Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden touted successes in neighborhood renovation programs and outlined a vision of increased economic development activity in the State of the County address on Thursday.
Community activist and Rockdale NAACP officer Michael Minkoff was named the winner of the Charles P. Cole award for citizen involvement. The award recognized his service to the community and his persistent advocacy in the case of Nathan Dwight, who was charged with a 2010 armed robbery. Minkoff said Dwight was in the Minkoff home at the time of the crime and kept the case in the spotlight. Dwight was granted a retrial and ultimately dismissed on a technicality by now-retired Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation.
"I am absolutely humbled by this," said Minkoff, as he blinked back tears. "All I know is if there was a wrong done, we needed to fix it."
Minkoff had spent the day at the hospital with his wife Brenda, who is battling cancer, and the award caught him by surprise. He thought he was there to introduce another resident, Jackie Dickson. Instead, Dickson instead ended up introducing him. They were joined on stage by Nathan Dwight's mother, Maggie Hill. Nathan Dwight was at work, said Minkoff.
In the State of the County address, Oden touched on challenges in the year, such as the federal government shutdown. "The year 2013 was filled with so many different types of experiences that ultimately united us.in more ways than one," he said.
He also described the grants gained in areas such as neighborhood revitalization, especially in parts of Milstead and with the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, He also highlighted a tax base ratio that was moving towards less residential and more commerical property values making up the tax base.
He outlined his vision going into 2017 that focused on development initiatives, such as expanding opportunity zone areas, creating an enterprise zone development area, and forming an economic development "team."
"The vision I have is a substantial one. However, I believe it is completely achievable," he said.
That vision included a performing arts civic auditorium and developing the area on Sigman Road near I-20 with a banquet hall facility, trade centers, five star hotels and facillities.
"We're going to get there," he said.
A video played messages from Post 1 Commissioner Oz Nesbitt and Post 2 Commissioner JaNice Van Ness.
Van Ness reviewed legislative accomplishments, including passing legislation that gives local vendors additional points in the county's contract bidding system and cottage food industries law.that allows home bakers to sell their wares.
"We're going to have to continue to work together and hear all different aspects from the citizens," said Nesbitt.
County department directors also gave messages in the prerecorded video, reviewing accomplishments in their departments.
Andy Peabody, the new Executive Director for Rockdale Emergency Relief, opened the evening by citing his grandfather's frequent saying: "Service is the rent you pay for the space you occupy."
Susan Landress sang the National Anthem and a medley of patriotic songs. A dance troupe led by Jenae German from the Barksdale Boys and Girls Club jazzed up the evening with a lively performance.
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