More than 35 former and current African-American mayors from throughout Georgia convened April 4-6 in Hinesville for the annual Spring Conference of the Georgia Conference of Black Mayors. The organization provides information, resources and assistance to small, rural cities that commonly are led by African-American mayors.
Led by Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, conference participants explored the ways in which expanding Georgia’s ports may affect the emerging economy. Discussions centered on the regional effects of the planned expansion of the Port of Savannah and what rural communities can do to take advantage of the infrastructure-improvement project.
“We are a good example of how quickly a small town can grow, so you must be prepared and plan for growth,” Thomas told attendees.
The conference began April 4 with a tour of the Port of Savannah. The attendees returned to the Liberty County Performing Arts Center for a transportation policy forum led by Georgia Ports Authority Manager of Government Affairs Lee Beckmann, Coastal Regional Commission Director Allen Burns, Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson and Thomas. The panelists explained the importance of transportation and identified partners — such as the Georgia Ports Authority, the Georgia Department of Transportation and local regional commissions — that could assist with transportation planning.
“Roads and rails are the arteries of your city. Transportation is the lifeline of your city,” Beckmann said. “Don’t be afraid to ask us for help, that’s what we are here for.”
A news conference was held before attendees met for a reception with local sponsors P.C. Simonton and Associates, Georgia Power, Liberty Regional Medical Center and Interstate Paper.
Saturday morning, the mayors took an infrastructure and innovation tour of Hinesville with stops in the Memorial Drive District, the Azalea Street Redevelopment, Fort Stewart and MidCoast Regional Airport.
Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, served as the keynote speaker at lunch. He reminded the officials that their most important job is to serve their citizens and positively impact their cities.
“Everybody’s life should be better after you leave office,” he said. “That is the only way you can have a successful administration.”
The day ended with a tour of Bryant Commons sponsored by CH2M Hill; Jones, Osteen and Jones law firm; Liberty County Chamber of Commerce/CVB; and VIP Office Furniture and Supply.
The conference concluded Sunday with a prayer breakfast led by Pastor Richard Hayes, pastor and founder of New Day Community Church and president of the United Ministerial Alliance of Liberty County.