Executive Director's Corner

Dave Wills

Dave Wills

Our Heritage, Their Legacy

I did not know Mandy Mobley Li when she contacted me through LinkedIn. I might have easily looked past the message she sent, but she invoked a name I knew – Hill Healan, the first Executive Director of ACCG, who was appointed in 1961 and served until 1986. Mandy is Mr. Healan’s granddaughter.

Sent in November 2018, Mandy’s message said she was interested in “continuing his (her grandfather’s) work” and that she was “exploring employment opportunities in Georgia’s government/ non-profit sectors.” She asked if I would be willing to meet with her sometime. I readily agreed.

In January Mandy and I met and engaged in a very interesting conversation. Mandy’s knowledge of her grandfather’s service at ACCG was limited because she was just a small girl during the latter years of Mr. Healan’s service. But her appetite for knowledge about the governmental sector was high, as demonstrated by her further request to “shadow” the Policy team at the Capitol on a day during the legislative session. That too was agreed upon and she consummated our deal in March as she tracked Clint Mueller around the Capitol for a day.

During my interaction with Mandy, I learned more about her grandfather. Mr. Healan, a native Georgian, graduated from the University of Georgia in 1938 and performed additional studies at Northwestern University in Chicago. He later taught American History in Georgia schools, then became a city manager, first in Cordele, Georgia and later in Meridian, Mississippi.

In 1965, Mr. Healan was named District Conservationist of Georgia for his work to strengthen water pollution laws. Less than 10 years later in 1974 he received the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service Award for his work with counties.

The experience I had with Mandy caused me to reflect upon the fact that those of us now engaged at work for ACCG, and elected and appointed officials who are now working in county governments, all have a heritage in public service and that we have an opportunity to leave a legacy. From the first leaders who gathered in 1914 to create ACCG, to the current leadership of ACCG, everyone has had or currently has an opportunity to leave his or her mark. Hill Healan left a legacy. Jerry Griffin, ACCG’s second Executive Director, benefited from and built upon that heritage.

Every county commissioner serving today has received some type of heritage, whether excellent or otherwise. The question is what will be done to leave a great legacy for those who succeed incumbents.

In the book titled “Spiritual Leadership,” by Henry and Richard Blackaby, they wrote that Oswald Sanders concluded: “Often the crowd does not recognize a leader until he has gone and then they build a monument for him with the stones they threw at him in life.”

The service of county commissioners seldom, if ever, comes without having to make tough choices which generate criticism and conflict. In today’s hyper-partisan, social-media driven atmosphere in which distrust of government seems almost ubiquitous, it might seem to some people that nothing good can result from the political process. But the fact that we live in a civil society, not a totalitarian state or a lawless country clearly proves the opposite. Politics has and can continue to produce good results when men and women of goodwill work for the common good.

To each elected official who is working to make his or her community better, I say “keep on working hard!” Your decisions might not always be popular at the time they are made, but true leaders who are focused on public service and doing what is right will, in time, be recognized. That’s a legacy worth leaving for successive officeholders and constituents.