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State of the County – April 21, 202
Thank you for your kind introduction. I would like to personally thank the Council for Quality Growth, Douglas County Chamber and Douglas County Development Authority for hosting this auspicious occasion.
Board of Commissioners, County Administrator Sharon Subudan, Executive Cabinet, Elected Officials, Appointed Officials, Department Heads, Douglas County Government Employees, Douglas County State Delegation Members, Mayor Robinson and Douglasville City Council, Mayor McDougal and Villa Rica City Council, Mayor Clemmons and Austell City Council, Douglas County School Board Chairman Tracy Rookard Shaw and School Board Members, Community Stakeholders, Veterans, Clergyman and remarkable citizens of Douglas County.
My message comes from a place of hope and optimism and I congratulate each of you on your vital role in guiding our steps into what the future will demand to overcome the most unprecedented public health crisis in modern history.
Today, I stand before you to deliver my 4th State of the County address to proclaim the status of a new normal in which none of us were prepared to experience.
Together we are building a recognizable vision that thrives on the prosperity of diversity and differences to represent a symbol of unity as we lead excellence in the State of Georgia.
This past year has been tough with an upheaval of social unrest and racial divide leading us all to look within ourselves to address our troubled history and the effect on our present. We must embrace the common thread of liberty, equality and justice for all as we work together to ensure positive change becomes a reality.
Douglas County must see its true self identity and only we the people can define our destiny, and we cannot pivot away from progress because we are resilient over comers. I pledge no simple answers, to a lethal virus that has resulted in staggering death rates across the nation. A Death toll that exceeds World War 1, World War 2, the Vietnam War and 911 leaving an entire global society perplexed and stressed with an economic impediment, comparable to the Great Depression.
This past year has confirmed our true strength, thrown our deficiencies into sharp liberation and has formulated a narrative for what we as a unified One Douglas can accomplish in the midst of adversity.
A travesty beyond our imagination has taken approximately 575,000 lives across the nation. Over 200 residents have died in Douglas County making the unthinkable a painful way of life for all of us.
Crucial conversations and inconceivable decisions were placed upon us –go to work, risk contracting the virus, stay at home or take the chance to lose much needed jobs. We followed the science and data and shielded ourselves while embracing our weapons of washing our hands, social distancing and wearing a mask.
Together we activated a robust emergency plan which insulated our senior citizens and vulnerable populations. We became computer savvy in a virtual world and very quickly adjusted to a new way of life to reduce community mutation of an unfamiliar deadly virus.
We resolved to brighter days and the hopefulness of tomorrow. I would like to thank my fellow Board of Commissioners for taking courageous legislative action by appropriating $1.5 million dollars of Contingency COVID-19 relief funding to support Douglas County public health services with COVID-19 testing, tracing, treatment and vaccines in addition to another $1.7 million to assist residents who are in need of rental assistance, utility assistance and small business grants.
Thank you, Vice Chairman/ District 2 Commissioner, Kelly Robinson, District 1 Commissioner, Henry Mitchell 111, District 3 Commissioner, Tarenia Carthan and District 4 Commissioner, Ann Jones Guider for your tremendous support!
We are a durable county. Our conviction to adapt, overcome and recover from difficult conditions exemplifies our unwavering commitment towards excellence. As the daughter of a 50 year small business owner, I know all too well about the challenges and rewards of trying to maintain and sustain in a pandemic.
Our small businesses are the heartbeat of our community and they provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to create jobs with greater satisfaction keeping money close to home and supporting our neighborhoods and communities.
Douglas County small businesses have suffered exponentially during this crisis. I would like to publicly thank Douglas County Chamber President, Sara Ray and her amazing staff for working tirelessly through-out this pandemic to provide information, education, and guidance to support Douglas County’s small businesses. Our small business owners need us more now than ever before, therefore, I am urging all of us to shop local and support small businesses in Douglas County.
Better days are ahead. I would be remiss not thank President Joe Biden, US Congress and US Senate for the anticipated emergency relief funding forthcoming in the amount of $28 million dollars; this COVID-19 Recovery Clearinghouse is a major victory for Douglas County. “The State and local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Funds which the National Association of County Officials helped develop and secure significant resources to strengthen our communities by investing in our small businesses and nonprofits, vaccine distribution, public health and safety, human services, especially for those suffering from domestic violence, mental illnesses and substance use disorders and much needed infrastructure, including access to broadband.”
Our determination is clear by our tolerance to overcome setbacks and there is no room for politics in a pandemic. We are one hundred and fifty years strong with a population over 150,000 residents and together we secured a 100% Census Count in 2020; shaping our future for the next 10 years. Distinguished Douglas County Citizens, thank you for trusting in my leadership; it is with profound pleasure to announce the State of Douglas County Government is good!
Our financial position is strong with a favorable Aa2 rating. Our credit ranking is very high quality with an exceptional light debt burden with a substantial tax base that far exceeds the US Median. Our rainy day reserve funds are healthy, our fiscal policy reform is solid and we are continuing to double down on reducing county government expenses.
In light of our circumstances, the housing market in Douglas County is thriving and sales up by 7% with average sales starting at a base price of $215,000. Growth in median household incomes in Douglas County from 2013-2018 increased by 21% outpacing the US at 18.5% and slightly less than Georgia at 22.8%.
