Home»Features»Cover Story»Macon A Change: Leaders talk about stepping into 2017 and stepping up for Macon

Macon A Change: Leaders talk about stepping into 2017 and stepping up for Macon

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The New Year garners new goals, and 2017 is without exception. A study by a Dominican University of California professor suggests people who write down their goals “accomplish significantly more” than those who do not. While personal resolutions are often at the forefront of new yearly ambitions, add being accountable for the vitality and success of Macon to your list. Some of Macon-Bibb’s most prominent leaders offered their suggestions on how to be a better member of the community that calls the heart of Central Georgia home.

Here are 6 of Macon’s most influential luminaries providing insight on how to be a better Maconite in 2017. What do they all have in common? Their passion for Macon and the time they have invested in improving the city.

  • Mayor Robert Reichert was elected to his second term as Mayor of the consolidated Macon-Bibb County government in 2016.
  • The Honorable Verda Colvin serves as a Superior Court Judge in the Macon Judicial Circuit.
  • Larry Brumley is the Senior Vice President for Marketing Communications and Chief of Staff at Mercer University.
  • June O’Neal has been the Executive Director of the Mentor’s Project of Bibb County since 2000.
  • Macon-Bibb Fire Chief Marvin Riggins is a 37-year veteran of the fire service.
  • Josh Rogers is the President and CEO of NewTown Macon.

The New Year is synonymous with new goals. How can we set a goal (and stick to it) of being a better Maconite in 2017?

Macon-Bibb Mayor Robert Reichert

Mayor Reichert: “Macon needs civic-minded volunteers to help make our community even better. I would recommend that people make reasonable, safe, and sustainable/attainable goals and have a plan to achieve them. Groups, partners, and coaches are helpful in sticking to it.”

Judge Colvin:We can individually decide and commit to giving life to our city by taking our gifts and freely sharing them with various components or entities within Macon to fully create the city we envision. This is a very real possibility if we look beyond self and truly contribute to OUR greater good, thereby empowering all of Macon: young, old, rich, poor, North Macon and East, South and West Macon. That’s how each of us can be a better Maconite in 2017.”

Larry Brumley: Be a better Maconite in 2017 by getting involved in an organization or cause that is committed to improving our community and the lives of people who live here. Invest your time, talents and resources into our places and people.”

June O’Neal: “In 2017, go to a school that’s not in your neighborhood or visit a senior living home and read and spend time with and help others. When you go to another side of town, you’ll find out that we’re more similar than you think. Start small and go the distance.”

Chief Riggins: “I believe if we set the goal to become a more balanced people – meaning that we are less closed to new ideas and thoughts, get to know someone new, like our neighbors – this will help us to be more inclusive as a people.”

Josh Rogers: “The easiest goal is to step out of your comfort zone to try one of the new locally-owned businesses you’ve been meaning to check out. Things are improving so quickly, there’s something you probably only thought existed in a big city that’s right here in downtown Macon like an escape room experience, retro arcade and bar, and local breweries. It’s easy to stick to a goal of trying new things because it’s so much fun!”

Whether someone is a longtime or a new Macon-Bibb resident, how would you suggest they be more involved in the community?

Mayor Reichert: “Look for groups and organizations that do the activities that interest you and fit into your goals and objectives. Civic clubs, churches, and volunteer organizations can offer an immediate way to get started with your plan and keep you involved.”

Judge Colvin

Judge Colvin: “The best way to become more involved in the Soul of the South – Macon – is to discover our individual passion. What matters to you?  Answer that question, then find a way to pursue that by giving back and sharing with your fellow Maconites. For example, if you do that through the arts, find a way to give that to the city – not in the venues commonly seen by those who are culturally seeking your talent but go to the places, the communities where they may never see that passion but for your display. We must all DO our passion and then share it with all to experience.”

Larry Brumley: “There are many options, from economic development organizations like the Macon Chamber of Commerce, NewTown Macon, the Historic Macon Foundation or the College Hill Corridor Commission, to non-profits like Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers Big Sisters, or the Boys and Girls Clubs.”

