Does 2025 sound like the far, distant future? Guess what? It’s not. We are less than a decade away from Covington’s 203rd birthday. I want to invite you to take a look through my telescope at what life in Covington will be like in the year 2025 (or in 10 years if that sounds closer to you).
I'm 51 years old and unfortunately, I will be 61 in 2025. The decisions we make now will shape our future and that future is extremely important to our community beyond 2025. Gaining input from the community and making these decisions is one of the fundamental duties of being Mayor and probably the most important. Without a vision and strong leadership, our community will never reach its full potential.
Now is the time to think big. People tell me you cannot do that in Covington and every time I hear that, it motivates me to get it done. My vision for Covington is simple and has three points: to be the number one place to live, work, and play in the state of Georgia.
Point Number One: To Live
The one thing we know about Covington now, is that it is diverse. That is what makes Covington beautiful to me and is something that needs to be maintained to ensure Covington remains a desirable place to live. To do that, we will need a wide range of amenities. Wider than we have right now. We will need more shopping options, more places to dine and a lot more entertainment options.
We are also going to need a plethora of housing options for everyone. Estate lots, subdivisions, compact communities, townhouses, lofts and apartments would all be needed. Options at price points that are comfortable for everyone will be essential.
We currently have a nice variety of housing options and our retail choices are literally growing by the day. But here is where my vision starts to get grand. I want these places of commerce and housing options to be interconnected.
Roads, sidewalks, bike paths, foot trails and golf cart paths will make it possible to leave your house, go to work, eat lunch, buy a new pair of shoes and some groceries on your way home all without ever unlocking your car. Actually it would be fantastic if the City of Covington could offer all of this so conveniently that you didn’t have to own a car. Think about getting that expense off your check book ledger each month.
Point Number Two: To Work
If we grow these shopping options, places of entertainment and eateries, we are going to need people to work in them. Not to mention the expanded need for teachers, police and fire protection, medical professionals and more. This needs to be an environment that produces living wage job opportunities for our citizens. Not minimum wage opportunities, but living wage jobs.
I would like to see a program where we can train citizens for specific types of jobs in our community. This would make our citizens more valuable as employees and would in-turn demand a higher starting wage. Remember teaching a person to fish allows them to feed their family.
The current unemployment rate in the state of Georgia is 6.3 percent (as of February of this year) which is entirely too high, but is headed in the right direction from its peak of 10.5 percent. My goal is to have 0 percent unemployment for the city of Covington. I know, you probably think that is impossible. But why set a goal short of what your ultimate goal is? If we set a goal to have a 3% unemployment rate, would we stop working when we reached it? I wouldn’t. So why set a goal short of perfection?
Point Number Three: To Play:
All of that talk about living and working has me thinking about recess. One thing I can proudly say is there is no shortage of entertainment in and around Covington if you are willing to look, but there is always room for more. From concerts and holiday celebrations on the square to outdoor exploration opportunities at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center or one of our local parks, there are things to do around town. We have a go-kart facility, golf courses, batting cages, antique malls and so much more. I would like to see more greenspace with mountain biking trails, a skate park and more.
You may have seen the progress being made at Legion Field and if you haven’t, make a point to drive by it. I don’t like to use the word “eyesore,” but it is safe to say Legion Field went from a place that needed some attention to a place we can be proud of. It won’t be long before the renovations are complete and we are ready to host concerts and large events in a state-of-the-art facility.
The last thing I want to touch on is something extremely important to me and that is protecting Covington’s rich history. A tremendous part of Covington’s charm is the small-town feel you get when you pass through it and it is crucial that we maintain it. There are safeguards like the Historic Preservation Society in place to help aid in the process of keeping Covington’s small-town charm, but we will need more. It is imperative that we “grow smart” rather than “grow fast.”
This letter is full of grand ideas and you might be thinking most are impossible. I ask you to look for my next letter where I will share with you some of the things your local government is currently doing to work toward the concepts I have laid out.
Of course I always welcome your feedback. Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 770-262-1001.I’d love to hear from you.
Ronnie Johnston is the mayor of Covington. He can be reached at email@example.com or 770-262-1001.