The annual countywide planning workshop attended by local officials is a necessary and useful tool. Getting leaders of the community together to discuss problems, devise strategies, and prioritize specific goals is an exercise that has paid dividends for Liberty County and other communities that have similar retreats. Many communities, like Liberty, hold these annual retreats out-of-town in an effort to focus clearly, without interruptions.
There’s no doubt that good ideas are hatched at these sessions. The Liberty County Water Resources Council and Savannah Technical College’s Liberty Campus both exist today because of discussions at previous workshops.
However, as citizens and local businesses fight for survival following the deepest economic recession since the Great Depression, moving the annual retreat to an in-county location would have been an appropriate gesture. Many county residents still struggle to find employment, pay bills, and support their families.
Local facilities, such as Club Stewart or a nearby hotel, likely could have handled the accommodations and would have welcomed the revenue associated with hosting such a large group.
As an added benefit, had the county leaders and elected officials chosen to gather among the people they represent, perhaps more local residents would have attended some of the sessions. Feedback from taxpayers can be helpful, and the people who live and work in this area might have a few good ideas themselves.
During Georgia Cities Week, the city of Hinesville recognized its employees with a lunchtime ceremony in lieu of the traditional evening banquet.
“We didn’t have the funds to do what we normally do,” Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas explained to the crowd. “We usually have a banquet and have everyone there, but we’ll do it next year.”
Reducing costs with an understated celebration was an admirable decision. In this same spirit of fiscal conservatism, why not bring the countywide planning workshop home — if only for a year or two until economic conditions improve?
Obviously the county and city must continue the planning efforts that have long been essential to this region’s success.
However while taxpayers and many local families are struggling, holding the annual retreat closer to home would have been a welcome gesture.