We are in the last few weeks of another election cycle. Have you ever thought what the impact of winning can have on the winner’s life? Sure, running for office takes a large amount of effort. But what then?
In our local election last year we elected two new members of the Covington City Council. I thought it would be interesting to talk with these two winners, a year after they have been in office. To see what the reality of serving meant.
One of the winners was Josh McKelvey. He has chosen to be active politically to make a difference. He said he had watched too many people yell at the news on the TV, but not make any effort to be a part of the answer instead of living with the problem.
The other newcomer to the Covington City Council is Kenneth Morgan. A longtime resident of Covington, he is a product of our schools. After serving in the U.S. Army, he returned home and worked for the city for more than 19 years. As far as I know, he is the first former employee of the city to serve on the council. He feels it adds to his effectiveness as a member of the Council, to know from being a part of the staff of the city.
He speaks of it being his dream from the very start to work for the city and then offer himself for office. The election last fall was his very first entry into the political arena. He was successful in unseating Janet Goodwin, who had been in office for 37 years. In fact, this is a record for an African American woman serving on a City Council in Georgia. When I asked Morgan if he expected to serve as long, he laughed and said, “No, in fact, he believed there ought to be term limits to keep anyone from serving so long.”
He pointed out that there is much more to being on the council than just the two monthly meetings. He said that all the citizens of Covington needed to feel they could reach him with their concerns for the city; particularly those who live in the West Ward where he holds the first post. He feels it is important not only for him be available to the people, but for them to know they have been heard. His duty, he said, is not only to those who voted for him but all.
When we talked about his dreams for the future of our city, he said he wanted to see the growth continue. When pushed for what growth is needed, he pointed to the need for the city to encourage the development of more convenient outlets for grocery stores near the square. He pointed to the needs of more ways to keep our youth busy. He said we need more community centers for youth such as boy’s and girl’s clubs. In the private investment area, he would hope for such things as movie theaters, skating rinks, and bowling allies. He expressed a concern to find ways to keep our youth busy in positive ways.
Now, back to the other new member of the council. McKelvey and his wife, Allie , are the proud parents of Blakely, almost three, and Jackson, who was born only days after his dad won his council seat. His children and their future is a major part of his motivation. Through his willingness to serve he wants to make a difference. The issues, he says, that we face as a community cannot be solved with clever one-liners. We need to find ways to bring people of various views together, to work together, for the common good. Efforts such as the new Town Hall Meetings are a big part of the effort to help people be better informed and to find the information they need. We need to find ways for people to feel they have been heard by their elected leaders.
McKelvey also saw the need find ways to save money in the operation of our city. He also pointed to the need grow the utility grid that Covington will be even more competitive. Growth helps to lead to more growth.
These dreams from our two newest Council Members are not a part of any political campaign but rather what they see after a year in office. These two new members, joining with the efforts of their fellow council members and the Mayor, together are building a bright future for Covington. The real measure of an election is not the outcome when the votes are counted but what those elected to lead do with their opportunity. It is never about ego but rather the common good for all our citizens. I wonder how we will feel about the outcome this year a year from now?
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.