June O’Neal: Volunteer in an area other than where you live or work. Become a tourist for a day, drive to unfamiliar neighborhoods, and see how you can help. Clean up a street and speak to someone you don’t know.”

Chief Riggins: I would suggest that they become a tourist in our own town. I believe if we knew more about Macon-Bibb and all aspects of it I think we could have a different prospective of where we are, who we are, and where we live to make the most of all of our resources.”

Josh Rogers: “One of Macon’s best qualities is that it is such an easy place to get involved and actually make a difference.  If you’re new to Macon, the easiest way to get involved, make friends, and have fun is to find a cause you care about and start volunteering. You’ll quickly find you’ve got to turn down opportunities to serve on boards and committees! So much of Macon’s social events revolve around the charities that improve our community that you’ll end up having fun and it won’t even feel like volunteering.”

View more photos of Macon by Doug Nurnberger at smug mug.com/dougnurnberger

How do you think Macon-Bibb has improved over the last 5-10 years? What do you attribute that to?

Mayor Reichert: “The citizens of the City of Macon and unincorporated Bibb County have realized that we are all ‘in this boat together,’ and we need to coordinate and cooperate to make our community competitive with other communities across the Southeast. They have started to work together rather than pull apart.”

Judge Colvin: Macon has been my permanent home for 11 years. It was my daily existence for 5 years before that as I worked here and my kids went to school here. So in total I have had a love affair with Macon for 16 years. I have seen downtown Macon go from a quiet town with not a whole lot going on during the week and even less during the weekend to a vibrant city with the feel of a quaint metropolitan city and exuberant excitement that lends itself to greater growth. All of this is attributed to folks getting individually involved to collectively strive for the greater good of our city.”

Larry Brumley, Senior Vice President for Marketing Communications and Chief of Staff at Mercer University

Larry Brumley: “I believe Macon in the last 5-10 years has made great progress in working together to advance our community. This is evidenced in our consolidated government, public-private partnerships, and the emergence of energetic, visionary leaders…particularly among our younger generation. I think that community leaders now more than ever recognize that Macon has tremendous assets and are leveraging those assets to create opportunity for more people. Investments by philanthropic organizations like the Peyton Anderson Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Central Georgia are fueling much of the progress in our community. We are benefiting from enlightened leadership by our local elected officials, as well. The recent passage by Macon-Bibb citizens of our second consecutive SPLOST shows that people are willing to invest in our community because they are seeing tangible results.”

June O’Neal: Downtown is a happening place and a lot of thanks goes to NewTown Macon, Jean Bragg, Diana Blair, Wesley Griffith, Chad Evans, Brad Evans, and all of the other business owners that stepped out to have in faith in downtown to move it forward.”

Chief Riggins: “I think our community has improved over the last few years because of a revived sense of belief in itself. I know that we have consolidated our governmental infrastructure, which took out an invisible yet real wall and have undertaken a major effort in the SPLOST. Now we have undertaken a new one but we still have work to do to make real believers in our whole community and allow this energy to spread to our surrounding areas because I think we are the Central Georgia mecca, and a major player of economics, entertainment, educationally, and spiritually. We must stay focused on being all inclusive and forward thinking to keep the energy level up high!”

Josh Rogers, President and CEO of NewTown Macon

Josh Rogers:I’d say that Macon is unrecognizable from 10 years ago, but that’s not really true. We’re just a much, much better version of ourselves. I have never been so optimistic about our future, and so proud of Macon’s accomplishments as over the past five years. Mayor Reichert’s leadership through consolidation and the new county commission are critical – they have been such effective leaders at finding the right solution. Mercer University’s growth has been astounding, and Mercer consistently finds way to grow that improves the surrounding community to an equal or even greater measure. Finally, downtown Macon revitalization is no longer a distant goal, but a reality we’re enjoying and driving forward Enabling that success has been the Peyton Anderson Foundation at every turn, taking our hopes and providing the resources to stir those hopes into shape, form and future.”

What do you think will be the next monumental moment for Macon-Bibb?

