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Pat Donahue: Plenty of good info shared during the countywide retreat
Patrick Donahue
Patrick Donahue, Editor & General Manager

Patrick Donahue

Editor & General Manager

There is always plenty of good information to be found at the countywide planning session.

The community retreat certainly has its deriders and its critics, those who question going out of town to conduct this kind of business.

It is rare that we can get this many people, more often than not the ones who shape policy in our community, together in one room at one time for even a small amount of time. While I would, and most there would too, prefer doing this closer to home, I’ve also attended retreats that were held within the county lines and it never failed that someone had to excuse themselves to run some errand. One of the small advantages of going down to St. Simons is no one is going to be gone for just a few to pick up the dry cleaning.

In the meantime, there are occasions for meaningful discussions and it can serve as a clearing house of information. We can’t get to everything so having everyone in the same room at the same time helps us as a paper hear some goals and accomplishments from across the county.

Tyler Perry returned to Liberty County to shoot another project in the past year. Another film crew is coming October 6, only this time to Liberty Regional Medical Center to find out why the community is taking up the fight against maternal mortality. Georgia is 49th in the nation in maternal mortality rates.

“We are going to tell our stories about what we are doing to save moms’ lives and make Georgia better place to live,” LRMC CEO Tammy Mims said.

Flemington Mayor Paul Hawkins said the Publix is still coming but has some issues to be worked out.

At the other end of the county, Mayor Chris Stacy and the City of Riceboro are planning for two big events. One happens next weekend as the Christian Churches Together will hold a convention in Savannah from October 3-6, with plans to visit the Historic Baptism Trail in Riceboro.

In November, Riceboro will hold its annual RiceFest, which last year drew about 4,000 people to the annual celebration of the Gullah-Geechee culture.

Stacy said he’s been told it is the No. 1 Gullah Geechee festival in the Gullah-Geechee belt, which stretches from Jacksonville, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla.

Aside from that, the city is taking applications to rehab 70 houses in the Riceboro area, thanks to a $1.3 million grant.

In Walthourville, Mayor Larry Baker trumpeted the $1.5 million project from the American Rescue Plan Act that looped the city’s lines and hopefully has ended a problem it had with smelly and discolored water.

That city also is making changes to its fire station to accommodate its newest truck, a 55-foot ladder truck obtained in May.

There’s plenty more I hope we can get to in the next coming issues.

Retreat participants also picked three new issues to work on, but I still think the three issues from last year — housing, water and mental health — still are works in progress and don’t need to be shelved just because there are three new topics of interest. Those three issues are going to take a lot of time and effort — and money — to solve.

I also want to make sure I pay homage to one of the most incredible people I’ve met along the way. Not many here knew him, unless they served on the Coastal Regional Commission, as he did for 12 years. Herb Jones was a true servant and had a true servant’s heart. He passed away recently at 93 and embodied a life well-lived.

Even well into his 80s, he drove cancer patients to and from their treatments. He showed up at someone’s house with axe in hand, ready to cut down limbs if a storm had knocked down a tree in their yard. He had a gentle, calm manner about him at all times. I remember when I wrote my farewell piece in the Effingham paper a little more than seven years ago that when I grew up, I wanted to be Herb Jones.

The gates of Heaven will swing wide at his arrival. I am sure of that.

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