Liberty County is following Hinesville’s lead this month with several outreach events aimed at boosting awareness for its services, operations and mission.
While there are several events planned next week for Georgia Cities Week, the county decided to become involved in National County Government Month.
To kick off the public involvement, Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette spoke Monday morning to about 14 Advanced Placement government students in Chase Ogletree’s class at Liberty County High School.
“I read about it in the National County Government Newsletter, and I said, ‘Wow! What is this?’” Lovette said. “I thought, ‘We can do this, even if we start out on a small scale this year and we expand it later.”
National County Government Month is celebrated each April to raise public awareness and understanding about the roles and responsibilities of county government. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Smart Justice.”
The county also will have representation at many of the Georgia Cities Week events next week, Lovette said. “Since it’s all in the month of April, we said, ‘Why don’t we just have one great, big party?’”
What does Lovette hope residents take from the event?
“Enlightenment, like those young people,” he said about the class. “If that carries over to their adult life, that’s a victory won, whether it’s in Liberty County or wherever life may lead them. At least they’ll know a little bit better how county government works and how they can get involved.”
Ogletree said his students looked engaged during Lovette’s presentation.
“We have several students that are interested in going into politics, and I know that they’re just eating it up,” Ogletree said.
Lovette’s visit addressed an aspect of government that is not covered under the AP curriculum, which focuses on federal structures.
“We talk briefly about local governments, but we don’t really go in-depth, which was why it was so wonderful for Mr. Lovette to come here, because a lot of this stuff we haven’t talked about,” Ogletree said.
“There’s a lot of parallels to the national government; the same way that they get their money from property taxes, the national gets theirs from income tax, and just as they have different jurisdictions … We talk a lot about how the federal agencies — the FBI, the CIA — have to go to Congress and say, ‘Can we have money please?’ and the Congress appropriates in the same way the board of commissioners appropriates to the county agencies.”
Lovette likened Hinesville as Liberty’s county seat to Atlanta as the state’s capitol, and he said it’s important to have a strong seat when competing to attract industry and residents.
Student performance on tests also is a critical component to a community’s success, Lovette told them.
“No pressure, guys,” Ogletree joked to the students.
“They look at graduation rate,” LCHS Principal Paula Scott added.
The students showed surprise at learning the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office received more than 110,000 calls last year and employs 136 people — 69 of them sworn officers.
The court system heard 9,311 cases during the same time, Lovette said.
Lovette — who also is a member of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority board of directors — spoke about the push to revitalize downtown Hinesville and likened it to the work Savannah College of Art and Design has done to rejuvenate Savannah’s historic district. In addition to construction of the Liberty County Justice Center and renovations to the Historic Liberty County Courthouse, Lovette also mentioned the Memorial Drive realignment and the Armstrong Atlantic State University satellite campus.
He also showed the teens preliminary designs for the new Live Oak Public Library Hinesville branch, which is in the planning stages.
Midway Middle School also has an essay contest in which students may write any reflection about Liberty County. More than 30 entries have been submitted.
An environmental exhibition competition by Keep Liberty Beautiful and Liberty County 4-H will be displayed April 23 through May 7 at the Courthouse Annex, and the county will be present at several other events.