Residential, Commercial and Industrial construction is robust through-out the County and our brand is resonating with new Gateway Signage, landscaping and interstate ramp lightening along I-20 declaring Douglas County is Open for Business!
I would like to extend special recognition to our Economic Development Executive Director, Chris Pumphrey and Team for advancing targeted industry sectors in Douglas County. As a result, we are reaping the benefits of skyrocketing growth in research and development by 205%, software/IT by 297% and transportation and logistics grew by 205%.
Employment growth in Douglas County from 2014-2019 increased nearly 17% outperforming both the US and Georgia averages. Our young professional residents between the ages of 25 and 44 years old represent a critical segment of a local workforce and recruiting this population helps ensure a region can supply a growing labor force for existing and prospective companies.
Douglas County has some of the best and brightest public safety and emergency response personnel in the country. Sheriff Tim Pounds and the Sheriff Department deliver exceptional law and order and Douglas County’s crime rate is at an all time low.
Fire Chief Jolivette and the Fire Department Staff provide superior service delivery while addressing fires and medical emergencies. Director Jason Millhollin and the Emergency Management Services Division have taken emergency readiness to a whole new level.
The steady hand of Director Greg Whitaker of E-911 Services has kept hope alive during this pandemic. Our Communication Director Rick Martin and staff is doing an excellent job delivering up to the minute reporting and educating Douglas County citizens about the precautionary measures of the Corona virus.
Our External Affairs Director Tiffany Stewart Stanley has stood on the doorsteps of legislation to ensure Douglas County receives our fair share of Cares Act and Recovery Relief funding.
Douglasville/ Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority stepped up and met the virus head on by providing necessary water to maintain hand hygiene through-out the community. Greystone Power and Georgia Power have provided a glimmer of light during our darkest hours of the pandemic and we are forever grateful.
Special thanks to Cobb/Douglas Public Health Officials and Epidemiologist for your extraordinary efforts with mitigating this virus. By all means, a heartfelt thanks to Douglas County Community Services Board staff for providing coping mechanisms to bolster the mental health crisis resulting from this lingering pandemic.
Last but certainly not least, I extend deep appreciation to our local pharmacies, local healthcare providers, Well Star Douglas and Tanner Hospital Doctors, Nurses and Ancillary staff for going above and beyond the call of duty to fight an invisible virus that has changed the landscape of human existence.
Despite the pandemic, education is ongoing. Our local colleges continue to provide the highest level of education by fostering a bright promising future for all Douglas County residents.
Douglas County School Superintendent, Trent North reported a 2020 graduation rate of 89.4% ahead of the state average of 83.8%. All five high schools were named 2021 AP Honor Schools, and earned a spot on the U.S. News and World Report’s List of Best High Schools in America for 2020.
In 2020, 24 new classrooms opened at Alexander High School and Chapel Hill Middle School opened its new 8th grade wing. Douglas County School system is on the move, with a new stadium under construction at Douglas County High School, a new Central Office location on Veteran’s Memorial Highway and two significant projects entailing a performing arts center at Alexander High School and a multipurpose indoor arena for graduation ceremonies and sporting events with groundbreakings scheduled in 2021.
Since I’ve taken office in 2017, we have garnered $4.8 billion dollars in capital investments, added 2000+new jobs with an average salary of $65k which is 56% greater than county average salaries. Higher wages generates greater demand for higher end housing options, which now evidenced by the vast number of housing projects, both single family townhomes and multi-family projects underway through-out the county.
Douglas County’s economic engine has continued to produce successful projects with Medline Expansion, FSI, Berlin Packaging and Comptree.
Most recently we’ve had grand scale openings to include: Provision with the hiring of 100+ Engineers, Stitch Fix with 589 employees at the close of last year, more than half towards their goal of 981 employees and SWITCH the largest single capital investment in Georgia’s history opened their phase 1 facility right here in Douglas County in 2020.
The pandemic has not stifled economic development progress in Douglas County. We have inducted Endeavor 3 D into our economic engine and started ground breaking efforts for the 1100 acre Preserve Life Wellness Center underway in the Western Corridor of the county.
In 2020, the Board of Commissioners confirmed completion dates for a multitude of SPLOST projects to include: the new state of the art Senior Center in Lithia Springs, new tennis courts at Deer Lick Park, E-911 Countywide Radio System, New Fire Trucks/Ambulances and Fire House Renovations. State of the Art 30,000 square feet multipurpose center currently under construction at Boundary Waters and brand new concessions stands and restrooms at Bill Arp and Fair Play Parks.
As we find our way, the principle of hope, justice and opportunity will channel our paths. Just in a matter of a split second, all of our lives transformed and this pandemic has repositioned our fate.
In the midst of these trying times, I’ve come to terms with the fact God is a Redeemer, he takes what is devastating and creates an authentication for us to learn from and share with others. It is incumbent upon us all of us to move beyond division and to embrace diversity for our greater good.
Our destiny is fixed on our morals to soothe the unknown agony of an invisible virus. Together we have defined the true meaning of resilient; we placed faith over fear and we are a true testament that “tough times never last but tough people do.” We are resilient over comers, we don’t claim perfection, we just keep getting up when knocked down and we refuse to break under the challenges of extreme pressure. Our sights are fixed and focused on a new tomorrow, a new awakening guiding the principles of our future that will set the tone for those who will succeed us.
God bless Douglas County, the State of Georgia and these United States of America.