Executive Director's Corner

Dave Wills

Dave Wills

Ready or Not

“Ready or not, here I come!” As a kid, I played “hide and seek” with other children. Whoever’s turn it was to find those hiding would invariably count to some requisite number, giving time for those going to hide to find a good place, then announce that the hunt was on.

“Ready or not, here I come!” has application to Georgia counties, too. The next natural disaster will come, whether your county is ready or not. The cyber attack will arrive unannounced, followed by a demand for ransom to release your files back into your custody. The company employing many of your citizens may close shop, leaving financial uncertainty for workers and diminished economic prospects for the community.

Do such traumatic events sound oddly familiar? If so, that’s because Georgia counties, like any local government, are no strangers to disaster. Southwest Georgia counties were pummeled by Hurricane Michael in October 2018. Jackson County was held up for ransom by cyber crooks in March 2019. Telfair County was rocked by the closure of Husqvarna’s lawnmower plant in June 2019, putting 1000 people out of work. What is next? Or better yet, is your county next? Are you, as a county elected or appointed official, ready to address the next adverse event to affect your county?

Throughout this issue of Georgia County Government authors have addressed the need for counties to be resilient in various disciplines. Although the counties of Georgia differ markedly, from very populous metropolitan counties with abundant financial resources, to sparsely populated rural counties with very limited financial resources, each must nonetheless be prepared to respond appropriately and effectively to the ever-evolving challenges that confront local governments.

Resiliency is defined as “the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity,” and as the “ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.” Both facets of the definition are predicated upon a state of existence being altered, but then returning to the original state. But I am suggesting to county leaders that for the purposes of local government, a modified view is in order.

County government leaders should not simply wait for something to occur, then seek to return things to a state of normalcy but should proactively take steps to put into place sound policies and work to improve conditions.

Many rural counties are losing population. Much of rural Georgia still does not have access to affordable, high-speed Internet service. Many metro Atlanta counties are wrestling with transportation congestion that threatens to choke off future growth and prosperity. Should we not consider these types of challenges in the context of resiliency?

From resource-rich to resource-deprived counties, each one must give thought to the many challenges and opportunities presented. And while each one’s ability to respond is conditioned by a multitude of factors, the single most important one, in my opinion, is leadership. A rich county with weak leadership will fail. A poor county with strong leadership will succeed. Leadership is the indispensable element of success!

As you contemplate the information contained in this magazine, I encourage you to consider how you will provide leadership in your county, no matter the challenges faced.