created). Peach County, created in 1924, claims the title as the last county created. Fulton County holds the title of being the only one in Georgia comprised of what formerly included three counties—Fulton, Campbell (south) and Milton (north)—merged as a result of the Great Depression.

Unless I am mistaken, my home county, Webster, is the only one, not including the consolidation of county and city governments into a single jurisdiction, ever created that was subsequently renamed. Created in 1853 as Kinchafoonee County, it is reported that the name "brought laughter across the state." In 1856, the name was changed to Webster in honor of the statesman, Daniel Webster, from New Hampshire. Kinchafoonee, an Indian name meaning "Pestle Bone," is pretty cool in my opinion, and I wouldn’t mind if the county was renamed again to its original label! Also, the county is the only one in Georgia, to my knowledge, that does not have a traffic light. In fact, there isn’t even a caution light on any road in the county. Now, that is an indication of being rural!

Beyond the ordinary, such as legal ads and required notices, what will you communicate about your county? Will you tout your economic successes that attract new industry and business? What about the county’s natural beauty, being home to a state park or to a National Wildlife Refuge? Do you talk about and leverage having institutions of higher education that compel attendance and propel population and other growth? East to West, North to South, every county in Georgia has a story to tell.

If you do not tell your story, who will? Communication is a key, and in the case of county government, may be the key to your county’s success. So, get going! Communicate your county’s story!