Mayor Reichert: “The selection of Macon-Bibb County as the location for significant private investment to start a mixed-use development with entertainment, retail, residential, and commercial components.”

Judge Colvin: “The next monumental moment for Macon-Bibb in my mind is the era when ALL our residents can be seen in every community celebrating, encouraging, and supporting all areas of town, and passionately sharing their vision to ensure that all of Macon can share the same “magic” that we now find downtown. This can be achieved if each of us decides and commits to pursuing our passion, our calling, to make a difference throughout Macon.”

June O’Neal, Executive Director of the Mentor’s Project of Bibb County

June O’Neal: “I think the railroad service to Atlanta.” (This is referring to the proposed passenger rail service connecting Atlanta and Macon-Bibb.)

Larry Brumley: “I believe Macon has reached a tipping point where revitalization of our downtown and historic neighborhoods is going to accelerate. That will make Macon an even more attractive place to live, work and play. Success breeds success, and Macon is seeing that every day.”

Chief Riggins: “I feel as if we must continue to rev up the belief factors in Macon-Bibb, and to make the ‘we’ factor even larger. Transportation in and around Macon-Bibb and its region, and our belief in ourselves will help with our economic competitiveness, bring in and keep more of the alumnus from Macon here in our area, and make it more promising for our children to believe that they too can grow up and stay in our region and become essential in our community well-being.”

Josh Rogers: “Now that our citizens are enjoying starting businesses, moving into lofts, and creating amazing events in downtown Macon, the next big moment is going to be sharing that momentum with friends, family, and tourists. It’s not a secret we’re going to keep for very long. The best tangible moment for me to indicate that shift is going to be developing a downtown hotel with walkable access to our 50 restaurants, 15 bars, 13 music venues, 7 galleries, 3 breweries, and a locally owned radio station.”

What charitable organization(s) do you champion and want others to volunteer with, too?

Mayor Reichert: “Rebuilding Macon, Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission, United Way’s Read to Succeed Program, and Habitat for Humanity are all excellent programs that provide a variety of ways for people to use their time, money, effort, and energy to help the community.”

Judge Colvin: “My Judicial ethical restraints probably prevent me from answering this directly but let me say that volunteerism is not a choice; it is a responsibility that each of us have. Your calling, your passion should naturally lead you to the organizations you chose to support financially and physically. To make a difference you have to get your hands dirty, use some elbow grease, and use your back. Money is always needed but understand personal investment – reaching people personally can never be underestimated. Personal contact, that’s what makes us human. We need to get back to that. It’s the only thing that has ever truly made a difference.”

Larry Brumley: “Volunteer for cultural organizations like the Tubman Museum or the Macon Arts Alliance.”

June O’Neal: “The Mentors Project of Bibb County!”

Fire Chief Riggins

Chief Riggins: “I am involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, The American Cancer Society, The American Heart Association, and also The United Way of Central Georgia. There are so many wonderful and viable charitable organizations functioning in our community, so I would urge our populous to explore our community. I believe they will discover where they will find their niche, but help someone in some way is most important. Reach one, teach one, and we will keep one.”

Josh Rogers: “Obviously, anything that supports community revitalization is my recommendation. I’ve been lucky enough to work for NewTown Macon and Historic Macon Foundation, both of which are great places to volunteer.  One of the best opportunities that I don’t think enough people know about is SCORE (https://middlegeorgia.score.org/), where anyone can volunteer to help entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. It’s easy to get started and so fulfilling when you can help a local person or family realize their dream of starting a business and creating jobs.”

Leaders lead by example, and our leaders have done that and more. The visionaries of a re-energized Macon have not dreamt of community development overnight. They have not been sitting idly and simply hoping for revitalization. They are catalysts of change for this city and exhibit dedication and an unwavering belief in this town. Leaders from all backgrounds have contributed to creating a renewed sense of place and pride. Macon-Bibb citizens have a responsibility now more than ever. In 2017, make a commitment to improve Macon-Bibb, write it down, and share it with those around you.


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