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State of the County highlights Oden's first year in office
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County Commission Chairman Richard Oden spoke before an auditorium packed with county heads, elected officials and residents at the State of the County address Thursday night, focusing on the goals and achievements of his first year in office.

Using the analogy of geese flying in formation, he said “People who share a common direction can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.”

“If we had as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are heading in the same direction.” He thanked the two other Commissioners JaNice Van Ness and Oz Nesbitt for “flying in formation” with him.

He acknowledged the commissioners often clashed on issues and votes but all cared about Rockdale County and its residents. New county chief of staff Greg Pridgeon also addressed the audience for a moment, pledging to give “100 percent of my effort every day” and promising not to shy away from any issue.

“Although you may be the second smallest county in the state, I hope we would continue to strive to be the absolute best in this state, bar none,” he said.

This year, two award recipients were recognized with the Charles P. Cole Citizen Involvement Awards instead of one.

“There’s a person who has been an active member in this community so long, he’s had the enjoyment of seeing children of children he coached and mentored grow up to be coaches and mentors themselves,” said Oden in describing the first award recipient, Don Patterson.

Patterson, a former volunteer of the year for the state in 1999, was recognized for his four decades of work in areas such as coaching, serving on the SPLOST and HOST oversight committees and working with the Parks and Recreation Department.

“Rockdale County’s been good to me,” said Patterson. “I don’t call it volunteering. I call it giving back what’s been given to me.”

The second award recipients, Janice and Tolbert Morris, founders of the Helping Hands free medical clinic, echoed this sentiment. Janice implored audience members to “Volunteer. Please give back to somebody else. Please do not sit at home and take everything for yourself and not share with others.” The clinic is run with 53 volunteers and eight nurses, and treats an estimated 63 patients a week, according to the Morrises.

See the Jan. 23 edition of The Rockdale News for the full story.