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Posted: May 26, 2012 6:45 p.m.

It’s a great time to be mayor

Time is flying. It seems like just yesterday I was being sworn in as the mayor of Covington. Now, four months later, I wanted to take some time and share with the citizens of Covington many of the things that are going on in our great city. I also want to again thank you, the citizens, for giving me the opportunity to be the mayor. I must say this has been the most rewarding job I have ever done.

Improving the city
As my father always said, "Timing is everything," and if the first four months are any indication of that statement, the city of Covington has turned the corner.
We are at the beginning of what I believe is a growth period that has no end in sight. The good news is that we're ready for the growth because so many people before me have done a fantastic job laying the foundation.

The 2050 plan is critical and a great example of that foundation. The plan addresses four main principals:
• protect clean water
• create communities
• create corridors
• coordinate public investment

These principals have been agreed to by all members of the Leadership Collaborative, a group that represents the schools, water authority and all city and county governments.

In addition to those efforts, I've been working with the downtown merchants and Main Street Covington program to look for ways to improve the night life on the square. We have already installed free Wi-Fi and will have music playing to enhance our guests' experience. Plus, we have been looking for ways to improve the lighting on the square. We are looking at changing the pole lights to a brighter and clear white light and trying to develop a plan to light up the trees and/or lamp posts. If you have any ideas please use the city website at www.cityofcovington.org to email them to me.

Budget
The city of Covington has almost completed the 2012-2013 budget process. It's my first time going through the process and it's been a challenge. The truth is we have many very knowledgeable and talented employees who work for the city and they do a fantastic job. It's nice to see how they work through the budget process and never forget that it's not just numbers, but its citizens they are affecting.

Great leadership
Our police department just finished going through the re-accreditation process, and it looks like they passed with high marks. Our police department, fire department, 911 service and public works department are all accredited. There are only six cities in the U.S. that can say that. Covington is the smallest city to achieve and maintain this accomplishment. Congratulations to all; this is not a small task and it takes great leadership and vision to maintain.

Among that skilled leadership is City Manager Steve Horton, who was recently named the Administrator of the Year for the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission. Mr. Horton has been and continues to be an integral part of the success of this city. His advice and guidance have been invaluable to me, and I thank him for his continued service to the citizens of Covington.

I also want to thank the council for being open to my ideas and helping me this far. We have a wonderful group that loves this city and wants what's best for all our citizens. It's easy to see why I think the future is so bright for the city of Covington.

Baxter and preparing for the future
I'm sure everyone has heard about the arrival of Baxter International, our newest industrial partner. We could not have hand selected a better partner to join our community. I want to offer thanks to the Joint Development Authority, Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority, Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce and all the local governments that worked together to land Baxter. I believe this marks the start of a great time for our city and county. When you look ahead 10 years at the impact Baxter will have on jobs, home values, retail growth and business opportunities, our city is going to be a preferred place to raise a family, work and have a quality of life that is unparalleled.

Baxter is a fantastic addition to our community, as evidenced the numerous accolades they received in 2011, including being named:
•Medical Products Leader for the 10th time
•A Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporation by Corporate Knights
•Fortune magazine's list of the world's most admired companies
•Fourth overall in Newsweek magazine's "Green Rankings" of the 500 largest U.S. companies, and first globally in the healthcare category
•One of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens by Corporate Responsibility magazine

I share that about Baxter to say this: they are a company that is going to be part of our community for a long time. Further, based on my past experience, Baxter and most healthcare companies are not easily affected by the overall economy, meaning the company can remain a boon in tough times. The other thing Baxter represents is a door of opportunity for the citizens of Covington and Newton County. Through that door will come jobs and future growth within retail and other industry; believe me, it's already happening.

So the question is this - what can you and I do to prepare ourselves for the opportunity that is knocking at the door? Well, now is the time to look for ways to make sure you have the skills you need to qualify for Baxter's jobs or to open up a small business to cater to the new residents who will come. Two websites offer resources you can use to put your own plan together are www.dol.state.ga.us and www.gptc.edu. You have the power to change, but you have to open the door.

Thanks again for the opportunity to serve as your mayor.

Ronnie Johnston is mayor of Covington and can be reached at (770) 385-2000 or rjohnston@cityofcovington.org

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