One of the keys to making our city so special are those willing to offer themselves for elective office and serve when elected. At the end of this year we will be seeing the end of 37 years of service by Janet Goodman. That is a lot of years of service to her community by this beloved lady. She has served on Covington’s City Council at Post One of the West Ward.
She has always lived in the West Ward, and for years has been a leader. When asked why she ever ran for the City Council, she said many urged her to do so because she had helped in so many campaigns for others. She was told it was her time. It all started in 1978, the year she was first elected.
This length of time is a record for our city and, in checking state records, appears to be for the state as well. No other African American female has ever served this length of time. She has been known as a person who would always listen and try to find a way to find the best solution.
When asked some of the highlights of her service, the first thing she pointed to was the development of the Human Resource Department in our city. When she took office, the employees of the city had no place except their supervisors to take their concerns to.
Another accomplishment was to lead Covington to be the third city in Georgia to recognize as a holiday the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For leading this effort she received a note of appreciation from Coretta Scott King.
She also led the effort to give not one day but two days for a holiday at Thanksgiving. She had a goal to make sure that the needs and interest of those working for the city were heard and dealt with. Ms. Goodman always listened to the needs of those she sought to represent.
She has always been active in the life of our community. She was the first Director of the Newton County Head Start Program in 1965. She has served on the board of the Washington Street Community Center as well as a part of the Newton County Voter League. She was also a part of the Black United Front. She was a leader in “the pocket book boycott” that brought everybody to the table to bring change to the mindset of our community.
She is an active member of her church, Grace United Methodist Church. There she is a certified lay speaker as well as sings in the Gospel Choir. She is also the secretary for the Administrative Board and is a leader in her Sunday School Class.
Her professional life finds her as a member of the staff at the Media Center at Newton County High School.
When asked about the greatest changes she has seen in Covington, she commented on how the mindset of many our citizens has changed. She stated that it appears to no longer be fashionable to be prejudice. Earlier on she would be called the “N” word but that is no longer true.
To be an increasing effective member of the City Council she has been a part of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. She has also been a part of the Fannin Institute there as well.
In 1981 she was named one of the Outstanding Young Women of America. In 1984, she was elected as one of the fifty most influential black women of America. She was a graduate of the first class of Leadership of Newton County.
As the tenure of service by Ms. Goodwin comes to an end, we learn several lessons from how this has happened. One was the confusion of where to vote as there was a city election as well as a state election. This is a rare occurrence but people seemed confused as where to vote. One friend commented to Goodwin after the election, I thought I had been moved out of your district as your name did not appear.
The second lesson is a reminder of the importance of all to participate in voting. Fourteen votes was the margin of victory for the new Council member, Kenneth Morgan. This is not a reflection on either the winner or the defeated in this election, but a reminder that your vote is both sacred and important.
I know that when January arrives Janet Goodwin will still be giving to our city and serving the needs of our community.
Thirty seven years of all that goes with being a member of the Council is no small gift she has given to our city.
I know I speak for many when we thank her for the doors she has opened and the barriers she has brought down. We thank this gifted lady for her commitment to making a difference for all our citizens, particularly for those who had no voice until pioneers such as this dedicated servant stepped forward and served.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.