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Letter: Mayor sets city goals for new year

Dear Covington Residents,

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Christmas and are preparing for a prosperous new year. Every December, I invest some time in writing down personal and professional goals for the next year. I have been doing this for years and it has helped keep me focused. While I have created a set of personal goals for 2018, I have a list of goals for the City of Covington I would like to share with you. It is a lengthy list but I have no doubt that with the assistance of city employees and members of our community, we can meet them. 

Goal 1: To Create Opportunities that Improve the Quality of Life for Covington’s Citizens.

Connectivity is a large part of this goal. Creating more sidewalks and trails will be vital. It allows those who may not have access to a vehicle the ability to traverse our community and provides an eco-friendly and healthy option for traveling, whether it be biking or walking. 

The Council made some progress on Covington Central Park in 2017 but we are going to really ramp up our efforts in 2018. A bridge over Dried Indian Creek, professional disc golf course, hiking and walking trails and parking areas are all on tap for 2018. We are lucky to have such a large tract of land in the middle of our community that if constructed properly will serve our residents and guests for generations to come. The key is to do our homework and be methodical in our decisions. The opportunities this park can bring us are limitless and it will one day be Covington’s crown jewel. 

You may be aware of the Community Improvement District in place currently. It is a program where businesses self-impose a tax that is explicitly used for approved purposes. A CID can address community safety, beautification, business retention, economic growth and capital improvements. Along with the CID, we have plans to beautify Interstate 20 Exits 90 and 92. These exits are people’s first impressions of our community and we all know how important first impressions are.

Goal 2: Recruit 500 Quality Jobs to Covington.

Our community is diverse and so are the skill sets of its people. We are working to bring a blend of jobs that meets the skills of everyone to Covington. A large portion of these will be skilled positions that have a high salary, but not everyone has the background for some of these skilled jobs and that is OK. We would not be honest with ourselves if we thought everyone in this community was going to have a job that pays $90,000 a year. However, with some work we can increase the number of people who enjoy high salary jobs. This ties directly into my third goal.

Goal 3: Expand the Covington Cares Program.

Hopefully you are familiar with the LEAP program we participated in. If not, it was a program that allowed participants to get a certificate from Georgia Tech in one of several disciplines. This is not a degree, but some education that arms those who complete the course with some basic knowledge that will assist them in securing a job. Over time and through hard work, that LEAP graduate can work their way to a high paying job. The program was free to the first 100 applicants and we are in the process of tracking those who have completed it to see what opportunities have presented themselves. Additional programs similar to this one are needed that offer training to those in our community that desire it and we are identifying those.

I also want to lean on our Covington Cares program to expand our reading program into Elementary Schools in Newton County. The City of Covington has been providing employees who volunteer one hour a week at Middle Ridge Elementary School assisting students with sight word recognition and reading. In the first three weeks of the program, we helped 81 students. Of those, 71 graduated to the next level of sight words. I have personally volunteered and I am not sure if the student or I enjoys it more.

You may have seen us in neighborhoods around town with trash bags in our hands in the past. If you have, you witnessed an official Covington Cares Community Cleanup. We target neighborhoods and along with help from the residents in that neighborhood and the entire community, pick up trash and large debris. We utilize trucks from the City that pick up heavy items with a giant claw. This gives people the opportunity to get rid of large items in their yard free of cost. We plan to increase the number of community cleanup days we hold in 2018 and are targeting one each quarter.

The final part of my third goal is to reduce poverty by 2 percent. Newton County currently has a 17 percent poverty rate. That means approximately two out of every 10 people in Newton County lives in poverty. That is unacceptable. Bringing jobs to Covington and initiating programs similar to the LEAP program will be pivotal to decreasing our poverty rate.

So there you have it… my list of goals for the City of Covington in 2018. It is an ambitious list, but as I mentioned, we have a wonderful community and I know that if we all work together, we can make this happen. And if we make these goals a reality, can you imagine my list of goals for 2019?

Your Mayor and Friend,


Ronnie Johnston