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Covington, chamber appoint joint committee to take Newton County to 'next level'
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Members of the Covington City Council, Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce board and staff met Wednesday afternoon in a work session to discuss the city's contract with the chamber for the Main Street and Tourism departments. - photo by Jackie Gutknecht

COVINGTON, Ga. – The Covington City Council and Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce have agreed to continue working together to take Covington and Newton County to the "next level" after a work session Wednesday. 

The meeting of the two boards was prompted after the council voted to continue its current relationship with the chamber earlier this month. The other option was to provide the required six-month notice of contract termination for the chamber to manage the Main Street and Tourism departments for the city. 

Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston said it was originally his idea to move the departments under the chamber and for the last three years he has been the “ring leader” in trying to get it back under the city’s control. 

“Here’s my problem,” he said. “The council is trying to take Covington to the next level. 

“When I start digging into stuff, we (the city) spend about half a million dollars a year to put Covington on the map. We are in a competitive business and I need a partner that is going to help us go to that next level.”

Councilwoman Susie Keck said she was impressed with the comprehensive plan presented by Chamber President Ralph Staffins, but wants to make sure it is going in the right direction. 

“Let’s take a breath and get a professional plan,” she said. 

Staffins said a request for proposals can be completed in January to start the process of developing a professional marketing plan. 

“I think you have our word that we will give it everything,” he said. “What’s good for our community is good for our businesses. We are certainly going to hit the ground running in January. We will go as fast as we can while still being tactful.”

Chamber Chair-elect Corey Consuegra, of Bridgestone Golf, said it is important that the city and chamber align their objectives to make sure they avoid over expenditures. 

Chamber Chairman Thomas Kephart, of United Bank, agreed and asked for key performance objectives to move forward. 

“It’s not that everything is bad,” Johnston said. “We just want to go on steroids and always want to keep searching for ways to do better.”

The council and chamber board agreed to appoint members from each board to a joint committee to continue to build a working list of objectives and move the departments in the right direction.