Mayor Pro Tem Hawnethia Williams was a teacher for 33 years and was used to learning and teaching in a structured environment, but when she entered politics she discovered there wasn’t anybody waiting with a helping hand.
"I came in very green … and you don’t get any initiation, no mentoring, nobody to hold your hand. You’re up and running by the time you walk in the door and you learn the best you can as you go," Williams said.
But Williams did eventually find that teacher in the form of the training classes offered by the Georgia Municipal Association, which recently awarded her with two honors for her service and for the dozens of hours of additional GMA-sponsored training she completed.
Williams earned a Certificate of Achievement at the June 23 GMA annual convention for completing 72 hours of training. Certain training is required by state law; including courses about the role of the city council, ethics, municipal finance, personnel management, planning and zoning, open meetings and open records and parliamentary procedure. Williams said many of these required courses helped her get acquainted with the local government system and her role in it.
"I thank God for those courses, because they taught me so much and gave me the confidence to be an effective council member. You’re in classes with other officials of all experience levels and you get learn with and from them," she said."
In addition to the required classes, there are several other elective courses offered by GMA in a variety of areas, such as community and media relations, downtown development authorities, environmental management and revitalizing neighborhoods. She said the courses about housing and community development stuck with her the most because of her desire to improve the blighted housing in her district.
"I think that’s one of the things that most hit me, because the need for quality, affordable housing is one of the main problem in my district. I’ve been working closely on the senior housing development that will be in Harristown, and I’m working with our local housing team to address concerns in this community," Williams said. "It’s a real passion for me. The classes gave me information and contacts that I could bring back to my district."
Williams said she is working toward future GMA awards, which she’ll receive if she completes120 hours of training and 204 hours of training.
In addition to her training award, Williams was recently elected as Third Vice President for GMA’s fifth district, the local GMA body for Newton County and the surrounding area. Williams said this position allows her to connect more with her state political representatives. She said as vice president she is an advocate for her local district’s elected officials and also helps inform her local GMA members of what’s going on at the state level.
Mayor Kim Carter said the city was proud of Williams’ accomplishments.
"Being a former educator, Hawnethia really understands the importance of adequate training. She continues to invest her time to be as educated and informed as she possibly can for making city council decisions. I congratulate her on her efforts," Carter said in an e-mail.
"In addition, Hawnethia was recently elected as Third Vice President of the GMA’s fifth district.Because Hawnethia has attended so many training events, she is well connected within our district. Her peers have elected her to this position and I’m sure she will serve the district as well as she serves Covington."
Formed in 1933 and based in Atlanta, GMA is a voluntary, non-profit organization that provides legislative advocacy research, training, employee benefits and technical consulting services to its 500 member cities.