Canton's city manager, city clerk, city council members, and I recently attended the Georgia Municipal annual conference in Savannah. It was my eighth time going to this gathering, which is attended by elected officials and staff members from all of Georgia's 537 cities. The conference provides several days of accredited training on a variety of topics such as ethics, downtown development, citizen engagement, diversity, sustainability, economic development, housing, annexation, parks and recreation, transportation, and roles of council and staff. Last year, I was
proud to earn a Certificate of Recognition for achieving a milestone in municipal training, and I certainly put this knowledge to good
While the classes and instructors are excellent sources, the greatest opportunity comes from networking with other cities to hear their challenges, strategies, successes, and failures. There are a lot of great things going on in Georgia's cities, and I am always inspired by the passion and dedication my fellow public servants demonstrate, as they work to move their communities forward.
Similar to last year, I was proud to hear so much positive chatter about Canton. I introduced myself in one class, and the lady next to me jokingly followed with, "Canton, Canton, Canton…that's all we hear about!" I chuckled with pride. As demonstrated by our Georgia Visionary City designation in Georgia Trend magazine, Canton has become a case study for excellence in planning and execution. Our Roadmap for Success is being emulated by other cities, and our results impress our colleagues.
Canton's leadership was also extremely evident on this year's conference agenda. City Manager Billy Peppers presented case studies during two different sessions (Entrepreneur Friendly Cities and the Rapid Fire Series), where he discussed his Team Canton Huddles as a planning and engagement tool. I was fortunate to sit in on his entrepreneur class, and it was interesting to see how all the presenters who followed him repeatedly referred to his presentation and our city.
As we enter August and our summer days begin to wind down, Canton's council and staff are finalizing our budget in preparation for a new fiscal year that begins October 1. Once again, we will have the lowest millage rate in Cherokee County and in our city's history.
At the GMA conference and elsewhere, I continually get asked one common question: "How is Canton doing all of these great things when their taxes are some of the lowest in the state?" While there are many factors and a great team effort involved in this formula, I believe Councilman Will Carlan put it best when addressing Canton's notoriety at the conference:
"We just created a great strategy, and we are getting things done and doing what we said we would do," said Carlan.
This is such a simple concept, yet it eludes many local and national leaders. I couldn't be prouder of our team and our city, as we continue to plan our work and work our plan.